When cancer nurse Laura Lee began caring for a new patient one day in 1993, she had no idea it would change her life — and many others — forever.
Because that patient – Maggie Keswick Jenks – had the idea of building a small center next to the Edinburgh Hospital where she was being treated to help others cope with their diagnosis.
Convinced of the need, Laura – then in her early 20s – took the leap wholeheartedly and became the first employee and CEO of a charity called Maggie’s*.
Dame Laura Lee, DBE, is a specialist cancer nurse turned CEO of Maggie’s, which runs a large and growing network of centers to help support cancer patients in calm, positive and uplifting environments.
Her goal? To help prevent patients from “losing the joy of living in fear of death”.
Over the past three decades, Laura, 57, has overseen its growth from one to 24 centers across the country, which are visited by people in need of support 340,000 times a year. There are plans for more.
Sadly, Maggie died before she could see her dream come true. She lost her battle against breast cancer in 1995 – aged just 53 – shortly before starting to set up the first Maggi restaurant at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
But she left an amazing legacy, thanks to Laura’s visionary genius and your generosity. Because over the past 20 years, the charity has received an incredible £23 million from players of the popular postcode lottery.
It is scheduled to continue.
“It’s an amazing amount of money,” says Laura, who was named Dame in 2019. The People’s Postcode Lottery has been an exceptional partner for Maggie’s.
“We became one of their first charities – they started in Scotland in their office in Edinburgh and we were in Edinburgh too. The great thing is that their growth has helped us grow.
“What is unusual is that they are committed to being a long-term partner – this allows us to plan.
“It’s great because we celebrate the players who win and benefit from them and help people with cancer.”
Maggie Keswick Jenks was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 47 and was successfully treated. But five years later she returned, and received the shocking news that she only had a few months to live in May 1993.
Maggie and her husband, Charles, are then taken into a windowless corridor to process the news surrounded by other patients. They knew they deserved better, and the idea for Maggie was born.
The concept was to give people the help and support they need, or just a nice place to go and sit quietly, by building beautiful reception centers near oncology units.
“You can come in without a referral and you’ll have time with a cancer support specialist,” says Laura. “The service is tailored to each individual – you can discuss what’s worrying you and let us help you overcome it.”
“And if you would benefit from something more specific, such as a psychologist or benefits counsellor, we will arrange that.”
There are 60 oncology units in Britain, and Laura decided that each should have its own Maggie’s centre. Six are currently under development.
Initially the plan was just to build one in Edinburgh.
“But then doctors in Glasgow and Dundee asked if they could get an equivalent, growing us organically,” says Laura.
Many were designed by world-famous architects such as Norman Foster (The Gherkin) and Richard Rogers (Lloyds Building) who were friends of Maggie and her American architect husband. Top architects are lining up to design the next building.
Both Maggie and Laura are firm believers in the impact our environment has on us, so the centers are all beautiful, relaxing and uplifting places.
Thus, when Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao) designed Maggie’s Dundee, he modeled it on a traditional Scottish country house in the “butt n’ ben” style to provide a sense of calm and sanctuary.
The center of Glasgow was surrounded by wooded facades created by Lily Jenks, Maggie’s daughter, ‘to give you a little life and strength’.
Each may look completely different, but the spirit and atmosphere are the same. “We want people to feel more in control, more hopeful, and when they feel helpless because of a diagnosis, Maggie helps them feel less alone by meeting others who are going through it,” says Laura.
So what would the ‘warm and outgoing’ woman after whom the charity is named think about her amazing legacy?
“She will be very happy and maybe a little confused,” Laura smiles. “You’ll be amazed at how generous people are, how committed the workforce is, and how passionate people are about environmental quality.”
A passion made possible by popular postcode lottery players**.
In 2008, when Maggie’s first received funding, there were five centres, but in the intervening 15 years, a further 19 centers have opened and more than two million people needing support have visited Maggie’s.
“You can see that our growth trajectory has ramped up significantly,” says Laura. “Continued and unrestricted funding from players has fueled our growth, providing a solid foundation of financial security that has enabled us to be ambitious with our plans to be present in every major cancer center in the country.”
