Cancer patients from Tayside have shared stories of ‘amazing’ care at Maggie’s, as a pilot scheme providing pre-treatment support launches across Scotland.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf visited the charity’s Dundee centre today announcing the £270,000 Prehabilitation project to be offered at all eight Maggie’s centres.
Willie Auld from Perth and Les Ball who lives in Dundee became friends after meeting at Maggie’s during treatment. They met Mr Yousaf at the project’s launch.
Willie a former civil engineer, was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in June 2015.
“A cancer diagnosis can be a very complicated and scary thing,” he says.
“Let me give you an example based on my experience: prostate cancer can be categorised in 15 different ways (in effect that’s 15 different types of prostate cancer).
“So even getting a diagnosis can be confusing.
“Then there’s the different treatment options to cope with; and finally there’s living with the uncertainty of cancer, or the consequences of treatment.
“The simplicity of Maggie’s really can seem like a sanctuary, an oasis in the middle of an often unpleasant, confusing desert.”
After years of monitoring and investigation, in 2015, Willie had surgery to remove the prostate. This was followed by hormone deprivation treatment, and radiotherapy.
During this time Willie – a dad of six and grandad to 11 – struggled with his mental health until, in January 2017, he came to Maggie’s.
The 69-year-old said: “Fundamentally my vision of who I thought I was going to be in retirement had gone.
“I had become a different person, a person I really didn’t want to be.”
“I wanted to be the guy I was before. In short, I couldn’t accept who and what I’d become.”
Willie says of his partner Morna: “How my long-suffering partner put up with this, the way she did, is probably some kind of miracle.
“Maggie’s is an amazing place. One of the first things that strikes you is an atmosphere of calm ordinariness – often epitomised by being immediately asked if you’d like a cup of tea.
“The building helps – it has an atmosphere of homeliness. And then you discover the caring attitude of the staff and volunteers.
“It’s the care which can be missing in a purely medical setting; one of the things which contributes to this caring is the simplicity you find in Maggie’s.”
Les was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2016.
The 62-year-old went to Maggie’s on the same day as he received his diagnosis, in shock.
“I was in tears when I left the hospital and the consultant had mentioned Maggie’s. I went there to talk to someone,” he explains.
“I went on to meet a group of six or seven others and we are still in touch now, including Willie. We all formed a really strong bond.”
Les became a regular visitor to Maggie’s taking part in a nutrition course, a mindfulness course, and even becoming the resident yoga teacher at one point.
His treatment is continuing and he says the support being offered to others by the new scheme is ‘huge’.
“I had the foresight to go down to Maggie’s but others may not. It’s a very scary time.
“I’d go even further and say there needs to be something before diagnosis in the period when you’re waiting for the results. The waiting was horrendous.”
The Prehabilitation project for cancer patients will give tailored help and advice on exercise, nutrition and mental health, to improve outcomes for those preparing for cancer treatment.