25 years of excellence – Q&A with Andy Anderson

Friday 30 April 2021

"It’s a privilege to support someone to the point that they can live life with more hope." Andy Anderson is the Centre Head in Edinburgh, the first Maggie’s to open 25 years ago.

Why did you join Maggie’s?

I was an oncology nurse at the Western General Hospital. Funnily enough, it was the same job our Chief Executive Laura did when she met Maggie.

She asked me if I would come to work in the centre. It was a tough decision because I loved my job in the NHS, but I've never regretted it 21 years on.

What did you learn early on? 

At Maggie’s, every visitor had time to think about the questions around their cancer and understand what they felt was changing. 

What people wanted from me was very different from what I was used to offering in the hospital. I really had to think about paying attention to their agenda instead of focussing on the clinical aspects. So it was a real stretch, but a brilliant stretch.

It was a gift to have the time to listen and just focus on what was important to people.

What do you feel is the impact of Maggie’s architecture and design on visitors?

When people come in, they're blown away by the space. They soon understand that within these walls their conversation is important, that they're going to be listened to.

A chap came into the centre for the first time yesterday. He said he had looked across at Maggie’s from his hospital bed for the last three months. He thought it was beautiful from the outside, but he had absolutely no idea that he would feel the way he did when he came in — calm and at ease. 

How has Maggie’s evolved since it began 25 years ago?

When I joined, there was only one Maggie’s, now there are 24.

What's wonderful for me to see is that every Maggie’s has the same feeling, the same philosophy, the same quality of staff. Whichever one you visit, there are incredibly dedicated, brilliant experts. And they aren’t just replicating what happened in the first centres, but also growing, innovating, and developing new programmes. We’re all inspiring each other to do incredible work.

How do you see Maggie’s changing in the next 25 years?

The nature of treatment for cancer is changing. We need to look at cancer as a chronic issue. When I first qualified, for somebody with a myeloma diagnosis, it was not uncommon that they might only live for six to nine months. But now most of our haematology group are living much longer with myeloma thanks to improved treatments. 

People with cancer will continue to live longer with complicated side effects and symptoms. But they're living and they can live well - it’s even more reason for Maggie's to be an integral part of how they live their lives.

What's the first thing you do when you start the day?

Feed the fish.

What's your favourite biscuit?

Oh, bourbon.

And what’s your favourite part of the day? 

When you know you've given someone the ability to think differently about a situation they found challenging. You might see something change in their body language, or hear it in their thinking. Those moments are priceless. 

Support Maggie's

Will you help us support people to live life with more hope? Make a donation to Maggie's.

This story was originally published in Making Maggie's May 2021 edition. 

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