A Bo’ness woman who has suffered bone cancer for more than 20 years ago is delighted a cancer care pioneer she regards as a true friend has been made a Dame.
Claire Tattersall (42) received the shock diagnosis of her illness shortly before her 21st birthday,and got to know personally know Laura Lee, chief executive of the Maggie’s charity, back in the 90’s.
Claire has been supported by Maggie’s every step of the way since then, and this week praised the decision to make Laura a Dame in the Queen’s birthday honours list.
She said: “Living with a cancer diagnosis, especially as a young woman, is really difficult, and I don’t know how I would have coped without having the wonderful Maggie’s staff on hand to listen to and answer my questions.
“I knew Laura at that time and I think it is extraordinary how, as Maggie’s chief executive for the last 23 years, she has worked so hard to ensure thousands of people across the UK and abroad can now visit their nearest Maggie’s and find the support they need.
“I can’t think of anyone who deserves this recognition more.”
Laura has been recognised for her work ensuring people living with cancer have the emotional support they need alongside their medical care.
The first Maggie’s centre opened in 1996 in the grounds of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.
Under Laura’s guidance the organisation has grown at an “incredible” rate, despite relying almost entirely on voluntary donations, and there are now 21 centres across the UK, as well as centres in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Barcelona.
Laura said: “I am overwhelmed and humbled to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in this way, but I feel the honour is less in recognition of myself and more an acknowledgement of what Maggie’s does.
“The difference our centres make to the lives of people with cancer is something I see every time I sit round one of our kitchen tables.
“Being CEO of such an incredible organisation is a privilege that I never take for granted.
“The people I meet every day are the ones who I constantly learn from and we will continue to work to build centres for everyone who need them.”
Maggie’s was the vision of Maggie Keswick Jencks, who came up with an idea for a different type of cancer care as she lived with advanced cancer for two years.
She died in 1995, but Laura, Maggie’s nurse and friend, worked with her family to ensure her vision became a reality.
Laura said: “When the first Maggie’s centre opened more than two decades ago the general opinion was that if you got good medical care that was enough, but we know that cancer brings such difficult and complex emotions of uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety that people need support with them.
“Their families do as well and that is what Maggie’s does - day after day. We support people to live well with cancer.
“We have come a long way, but I want to see 60 centres across the UK one day.
“I know we will get there, and I hope this award means that more people hear about us and come to our centres to get the support they need.”
Maggie’s centres are visited more than 280,000 times a year from people with cancer and their families.
More than 90 per cent of visitors report feeling less alone after visiting their nearest centre, and that they have a better understanding of cancer.
The same number of visitors also make healthy changes to their diet and exercise after speaking to Maggie’s expert staff.