Friday 01 Oct 2021
Earlier this week, Her Royal Highness, Our President hosted a celebratory reception at Clarence House to mark 25 years of Maggie’s expert professional support.
In her speech below, Her Royal Highness spoke of the first time she visited a centre.
It is a huge pleasure to welcome you all today, as friends and supporters of Maggie’s, to mark a quarter of a century of outstanding service to those living with cancer.
The brainchild of the indomitable Maggie Keswick Jencks, the blueprint of Maggie’s was conceived on the top of her bed with the help of her young oncology nurse, Laura Lee, during the last years of her brave battle against cancer.
Her legacy today continues with the brilliant, now Dame Laura, at the helm of this outstanding charity.
I’m particularly delighted that her daughter, Lily, is able to be with us. I’m sure that she is so proud of her dear mother’s vision, and generosity in making the lives of so many cancer sufferers more bearable since her own death from this devastating disease.
It is 25 years since the first Maggie’s centre opened in Edinburgh and 13 years ago that I visited it.
The other day, I found some notes that I had for the engagement, which read: Maggie’s is welcoming, friendly and non-institutional, supporting people from the moment they ask for help, free of charge, and unconditionally for as long as help is needed...
To me, that sounds like a description of a perfect friend. And, of course, Maggie’s centres are perfect friends to everyone who enters their doors.
That day, in Edinburgh, it was impossible for me not to reflect on people I knew with cancer, and to wish that they had had access to such a special place.
I thought, in particular, of those who had gone, and of how much they would have appreciated the enveloping comfort and reassurance of sitting with people who, without needing lengthy explanations, instinctively understood what they were going through.
Shortly after my visit, I was asked to be the President of Maggie’s. How could I refuse after being so deeply impressed and moved by the difference its care makes to so many. I promised to try to visit every centre, however long it took… not an easy task at the rate they are going up today!
Since then, I have joined an art therapy group in West London, planted an artichoke in Swansea, made juice in Glasgow, explored the Aberdeen centre with the Queen of Norway, and watched a hair and makeup demonstration in Oxford to name but a few.
I visited my 15th centre, in the Scottish Highlands, earlier this month, where, via the dreaded Zoom, I talked to some men living with cancer, and learnt more about how Maggie’s continued its vital work during the pandemic, supporting people throughout the loneliness and fear of lockdown.
I will be back (where I started) at the beautiful Maggie’s centre in Edinburgh soon, and no doubt will see some of you there. But wherever a centre is located, the ethos, warm welcome, laughter and sense of coming home are the same.
I could not be more proud to be the President of such an amazing charity.
Today, you are needed more than ever, as our wonderful NHS works so hard in the wake of lockdown to support those living with cancer, particularly those who are now waiting for their treatment.
I have been told that almost a million mammograms were missed during the pandemic; and that the number of patients who began cancer treatment was very substantially lower between March 2020 and March 2021, compared with the same period a year earlier.
The work that Maggie began 25 years ago is not yet done. Her legacy gives us hope and confidence for the future.
Thank you, Maggie, and thank you all so much for what you have done over the past 25 years.
Now let’s press on and make sure that we have a Maggie’s centre in every major city in the UK in the next quarter of a century...
We have been featured with Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall (or The Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland) on BBC Breakfastfast today (from 24 minutes).
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