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A Maggie’s Centre is a place to turn for cancer sufferers when they need help with any problems they may face. The centres are found all over the UK, and this year Maggie’s celebrates its 15th birthday.
The Hour went behind the scenes at one of the centres in Glasgow to find out what happens on a day to day basis. Gillian Hailstones, head of the centre, said:
“For most people who come to the centre it’s like they’re in a foreign land. Coming to the centre gives people the chance to meet other people in exactly the same situation and cut down on those feelings of isolation and loneliness. What we do is try to encourage people to drop in, to come into the centre and to have a look around.
“A day in the life of the Maggie’s Centre is a bit like the Glasgow weather; you get all four seasons in the one day. We do have people that come in, and they may come in in tears, they may laugh at some points during the conversation, they may get angry at some points during their time in the centre just at life and what it’s thrown at them. So the centre is just full of the normal emotions of every day life.
“Our doors are open for anybody who wants to come in, not just people who have been impacted by cancer but anybody who wants to learn a bit more about what we do.”
The centre has a support group every week for people who want to tell their story and want a bit of help, and what the centre tries to teach people is to never give up the joy of living for the fear of dying.
Darrin McGann was diagnosed with bowel cancer a year ago and after visiting Maggie’s Centre he was filled with hope and a newfound sense of wellbeing and happiness.
“It’s hard for a guy to walk into a place where a lot of women have been diagnosed with breast cancer and all that,” he said. “But walking into the centre was the best thing in the last year that I’ve ever done.”
Carol Scott and Dermot Coyle are benefits advisors at the centre, and they are there to give information to anybody who needs it on money they are entitled to if they are too ill to work. Carol said:
“We can advise them if they’re under [the age of] 65 on benefits like disability living allowance and what their carer can get. There is a welfare advisor here every day, and if someone needs to be seen we will try and see them.”
Former Scottish Women’s Rugby team member Vicky Galbraith was diagnosed with a brain tumour and spent the festive season in hospital having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and Patricia Tolland is a breast cancer sufferer. Both women have been helped by Maggie’s Centre and have found it a really positive experience. Vicky said:
“I was in the hospital for six days with 27 staples and a drain coming out my head for a little bit. [Maggie’s] is so unpretentious, it’s so informal and it’s home, only cleaner.”
Patricia added: “A cancer diagnosis changes who you are. You think differently and you learn to appreciate life every day and you know what’s important to you and who’s important to you, and Maggie’s has helped me to get there and to take control of my life as much as I can, and that’s what it’s done for me.”
If you have been affected by cancer and need some help or advice or if you want to get involved and help out visit the Maggie’s Centre website.