Who Maggie Was
Maggie Keswick Jencks was the co-founder, alongside Charles Jencks, of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Maggie was a writer, a landscape designer, a painter and a mother of two.
In May 1993, Maggie was told that her breast cancer had recurred and spread to her bones, liver and brain. When asked, her Dumfries oncologist gave her two to three months to live. By joining a trial involving advanced chemotherapy Maggie extended her life by a further 18 months and it was in this time that her idea for a cancer caring centre was born. She worked closely with Laura Lee her oncology nurse and was asked to write an article for a medical journal on a patient’s perspective on being treated for cancer.
A View from the Front Line gave her the opportunity to work out what it was that she and the many others affected by cancer needed. She was convinced that everybody would feel better as she did, if they felt able to take some active role in what was happening to them. In order not to be a ‘cancer victim’, she believed you needed help with information, that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, help with stress reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet up and share with other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.
She talked to her medical team at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh about a place to help their patients with the very real, if not medical, problems of living with cancer. She drew up a blueprint and plans for a pioneering venture, in a stable block in the grounds of the hospital.
Maggie died in July 1995. The first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh in November 1996.