Loraine McIntosh is a brave woman with a hugely optimistic outlook on life.
That’s why she was chosen as the inspirational speaker at the gala dinner held on Friday in the Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, to celebrate our Maggie’s Centre’s 10th birthday.
Her courageous tale touched the hearts of many there on the night but, as Loraine adamantly says, it’s not a sad story, but a story of optimism and hope for the future.
And as you see the smiling face beaming back at you, you can’t help but be caught up in the happiness she exudes.
Loraine (57), who works as a venue manager at Kirkcaldy Galleries for Fife Cultural Trust, was diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer in July 2015.
As part of the process she also discovered that she was BRAC1 positive, a hereditary genetic mutation which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
There followed a very harrowing year of chemotherapy, surgery, more chemo then a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.
However, typically upbeat, Loraine told guests: “I consider mine a success story. I have had excellent care from the best the NHS has to offer in both Fife and Lothian, as well as practical and emotional support from Maggie’s.
“The NHS took one poorly, scared, vulnerable woman and fixed her and Maggie’s gave me my life back.”
She told how she and her husband first visited Maggie’s following a hospital appointment ten days after finishing her first chemo treatment.
“I had started feeling more optimistic for the first time in eight weeks.
“The treatment was starting to work, a plan was in place and I started to feel more in control.”
“We were welcomed into the centre, so dark and angular on the outside, but bright, light and curvy on the inside.
“A large table with people sitting around, smiling and looking quite normal – after all what does someone with cancer look like?
“We talked about my diagnosis and how our lives had been turned upside down. The Maggie’s tissue box was used and Alison reassured us that what we were feeling was normal.”
They were shown around the centre and soon signed up for some relaxation sessions as well as a nuturition course, the ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ course and other events.
“The sessions are informative and relevant. The chance to meet others at different stages of the experience is invaluable.
“You hear how others have coped with their challenges and you are able to offer support and encouragement as well,” said Loraine.
“After attending the courses I was now looking good, feeling better, choosing my headgear with confidence. I had found my new me and my family started to recover as well.
“The fear was going and we were living again.”
Loraine underwent surgery, and Maggie’s became a part of her recovery process – a place where she could go and relax, recharge her batteries and have “a gentle transition back into the real world.”
“With a body that has been through a major chemical attack and massive surgery, and a mind that is fragile, confused and relieved all at the same time, rebuilding a new kind of normal begins,” she said.
She was helped in this process by Maggie’s ‘Where Now ?’ course, which provided guidance on getting the emotional and practical elements of her recovery into focus.
Slowly but surely she has continued to progress, attending fitness classes at the Michael Woods sports centre in Glenrothes where she lives.
She has also just finished a phased return to work programme at Kirkcaldy Galleries, where she says she has been very well supported.
Loraine concluded, saying: “Here I am today, the product of the efforts of a cast of many and a work in progress.
“Thank you, all of you.
“I continue to go to a Maggie’s Mindfullness group.
“I am still the same Loraine, but a slightly remodelled, reprogrammed version of myself.
“Maggie’s will always be a part of my life; you get a lifetime family membership once you sign up.”
And she said she now lives her life by a set of new rules, aiming each day to do something for someone else; for herself; something creative; take time to rest and engage with nature.
The 10th anniversary dinner was a glittering occasion to celebrate the achievement of our Maggie’s Centre over the past decade.
Guests including former staff and local businesses which have supported the charity and the many volunteers without whom it could not operate. It was hosted by Laura Boyd, STV’s showbiz reporter, who herself has been affected by cancer. The event started with a drinks reception hosted by Diageo, a long-time supporter of Maggie’s, and featured a raffle, auction and silent auction with some great prizes. In total the dinner raised £26,375 to help the centre’s running costs. Alison Harrow, centre manager, said: “From the moment you stepped on to the red carpet at the Rothes Halls you knew it was going to be a wonderful evening. “It was a wonderful celebration of 10 years of Maggie’s Fife during which we have supported more than 50,000 people affected by cancer.
‘‘We know that we will see even more coming in the next 10 years.”