Laura Lee: How Maggie’s Centres can help

CANCER - It’s just a single word but one that has the power to shatter lives and instil fear.

Maggie's Centre recently celebrated its 19th birthday

Yet each year in Scotland, more than 30,000 people receive a cancer diagnosis and all the challenges that brings.

There are also now more than 200,000 people living with or beyond cancer north of the border.

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The NHS works tirelessly to treat these people, but many of them need more than the excellent services the NHS provide. That’s where Maggie’s comes in. This weekend saw Maggie’s Edinburgh mark its 19th birthday.

Maggie's in Edinburgh

It’s a time of celebration for us, an organisation which has blossomed from the vision of one woman, Maggie Keswick Jencks, to become a ground-breaking pioneer of cancer support.

Maggie died in 1995 after living with advanced cancer for two years and spent much of that time planning a centre where people could find the support she and her family felt was missing.

Maggie sadly never saw the centre she planned, but she would be delighted that in those 19 short years her vision has grown into the programme of free practical, emotional and social support which has since been rolled out across Scotland and beyond.

There are now a total of 18 Maggie’s Centres, including our online centre and one in Hong Kong, with plans for many more in the pipeline.

Laura Lee, CEO of Maggie's Centres

Next year our new Centre in the grounds of Forth Valley Royal Hospital will be our eighth Scottish centre, but it will also be our 20th in total and will mean we will have a Maggie’s Centre in every main NHS cancer treatment centre in Scotland.

And incredibly all of this has been achieved through voluntary donations from businesses, individuals and groups in the Centres’ communities.

Week in week out amazing people tackle marathons and hikes, hold afternoon teas and bake sales, to raise funds for their local Maggie’s Centre.

We also work in partnership with some incredible organisations such as The People’s Postcode Lottery.

Since 2007, Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have donated an incredible total of £3.7 million, helping to fund everything from relaxation classes to nutrition workshops, across Scotland the rest of the UK.

It’s the kind of support that means we are able to say that, at the moment, we support around one in four of all people diagnosed with cancer, as well as many of their family and friends, in Scotland, although it is our ambition to see many more.

But what is it that happens in a Maggie’s Centre that is so extraordinary? What is this ground breaking support that we offer? Well what we offer comes in many different shapes.

It is a cup of tea in a safe, non-clinical environment or it is one-to-one psychological support.

It is a chat around the kitchen table with people with similar experiences or it is benefits advice or a nutrition workshop.

It’s simply about taking some time out or it is seeking advice from our many expert staff.

But most of all, it is about empowerment.

It’s about helping people to find their own way through and to become active participants in their own treatment, it’s about recognising the importance of comfortable spaces when people are feeling vulnerable and, perhaps above all, never allowing people to ‘lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’ as Maggie herself put it. To find out more please visit

Laura Lee is CEO of Maggie’s Centres