Feature: Our Maggie’s Centre at 10 - The power of a common bond and a shared experience ...

A Tai-Chi class, just one of the many activities at Maggie's. All pictures:  FPA
A Tai-Chi class, just one of the many activities at Maggie's. All pictures: FPA

One of the first things that strikes you when you step through the Maggie’s Centre door is the sense of ‘community’ – a place of shared experiences.

It might be the laughter, it may be the welcoming smiles, perhaps the conversation, or a mearly the offer of friendly cuppa?

Iain Wallace, new counselling psychologist at Maggie's Fife

Iain Wallace, new counselling psychologist at Maggie's Fife

Whatever it is, it works, as many who come to this place will tell you.

It took Tony (not his real name) six attempts to step inside; the stress, anxiety, anger and fear stopping him from doing so. But 12 months on he’s the first to admit that he’s mightily glad he did.

At a time when the emotions and confused feelings that many having been diagnosed with cancer can experience, Tony found the pressure valve that he was inadvertedly searching for.

“I was withdrawn after operation but needed to open up and talk about, but couldn’t either with my family or with others,” he explained.

Cancer Support Specialist Ali Clarke

Cancer Support Specialist Ali Clarke

“But thanks to the people here and the fact that many others were feeling the same and understood my personal situation, it allowed me to come to terms with what was happening to me and help me gradually move on. The frustration and anger of not knowing how long I’d got left took over to a large extent, but coming here helped me to be able to talk about cancer to my family; it helped me and them.”

With its communal kitchen table and spacious, uncluttered main area, the clean lines of the Dame Zaha Hadid designed building are easy on the eye and instantly inviting.

“It’s a happy place which might surprise some people,” Iain Wallace, who offers psychological support at the centre, explained.

“There’s always the sound of laughter, but similarly people can come here upset and we want to normalise that feeling. It’s okay to feel upset.

“It may be that at home people have to hold those emotions inside, stay strong for fear of upsetting loved ones, to carry on as if everything is fine, when really it is anything but fine. By walking through the door, and talking to someone about their situation, they are already on their way to a better place.”

“There’s a certain amount of information given to people but a large part of it is being able to talk to each other, to support each other and to benefit from that shared experience, there is a lot of power in that.”

The centre acts as a welcome release for many, be it through the various courses and activities that are professionally designed and suitable for people of all ages, or simply as a place that those who have, or are affected by cancer, can come where people will understand, yet never judge.

From the calming effects of Tai Chi, yoga and relaxation sessions, to benefical information on how to cope with cancer in its various forms and nutritional, financial and health information and stress management courses, there is much on offer to those with cancer as well as their families.

“I firmly believe it is not only about the treatments prescribed but about people’s ability to be empowered to enhance their lives during and beyond their cancer journey,” said Ali Clarke, a cancer support specialist, based at at the Kirkcaldy centre.

Those there on any given day have little in common except the shared experience of cancer, they come from different backgrounds, are across the age spectrum and have their own lives to lead. They do, however have one other common factor: they understand each other as they have all been through, what one lady referred to as the ‘cancer rollercoaster’. She added: “Coming here you are around people who know and understand. I continue to find that, an inspiration for the way I deal with my situation, hopefully others will find that too, they just need to set through the door.”

From the family and friends course and support group to creative writing, expressive art, relaxation and nutrition workshops, Maggie’s Centre, Kirkcaldy offers something for everyone coping or affected with cancer. Based at Victoria Hospital, opposite the main reception, Hayfield Road, Kirkcaldy and open weekdays from 9am - 5pm (11am-5pm Tuesday), the door is open to all. Be it a friendly face or a shoulder to lean on, someone to listen or something to say, the professional staff, volunteers and many who use and benefit from the centre will be on hand to welcome you in. For more information about the various free courses, how to book or for more about what the centre can offer you, go to www.maggiescentres.org, email fife@maggiescentres.org or contact 01592-647997.