Hannah on why every cancer centre needs a Maggie's

Friday 09 February 2024

Maggie's Wirral

Hannah is smiling and standing outside Maggie's in the Wirral

My mum's name was Pat. She was a bubbly, outgoing character with lots of friends. Her kids, her family and animals meant the most to her; going on walks with her dog Buddy was her idea of heaven.

My mum's name was Pat. She was a bubbly, outgoing character with lots of friends. Her kids, her family and animals meant the most to her; going on walks with her dog Buddy was her idea of heaven. 

Pat was 72 when she died. I had been a bit of a carer for her over the years; her Crohn’s disease meant that over the years she’d had several operations and stays in hospital. We had a very strong bond. At times, I was like a mum to her. 

Despite this, she was relatively well until six months before she was diagnosed with cancer, in February 2023. She wasn’t eating properly which I knew wasn’t like her.  

She went for a blood test, which showed that she had high white blood cells and that's how we found that she had liver cancer in her bile duct: cholangiocarcinoma. 

Very strangely, this is identical to the cancer my mother-in-law, Elsie, had. She died six months before my mum was diagnosed. We were very close; she was like a surrogate mum to me.  

I have never seen a woman of such steel. She would always see the positives, even if it’s just that it was a sunny day. But sadly, she wasn’t well enough to go through cancer treatment.  

In the end, both my mum and my mother-in-law died peacefully. It’s a rare cancer and so unusual for two women around the same age, in the same area, to both die from it.

Our first visit to Maggie's

One big difference is that I had Maggie’s when my mum was ill, not when my mother-in-law was ill.  

I was proactive, got second opinions, hunted down alternative treatments. But the scan results became worse rather than better.  

Having seen my mother-in-law's illness, I knew exactly what we were facing and I was afraid to face it again. I needed something to boost me to get through this next obstacle, also to prop my mum up.  

At that point, I wanted to be strong against this and I wanted that attitude to rub off on my mum. Our biggest need at the time was a place to escape, to keep our resilience up, and that’s exactly what we got. 

I thought that Maggie’s might be a nice place to sit, with a cup of tea and have two minutes to ourselves. But I was blown away.  

Going up the path into Maggie’s is like stepping into another world, it feels special. 

When we came in, my first thought was ‘wow’. The building took our breath away. We met Vicky who was very welcoming and came to sat with us. My mum was offered a relaxation session right away, which was just what she needed. It also gave Vicky and I a chance to talk, for me to let my guard down. That made me realise how expert the staff at Maggie’s are. 

Vicky asked “the question is, how are you doing?” She just let me talk. I was fascinated by the building and we discussed how it is designed so that you can't see the hospital from any window.  

Mum came out of the relaxation session feeling refreshed. It meant that we all got a little escape that day and it built me up for the next round of what was to come. Coming to Maggie’s that day gave me inner strength. 

Hannah and her mum at a donkey sanctuary

The difference Maggie's makes

I’ve had to experience, out of necessity, what hospitals without Maggie’s can be like. 

When my mum became really unwell, she was on a palliative care ward. She was unable to sleep, eat or drink; it was heartbreaking. I knew that she was very near the end and so I felt scared to leave her side.  

I was immensely sad, frightened and sleep-deprived. I desperately needed a good cry and to talk to someone who understands. My need for support, for Maggie’s, was enormous.  

However, there was no Maggie’s in the hospital we were in. Although it was only a few miles away, I didn’t want to go further than a few metres from my mum’s side.  

Desperate for anything, I went to the support service in the hospital. It was a tiny corner, separated from the rest of the hospital by boards with posters from years ago on them.  

The one woman who was there to help me was amazing. But I felt sad knowing that this was all there was to offer people. It was a stark moment knowing how different the two were and how much people were missing out on. 

Nowhere else let me breathe like Maggie’s. I want my story to help bring Maggie’s to more people and places.  

What I've learnt

I know a lot of people say ‘make the most of life, grab every opportunity’. But I really learned from losing my mother-in-law what that means. So, from the point when I knew my mum's not well, to the end, I tried even harder.  

I knew how short our time was going to be. If it’s a good day, grab it; do not think twice.  Until you've lost somebody, it’s hard to understand. But if you’re thinking of going round to their house for a cup of tea, don’t think, just do it.  

If you're dealt a bad hand, the cancer centre next to Wirral Maggie’s is one of the best. You've got the medical side there to get the right treatment and you’ve got the support from Maggie’s. Make time, take time.  

In an exceptionally sad situation, Maggie's is such a gift. It’s an escape. It's my little haven. 

We’re here for you

Our cancer support specialists, psychologists and benefits advisors are here for everyone with cancer, and all the people who love them.

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at enquiries@maggies.org

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