OUR Maggie’s Centre is defined as the place to turn for support with any of the problems associated with cancer.
The Kirkcaldy-based facility is there for men and women who feel the need for help – which can include those caring for people with cancer, as well as those actually living with the condition.
Three main foundations to the support offered by Maggie’s are useable information, psychological and emotional help, and practical support with general wellbeing.
Among the many aspects to which these principles are applied is how to deal with the aftermath of cancer treatment.
You may have endured the trauma and fear of the diagnosis, and the painful toll of the illness itself.
Hopefully, you have got through the effects of the treatment – but how prepared are you for returning to some kind of ‘normal’ life?
Where Now? is a course which helps people address the physical, emotional and practical issues they may face when their medical care is over.
In effect, it helps them redefine themselves.
Some people may have a return to work to fill their time; others may not. But virtually all have to re-enter the ordinary days of the week – with the regular contact with doctors and carers no longer there.
The six-week course involves group discussion sessions on exercise, healthy eating, emotional well-being, managing the challenges beyond treatment, partnering with your medical team, and keeping up the momentum.
Many people have found the course invaluable in trying to find a conventional life again.
They would recommend it to anyone nearing the end of their treatment – with the warmth, friendliness and reassurance of Maggie’s as a solid backdrop.
Course members have continued to meet socially, preserving the feeling of caring and being there for each other.
All have learned about their own feelings – and are able to help others cope with theirs.
The course is run by Maggie’s Centre head and clinical psychologist, Dr Elspeth Salter, who said people could “hit quite a challenging path” after such a vivid life-changing experience.
They knew their treatment was soon to end and were aiming at a structured life once again. But, at the same time, there was the loss of the ‘safety net’ of professional contact with doctors and nurses.
“On one hand, you are glad to get away, but they have given you a sense of safety,” she added. “An anxious feeling at the end of treatment is normal.”
The idea of rediscovering your identity, post-cancer, with a group, was very much part of the ethos of Maggie’s, said Dr Salter.
Sharing experiences with others made people feel less alone and showed it was okay sometimes to have ‘bad days’.
The course introduced people to others in their own areas, or close by, or people they might never have known, with real bonds and friendships developing.
“They have made a really important connection at quite a vulnerable time in their lives,” said Dr Salter.