Beatrix on using Maggie's centres in two countries

Monday 30 January 2023

Maggie's Tokyo

I have lived in lots of different places: Edinburgh, London, Aotearoa in New Zealand where I was born, and Melbourne where I met my husband Chris. Just under four years ago, we moved to Tokyo with my work.

We weren’t expecting a pandemic, which began eight months after we arrived.

But our life became even less familiar in May of 2022 when Chris – a hearty guy who had just spent the winter snowboarding – was diagnosed with cancer.

The doctors were always honest about the fact that Chris was very sick and his cancer could not be cured. But there were treatment options to try and we were hopeful that he might have about three years.

But that estimate dwindled. In fact, Chris only had 11 weeks. He spent six of those in hospital before he died.

The COVID-19 restrictions meant that I could only visit Chris in hospital to meet with his doctor when there was an update or a decision to be made. Thankfully, his doctor seemed to find excuses to let me come in.

These meetings would also involve our translator, dragging another person into these incredibly difficult discussions.

Finding an oasis

I was pointed towards Maggie’s by my therapist. When she described the centre and the mission, I couldn’t believe that the exact thing I needed was in Tokyo.

She set up a meeting for me, and we went together. It’s a distance from the centre of Tokyo, allowing space for the beautiful gardens and to be close to the main treatment centre.

It’s hard to be relaxed in the context of cancer, but Maggie’s is like an oasis.

I first met with Yukie, a psychologist. She was amazing and spoke to me for a long time. She helped me to answer questions about what was happening, navigate the Japanese healthcare system and understand how to best work with the doctors.

Reality was shifting very quickly for me. Assurances I got from Yukie such as ‘it sounds like you handled that really well’, or ‘I’ve heard of this happening before, it seems like a common experience’ were vital.

Having Maggie’s gave me the sense of a broader network looking out for me, so I didn’t feel so completely isolated.

Chris never had the chance to come to Maggie’s, but he was grateful for the support it gave me and understood how much it helped me.

He felt better knowing he had people behind him, backing him. It made a huge difference.

Support from two countries

After Chris died, I continued to speak to Maggie’s but Yukie could tell that I needed more support.

She found that there were online groups hosted by Maggie’s Highlands in Scotland for people who had lost their partner to cancer.

I joined the group a couple of times and was really pleased I could be included. But the time difference made it hard to be part of the group consistently.

I was touched when Andy, the centre head at Maggie’s Edinburgh, offered to meet me and have one-to- one support sessions with me over video calls.

Andy completely understands what is happening and he has such an intimate knowledge of cancer. I don’t have to explain anything. The role he plays is crystal clear; I don’t need to sugar-coat anything I say or worry about making my experiences palatable.

A model of support

Living in Tokyo, I don’t have a ready-made grief community. English-speaking groups for people affected by cancer are few and far between, let alone for partner loss. Having Andy to speak to has helped to fill this gap.

No matter which country I get the support from, they can answer my questions, sense-check what's happening, and reassure me that what I’m feeling is normal.

Having this outlet to talk about my grief means that I am more present in my day-to-day life.

The support I’ve been shown has made me think differently about how I can support others, how I can show up for people in my life.

Maggie’s is a model of support; of how to meet people on their own terms, listen and understand. It is truly special.

We’re here for you

If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie’s is here with you. 

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at

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