Maggie’s Centres ensure no-one in Scotland has to face cancer alone

Here to help...Lorrie Forsyth and the team at Maggie's Lanarkshire are on hand to welcome visitors to the centre, which is based on the grounds of Monklands Hospital.
Here to help...Lorrie Forsyth and the team at Maggie's Lanarkshire are on hand to welcome visitors to the centre, which is based on the grounds of Monklands Hospital.

No matter where you are on your cancer journey, a warm welcome awaits you at your local Maggie’s Centre.

Some 83,000 visits were made to the charity’s eight specialist centres in Scotland last year alone.

Calm and peaceful...in common with every Maggie's Centre in Scotland, Maggie's Forth Valley is set in beautiful grounds on Forth Valley Royal Hospital's site in Larbert.

Calm and peaceful...in common with every Maggie's Centre in Scotland, Maggie's Forth Valley is set in beautiful grounds on Forth Valley Royal Hospital's site in Larbert.

But one of the biggest hurdles is getting people to walk through the door.

And that’s why the team are keen to let readers know more about their work.

Lorrie Forsyth is a clinical psychologist who heads up the Maggie’s Lanarkshire team at Monklands.

So she knows what a big step it can be for people to initially walk in the door.

Time out...each Maggie's Centre is Scotland features a kitchen table, as well as courtyards where people coming to terms with cancer can take a wee breather from their everyday lives.

Time out...each Maggie's Centre is Scotland features a kitchen table, as well as courtyards where people coming to terms with cancer can take a wee breather from their everyday lives.

However, she also knows how much it helps people.

Lorrie explained: “I think people are often surprised when they come in the door to find it’s not clinical at all.

“There’s no reception desk and they don’t have to wait to see someone.

“They are welcomed in by staff and you see them take a wee breather because each centre is so welcoming.

Unique design...the eye-catching Maggie's Aberdeen opened in September 2013 in the grounds of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Unique design...the eye-catching Maggie's Aberdeen opened in September 2013 in the grounds of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

“People come in at what is often the most difficult time in their lives,

“They’ve had a diagnosis, are receiving treatment, it’s maybe not working as well as they had hoped or, like this morning, one lady came in who lost her husband the night before.

“While our centres are based on hospital sites, you don’t see the hospitals, there is no hospital smell and each centre has lovely grounds.

“The first thing people always comment on is how peaceful and calm it is.

“Often, people will say they came to the door two or three times but didn’t make it through the door.

“Those who do take that step always say, though, that they wish they had come to Maggie’s sooner.”

While each centre – in Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Fife, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh – is unique, with its own timetable of activities, they also all have one thing in common.

Lorrie said: “The kitchen table is at the heart of every Maggie’s Centre.

“We have quiet areas where people can talk to us one-to-one but the kitchen table is often where people find most solace.

“They can meet other people in the same situation, share tips and advice and just have a cuppa in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

“We have all sorts of conversations around the table, from difficult and challenging ones to lighter, uplifiting stories.

“People are often scared the centres will be sad places but, in reality, they often leave feeling far more positive than they did when they first walked in.”

A wide range of classes and therapies are offered at each centre and there’s no waiting lists to worry about.

Visitors can speak to a clinical psychologist, cancer support specialist nurses if they want to discuss their treatment options, attend yoga, meditation, relaxation or tai chi classes, receive benefits or bereavement support or attend any number of groups.

Lorrie said: “Each centre has its own programme but everything we offer is evidence-based that it improves the quality of life for people who have had a cancer diagnosis.

“The aim is to help pepple live well, both during and after treatment.

“Each centre has a clinical psychologist who people can pop in and talk to, in addition to cancer support specialists with a nursing background a benefits advisor and sessional workers who offer complementary therapies.

“There are also lovely courtyards if people just want to take some time out and have a wee breather.

“Often people don’t come in to talk about a specific issue; they just want to see what help is available.

“Around two thirds of our visitors have cancer and a third are families and friends who are looking for support.

“Cancer is a disease that has a ripple effect and can really impact on family and friends – everyone’s welcome round our kitchen table.”

Often the most difficult point in the cancer journey is when treatment has ended and patients are expected to return to normal.

That’s often a time when they reach out to Maggie’s.

Lorrie explained: “Family and friends think the person is doing really well but they have had to face their own mortality, as well as the shock of diagnosis and a host of treatment.

“When that ends, there’s often a real fear that the cancer will come back and that can be a really big cloud hanging over people.

“We see a lot of people coming through the doors as a result and our Where Now? course can really help.”

Parents with wee ones are also often unsure what to tell their children. But help is on hand at Maggie’s for that too.

Lorrie added: “Parents worry about how much to tell their children. They know their children best but we have books and leaflets that they can use to help explain what’s going on.

“We also have children’s days during the summer holidays so that those with parents or grandparents who have cancer can meet others in the same position and realise they’re not alone.”

Thanks to Maggie’s, though, no-one has to face cancer alone – you just need to walk through the door.

Help fund our eight Maggie’s Centres in Scotland

It costs around £2400 to keep each Maggie’s Centre open for a day, £12,000 for a week and around £590,000 for one year.

The charity’s supporters raised £23.2 million in 2018 to help. And there are lots of ways readers can lend a hand.

This year, Maggie’s is hoping people will join its Culture Crawls in Aberdeen on June 21, Dundee on August 30, Glasgow on September 20 and Edinburgh on October 4.

Participants will complete a six mile crawl around each city’s cultural and iconic venues they would not normally see at night, with food and entertainment along the way.

To find out more or to sign up, visit www.maggiescentres.org/culturecrawl.

Every £7 raised could pay for someone to attend an expressive art course; £15 could pay for someone to attend a look good, feel better workshop; and £30 could pay for a family to receive an hour’s emotional support from a psychologist.

Every penny raised is used to help people who are diagnosed with cancer.

One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime and Maggie’s aim is to be there for everyone who is affected, as well as their family and friends. To find out more, visit www.maggiescentres.org.