“Maggie saved my life.”
When Paul Scanlon was diagnosed with bowel cancer and told that surgery would leave him needing a colostomy bag, he decided against surgery.
But he soon became depressed.
He then visited the local Maggie’s store in Cardiff and met clinical psychologist Sarah.
“When I went to see Sarah, she explained to me how I would be able to cope with life and that it would give me plenty of time to live life with my family,” says the 53-year-old, who immediately returned home and left the house. He told his wife and two daughters that he was undergoing life-saving surgery.
“I truly believe Sarah and Maggie saved my life,” Paul says.
“The building is really quiet, and has an open plan with a lovely big table where you can sit and talk – or not, however you feel, or you can go and sit at the kitchen table or in the garden with a cup of coffee and watch the birds in the woods.
“It’s a really nice, quiet place, and it helps me feel more relaxed.”
“I tell my wife I love her every day”
After three cancer diagnoses in ten years, Bill Buffett needed a little luck. Luck finally smiled on him in December last year when he won £60,000 in the popular postcode lottery.
“They called and said ‘Congratulations, you’re a winner’ but they didn’t tell me how much I had won because they wanted to surprise me,” the 81-year-old says. “I had all sorts of things going through my mind, ‘Did I win thousands?’
A few days later, the team arrived at his home in Bishopston, Wiltshire, with a large check in an envelope.
“They asked me to take it out and I saw six – ‘Oh, I’ve won £600’, I thought,” says the great-grandfather. “Then I saw the zero, then the comma, then all these zeros.
“I said ‘holy bloody moly’ and I dug my wife Linda in the ribs!”
Although he has beaten skin cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer — the latest in 2020 — in the past 10 years, everything Bill does is for Linda, a former senior care aide and his wife of 37 years. “I tell her I love her every day,” he says.
He spends a lot of his earnings on furnishing their bungalow for her.
He also treated his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to meals out, and took Linda, 66, on holiday to Sidmouth in Devon as well.
“I want her to sit back and relax,” he says. I promised to take care of her when I married her and that’s what I want her to do. I hope I made her proud.
How you can help People’s Postcode Lottery continue to support charities like Maggie’s
Taking part in the People’s Postcode Lottery gives you the chance to share £1million with your neighbors – while also raising vital funds for charities.
For a subscription of £12 per month†, you’ll be entered into every draw, with prizes announced every day.
This includes £1 million for one winning postcode every Saturday as part of the Millionaire Street draw.
There is also £1,000 to be won every day of the week per ticket in twenty postcodes, £30,000 per winning ticket in one postcode every Sunday, and a monthly prize of at least £3.2 million for one lucky area.
The prospect of making big gains on a regular basis is of course a huge attraction. But subscribing will not only benefit you.
At least 33 percent of the price of every People’s Postcode Lottery ticket goes to charitable causes.
Players have raised more than £1 billion so far for charities.
click here To register today.
*Maggie’s is a registered Scottish charity (SC024414). Funding is provided by Postcode Care Trust, a registered Scottish charity (SC042667).
**£12 is entered into all draws, payable monthly in advance. The estimated maximum ticket prize from the October Millionaire Street and Millionaire Street draws is £388,875. Winning postcodes for the October draws will be announced daily from 7 October to 3 November 2023. Terms and conditions apply. People’s Postcode Lottery runs lottery operations for 20 charities, each of which has one drawing per month and receives at least 33% of ticket sales. For draw dates, the good cause each draw benefits, and the relevant prizes, see the prize draw calendar at www.postcodelottery.co.uk/good-causes/draw-calendar. Not available in NI. Conditions apply. Postcode Lottery Limited is incorporated in England and Wales and is authorized and regulated by the Gambling Commission under license numbers 000-000829-R-102511 and 000-000829-R-102513. Registered office: Postcode Lottery Limited, 2nd Floor, 31 Chertsey Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4HD. Company reg. no. 04862732. Value Added Tax Register. no848 3165 07. Trading address: 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4ET. © 2023 Postcode Lottery Limited.
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