Maggie’s Fife cancer caring centre: there to help from the start

Melanie, Louise Duncan, fundraising co-ordinator and Alison. Pics by Walter Neilson.
Melanie, Louise Duncan, fundraising co-ordinator and Alison. Pics by Walter Neilson.

The number of people using our Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy is on the rise.

Since Christmas more than 2500 people have passed through the doors of the unique building in the grounds of Victoria Hospital, and it looks like 2019 could be one of the centre’s busiest years yet.

Melanie Bunce, the new benefits adviser.

Melanie Bunce, the new benefits adviser.

One of the big factors affecting the rise is the popularity of the Getting Started workshop which the centre runs in conjunction with NHS Fife’s day haemotology/oncology nurses.

This is a one-off 90-minute session offered to people just beginning their cancer treatment following a referral from their clinician.

It has been developed to help people with cancer – as well as their family and friends – to better understand the treatment they are facing, how to prevent or manage side effects, and how to 
be as healthy in body and 
mind as possible during treatment.

The sessions take groups of between 12-18 people at a time and those taking part benefit by being better prepared because they know what to expect, and play a more active role in their treatment, with a focus on their own wellbeing throughout.

The Twilight Walk is a major fundraiser for Maggie's.

The Twilight Walk is a major fundraiser for Maggie's.

Alison Allan, centre manager, told the Press: “These workshops have proved to be a really positive, collaborative piece of work which has seen a knock-on effect on the number of centre users.

“In 2018 we saw 366 people on the Getting Started workshop which helps them prepare for their treatment plan and gives them more confidence when going for their appointments because they know what is going to happen.

“Also, because it is done in small groups they don’t feel so alone.

“When they come along to this we can also show them around the centre and explain what help we can give them here, and it has led to many of them coming along to 
use the services we offer.

The iconic building was designed by Zaha Hadid.

The iconic building was designed by Zaha Hadid.

“We have seen a marked increase in the number of newly-diagnosed people coming in and that is largely down to the workshops.

“We have one every week and visitors can ask questions and find out more. This often helps to ease concerns from any pre-conceived ideas they may have because treatments have changed
a huge amount in recent 

“Even if one or two of the people who come to the workshop come back for some further support from Maggie’s it can increase our numbers significantly.”

Facilities management company Engie spent the Easter holiday weekend giving the centre a bit of TLC, painting, putting up shelves and carrying out repairs to spruce up the building for its many users.

Coming up in the next few weeks the centre has a Talking Heads session on hair loss, wigs and scarves.

This is given by stylists Ronnie from Byron in Kirkcaldy and Dougie from Sheds in Dunfermline.

It takes place on May 13 from 1-2.30pm, and there will be cancer support specialist staff on hand to help answer any questions.

The annual fundraising Twilight Walk will take place on May 25, starting off from the Lomond Centre in Glenrothes when hundreds of people are expected to take part.

Then, on June 18 from 3-4.30pm, the next Cancer in the Workplace session takes place in the centre.

This is open to any employers in Fife to help advise them on how to support workers who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Alison explained: “This is a free session for anyone who may need a bit of training on how to support their employees.

“It is a small group with a maximum of 10 people per session and is open to people from any size or type of business from large factories to small firms.

“We offer it four times a year and people should contact us to book a place.”

Maggie’s Fife has just welcomed the arrival of new full-time benefits adviser, Melanie Bunce.
Melanie (44), has worked as a welfare officer with West Lothian Council and Macmillan Cancer care in a joint role for the past 15 years.
She takes over from Anne Foster who worked two days a week at the centre.
Mum-of-one Melanie arrived at the beginning of April and says she already feels very much at home.
“What attracted me was the unique support programme offered at Maggie’s, and how it is so patient centred – I see everyone face-to-face and can ensure that they understand what I am telling them.”
And she says she has been given a great welcome from the staff and centre users.
“Every one of the team complements what the others do and I’m really excited about the future,” she said.
“All the welfare reform changes are having a huge impact. Many people who thought they were on benefits for life are being re-assessed for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), while Universal Credit is putting vulnerable people in even more vulnerable positions.
“Statistics show that having a cancer diagnosis can lead to people becoming around £570 a month worse off.
“Things like travelling for treatment and extra heating costs can place an additional burden on people’s incomes. I am here to help them with any benefits they may be entitled to.
“We are all working together here to help improve people’s cancer journey and make things a bit easier for those with cancer and their families and friends.”