Here’s to Tu: Marking ten years at Maggie’s Fife

“I remember clear as day when I applied for the job because I sat down at my kitchen table, researching Maggie’s, and I got so excited about the organisation. When I read Maggie’s story I was completely blown away. It was just so powerful.”

By Debbie Clarke
Friday, 14th February 2020, 3:06 pm
Tu Edwards has been marking ten years working at Maggie's Fife. Pic:  Fife Photo Agency.
Tu Edwards has been marking ten years working at Maggie's Fife. Pic: Fife Photo Agency.

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since Tu Edwards took up the post of fundraising organiser for Maggie’s Fife.

And she still remembers how she felt on the day she came to Kirkcaldy for her interview.

“I honestly felt that I didn’t know what I would do if I didn’t get the job because I had fallen in love with the organisation so much,” she said.

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Tu Edwards with the Maggie's High 5 poster at Dunnikier Golf Club. Pic: Walter Neilson.

“I then got the call to say that I had the position and I remember coming into Maggie’s Fife on my first day and getting that warm welcome from the team.

“Over time I developed relationships with centre users and fundraisers – it is just such a motivational and inspirational place and what we deliver is so so special.”

Over the last decade, staff at the centre have seen 72,875 visitors through the door.

Tu said those numbers show clearly that Maggie’s Fife has an impact.

Bob's walkers arriving at Maggie's Fife: Dr Bob, Tu Edwards and Allan Crow. Pic: Walter Neilson.

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The girls at a Maggie's event at the Old Course Hotel. In the hats, from left to right are, Pamela Stevenson, Fiona Wiseman, Tu Edwards, Sharon Hopkinson and Derwyn Christie.

The 38-year-old said there have been so many personal highlights since she started working at Maggie’s in January 2010.

And one of her stand-out memories came shortly after starting in the role.

She explained: “I had been there about a year when I was launched into thinking about Maggie’s Fife’s fifth birthday and how we needed a celebration.

“I worked closely with the Fife Free Press and helped to come up with the High-5 Maggie’s campaign which was really exciting. I had never been part of a newspaper campaign before.

Tu and Shona Parsons ahead of the annual Maggie's golf tournament.

“We created an engaging campaign to get people to donate £5, £50 or £500 which worked really well. We also had a gala dinner to celebrate. Kingdom FM also turned into Maggie’s FM for five days to mark our fifth birthday – I was just so blown away by that.”

Another highlight was the introduction of a Maggie’s Fife fundraising board which saw its members come together to see how they could raise money for the centre to help sustain and grow it.

It organised events such as the ladies lunch – now one of Maggie’s Fife’s flagship events; while chairman, retired GP Bob Grant, led a team along Fife Coastal Path, raising significant funds en route.

But, picking out any specific events when there have been so many is a tough call.

“I wish I could mention them all!” said Tu. “They have all done incredible things and what makes the job really special is the fact I can be part of them.

“I can hear why they do these amazing things for Maggie’s, what it means to them and just to see their faces at the end of achieving something incredible is just great.

“Whether it was a challenge like climbing a mountain, throwing themselves out an aeroplane or running their first marathon, being able to share these moments and hear what it means to them to be able to contribute and give something back, is very special.”

There are also two longstanding events which Maggie’s has organised in Fife since the centre’s doors opened – the Gillian Parsons Memorial Golf Day and the Twilight Walk.

She said: “When I joined Maggie’s these two were on the events calendar and they are still there 14 years later! The golf day is actually 15 years old this year. To be able to work alongside these volunteers and individuals who give their time to organise these events and to have that level of commitment and time has to be mentioned.”

This year’s Twilight Walk takes place on June 6 at the Lomond Centre in Glenrothes with the golf day happening on August 23 at Dunnikier Park.

Tu continued: “To keep these events going for that length of time with the organisers really committed to Maggie’s is just amazing. I just can’t thank individuals like them enough for working with us to ensure these events are delivered every year.”

Over the decade our Maggie’s Centre has also grown.

At the start, there was a part-time benefits advisor, a centre head who was a cancer support specialist and another cancer support specialist.

Over time a psychologist was brought in, and the team developed as a core programme evolved.

Tu explained: “Everything we offer at Maggie’s is evidence-based, but we really listen to hear what people with cancer and their friends and family tell us they need.

“As a result, our researchers are able to look at specific courses and workshops and develop them. In actual fact Maggie’s Fife was one of the pilot centres for our Where Now course which has been rolled out across the organisation.

“It is a programme for anyone who has finished cancer treatment.

“Often people find themselves in a very confusing place when their treatment stops and they think what now, where now? What am I going to do? I have gone to hospital for months and months and have been checked. Now I am being told that I don’t come back for six months and my life has changed because I have had this life-threatening illness, what on earth do I do with myself?

“People react to their cancer diagnosis in different ways, in different stages. Sometimes it isn’t until someone finishes their treatment that they then start to worry about the cancer coming back and what that could mean so it can be a rollercoaster of emotions all over again. So this session was piloted at Maggie’s Fife in 2011 to support people who have finished treatment.”

She said the centre itself has also evolved to become responsive to people’s changing needs.

An example of this is shown when it was noticed there has been an increase locally in people attending Maggie’s Fife with head and neck cancers. As a result, it was decided to create support groups so they could come along to the centre and receive peer to peer support in a safe environment with a Maggie’s facilitator.

The programme now offers more variety with workshops such as Getting Started with Cancer Treatment in conjuntion with Victoria Hospital, chair yoga and Tai Chi, mindfulness sessions and more recently, a men’s skin fitness workshop, which is run quarterly, with the charity Look Good Feel Better to help look after their skin after cancer treatment.

Another session being trialled is called Regain Your Brain.

Tu explained: “There is a term called ‘chemo brain’ which affects people who have undergone chemotherapy treatment who say that they forget things or their memory is really bad. The Regain Your Brain sessions are all about how you can improve your memory and your cognitive skills again.”

Over the past decade, the team has grown at Maggie’s Fife - there are now two fundraisers, there will soon be a full-time psychologist in place and a full-time benefits adviser.

When Tu started at Maggie’s Fife the centre had 6120 visits from people with cancer and their friends and family.

Last year there were 8676 visits which underlines how busy the centre has become and how it is reaching more people.

“Maggie’s Fife is the fastest growing centre in the UK which is amazing. Despite it being emotionally difficult at times, there are a lot of joyful moments at Maggie’s and there is probably more laughter than tears here,” Tu said.

“I find my job really satisfying and it’s really hard not to feel that when you hear people’s stories.

“You reap the rewards knowing what you are contributing towards and knowing what the fundraising is helping to achieve time and time again.

“I see so many people come and go here at the centre and I am really lucky to have established some really long-term relationships with people who are totally committed to Maggie’s Fife.

“The figures speak for themselves in terms of what we are delivering and the impact we are having on the Fife community.”

She continued: “I hear on a regular basis people saying Maggie’s saved my life and if it wasn’t for Maggie’s I wouldn’t be here now and knowing people’s stories and where they were when they first walked into the centre to where they are now – I have seen that transformation over and over again.

“That’s not by accident. It is because we have the expertise and incredible staff to be able to deliver this special service.”

Tu added: “We have such a good team here – it is a great place to come to work.”