Lisa's story – Maggie’s has been integral in my life

Tuesday 06 April 2021

Maggie's Edinburgh

In 2011, at the age of 42, Lisa was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a very rare blood cancer. Here, she describes her complete shock on first hearing the news and what she’s learned from living with cancer for the last decade.

Rare blood cancer diagnosis

My cancer diagnosis came as an incredible shock. I was only 42 and I was a busy mum with two young children.

At the time, I was a director of a bank and I was up and down to London three times a week with work. I thought ‘I should be tired’, but a routine health check showed up an anomaly in my bloods.

Within just a couple of days, on Easter Monday, I got a very unexpected call to come straight to the Western General in Edinburgh to have lots of tests and was told that I had a very rare blood cancer.

I have multiple myeloma, which accounts for only 1% of all blood cancers in the UK and I was told that it was very difficult to treat.

It was extremely hard to take it all in. It was a really tough time and I didn’t respond to treatment to begin with at all, nor to the gruelling stem cell transplant.

Clinical trial at The Royal Marsden

In August 2012, I was very lucky to be referred to the Royal Marsden to be put on a clinical trial. 

Between the treatment and steroids, I was literally on my knees getting on and off flights to the London hospital, but that drug helped to stabilise my cancer and that’s why I’m here today.

I’m a really strong advocate of cancer trials and was really delighted when this one was approved by NICE a couple of years ago.

How life has changed in the last ten years

Since then, my health has been up and down. I bear the battle scars of many, many treatments but I have been so fortunate when so many others haven’t.

In ten years, I’ve seen many friends go through their own cancer journeys.

I’ve had brilliant consultants who have seen me through my treatments and I’m lucky that I’ve had treatment that’s kept me alive.

I’ve also been lucky to have had the support of Maggie’s holding my head straight for me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without them.

It sounds obvious and almost a bit trite to say, but I have changed massively as a person in the last ten years.

Pre-cancer my life was fast paced, it was a bit frantic, but now I take time to smell the roses and I appreciate the simple things. I am so grateful for everything, for every moment.

I have a current treatment regime and regular check-ups with my doctor and that’s become a way of life.

Maggie’s support

Without a doubt, my relationship with Maggie’s has been integral in my life over the last ten years.

All of the courses I have done with Maggie’s, as well as the one-to-one therapy sessions have helped me come to terms not only with the fact that I have cancer, but the fact that it’s incurable. 

Very early on, I came to realise that Maggie’s would be a constant in my life – when I needed advice about treatment plans, whenever I felt low – Maggie’s has been there to offer me extra support in familiar surroundings.

I have a complete overwhelming sense of trust in Maggie’s that is so reassuring and comforting.

Maggie’s have been with me through everything, from the start of my cancer diagnosis – and they were there for me when I lost my husband Peter in January 2019 to a rare heart virus, which was very unexpected.

Maggie’s is my place of comfort – it’s my special place to go to when times are tough.

Raising £1.6 million for Maggie’s Edinburgh extension

When I had to give up work because of my cancer, I felt that I completely lost my identity.

I was so grateful for all of the support I had received that I decided to fundraise for Maggie’s. At the time in 2011, there had been a financial crash so I knew they would need a hand with funding. 

I wasn’t afraid to share my story and to be honest, organising fundraising for Maggie’s gave me a reason for getting up in the morning.

With the support of a core group of girlfriends, we organised afternoon teas, balls and dinners, with people taking part in all manner of other activities including marathons, cycles and walks in aid of ‘Lisa’s Challenge’.

We launched a buy-a-brick campaign to fund the extension and it’s wonderful to think that so many people in Edinburgh made contributions to help make that building happen.

Becoming an Ambassador for Maggie’s

I was also very proud to have been made an Ambassador for Maggie’s in 2018.

It’s sad but cancer touches every family – it’s an exclusive club that no-one wants to become a member of but once you do you meet some very wonderful people. Cancer is a great leveller. 

Maggie’s is like a second home – it’s where you can go for a cup of tea, where you know someone will listen to your worries. And all of the staff there are so kind and empathetic and people always come out feeling better. I know I do.

Maggie’s is so essential to people with cancer – all of the work they do complements the medical treatment given by the NHS.

Maggie’s helps with psychological and practical support for people with cancer and their families. They provide benefits advice to people with money worries and access to a whole range of other support.

Meeting Roland Mouret

In 2017, my very good friend Sarah Murray, owner of Jane Davison Boutique and I met global fashion designer, Roland Mouret.

Together, we went on to host an annual fashion dinner at the fabulous Carlowrie Castle for three years.

The latest dinner in 2019, prior to lockdown, saw Roland bring along his friend – Marc Almond of Soft Cell ‘Tainted Love’ fame – to provide entertainment on the day. The event ultimately raised £380,000 for Maggie’s in one evening.

Roland Mouret is such a warm-hearted person. I met him through one of my hospital consultants and he could not have listened more dearly to why I needed him to help Maggie’s.

He opened his heart and he agreed to host these events in Maggie’s name. Having his backing was wonderful. Roland has also become an Ambassador for Maggie’s too.

Coronavirus and lockdown

Since the first lockdown. I’ve been living in a very small bubble due to coronavirus, but Maggie’s support has been there throughout  – I’ve had lots of contact with the Edinburgh centre through phone-calls and virtual support, not to mention walks with members of staff to clear my head in between periods of lockdown when I have been able to get out and about.

Coronavirus is something that does terrify me. I was very lucky over the last year to not have had any of my treatments stopped, and I have now had both my first and second coronavirus vaccine.

Without a doubt, scientists and clinicians have done a marvellous job and I feel hugely grateful to have been vaccinated.

However, what is deeply concerning has been the impact of coronavirus on cancer diagnoses, treatments and research.

Recent figures have shown that 400 people die of cancer every day and when we are all vaccinated against coronavirus, cancer will still be here; it will affect one in two people, so research into new treatment is still necessary.

Looking ahead

Now with lockdown restrictions easing, I’m especially looking forward to spending more time in Maggie’s and getting back to fundraising, to ensure the charity continues to thrive and is there to support people affected by cancer like me.

Here with you

If you, your family or friends need support, please call us on 0300 123 180, email or visit us

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