Chris Noble ran the London Marathon to raise money for Maggie’s in memory of his son, Alex, who died a week after his fourth birthday after a two-year battle with neuroblastoma. He tells us how Maggie’s helped him and his wife, Sarah.
I have experienced at first hand the great work that Maggie’s does, because I, like many of you, have experienced what cancer can do.
In September 2012, a week after his fourth birthday, my son, Alex, died after a two-year battle with neuroblastoma, a rare but extremely aggressive childhood cancer.
The day after Alex’s funeral, feeling empty, exhausted and pretty much lost, my wife, Sarah, and I decided to go along to Maggie’s Edinburgh. We had no expectation that anyone would be able to help us, but figured it couldn’t hurt.
The weeks leading to that point had been a whirlwind of shock, devastation, tears, more tears, hospital, undertakers, family, friends, messages, flowers, and all you might expect at such an awful time.
While we had a general awareness of what Maggie’s was, we didn’t really expect that the people there would be able to help people like us, or that they’d even be all that interested. But we couldn’t have been more wrong.
Our first visit
I don’t remember much about our first visit, other than we spent most of it drinking tea and eating biscuits in floods of tears.
But everyone there and everything about Maggie’s made us feel very welcome, comfortable and reassured.
It was like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders in terms of the support we felt even after that first time, and we knew we’d made a good decision.
We then met the Clinical Psychologist, Deidre, every week, and somehow she just seemed to understand. We ended up seeing Deidre on and off for two years.
Cancer is such a complex, unfathomable monster that creates far more questions than answers. Maggie’s don’t have all the answers – of course not – but the support we found there was simply invaluable and it gave us real strength to move forward as we tried to piece our lives back together.
I don’t think there was a “turning point” as such, but I do recall more than once that the counselling helped me understand certain things about myself that I didn’t even realise, which I found really powerful.
Looking back now, we would genuinely say that every single visit we made to Maggie’s was important in its own way.
We covered so many different things, questions, feelings and experiences, from big to small, from the very simple to the incredibly complex.
We cried, we even laughed from time to time, we talked – and I mean really talked – to Deidre and to each other, and we listened too.
Having that one hour a week helped us to release things that would otherwise have been bottled up, and that was so important. It gave us the space to speak, allowed us to see things in ways we never would have on our own, and the sessions reassured us that the life decisions we were making – about work, family, everything – were the right ones.
The sessions were often very emotional, as well as tough and draining at times, but more often than not we left feeling stronger than when we had arrived.
I freely admit that I was extremely sceptical when we first went along, as to how anyone could truly understand what we’d been through, how talking about our own very personal experiences and feelings with a complete stranger would do any good, and how anyone could give us anything that would make us feel better after what had happened.
And I’ll freely admit now that I was completely wrong. I’ve said it before but there’s simply no way we would be where we are now – as individuals, as a couple and as a family – if we hadn’t gone along to Maggie’s.
It is difficult to put into words just how valuable this charity has been for us, but suffice to say the work they do, both for people with cancer and for others whose lives have been affected by cancer, is amazing.
That’s why, in April 2016, I ran the London Marathon for Maggie’s.
A challenge for Maggie's
I’d run a couple of half marathons before, so I knew this wasn’t something to be taken lightly. People had told me before that the atmosphere would spur me on and if I’m honest I was more than a bit sceptical about that, but I have to say I’ve never experienced anything like it.
The noise was just incredible the whole way round with cheering crowds 6 to twelve deep for the full 26.2 miles.
All the sponsorship, support and good advice I’d had really did keep me going, and I was also lucky enough to see my wife, Sarah, and my boys, Luke and Leo twice on the way round, which gave me such a lift.
Nobody should face cancer alone. With your continued support, we can ensure that Maggie’s is there for everyone who needs their help, for as long as they need it.
How to access support at Maggie’s
If you’d like to find out more about the cancer support we offer, please contact your local Centre.
You can also find information and support online. Our Online Centre offers the same supportive community and practical, emotional and social support as you’ll find in all our Centres.