Our story

1993 - 1995

1993

May

Maggie Keswick Jencks, the co-founder of Maggie’s, is told that her breast cancer has recurred and spread to her bones, liver and brain. When asked, her Dumfries oncologist gives her two to three months to live. Through her husband Charles Jencks’ contacts in Boston she finds out about the advanced chemotherapy work going on in Edinburgh.

Maggie is referred to Doctor, now Professor, Bob Leonard by Ian Kunkler. By the end of June Maggie and Charles visit the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh; while there they have great trouble finding the room where they will hear about possible radical treatments.

As Bob Leonard points out, this distressing experience had an effect

“They first came to see me on an afternoon when we were relocated from our usual clinic to a temporary and rather miserable room at the end of a long and difficult-to-find corridor.

This only emphasised the shortcomings of the environment in which patients have to discuss difficult and sometimes life-threatening problems with medical staff. Added to this, later, was the rather bleak clinical space in which our first consultations took place. Having to digest the information about treatment and prognosis was inherently hard but made substantially worse by having nowhere for Maggie to go and collect her thoughts…”

1994

August

Early ideas for a Cancer Caring Centre (called “A New Breast Cancer Care Unit”) are written up with Laura Lee, Maggie’s Oncology Nurse. Maggie starts to develop her relationship with the hospital and a working party of Bob Leonard, Laura Lee, Morag Air, Mike Dixon and Judith McGaskill is formed.

Throughout 1994, Maggie and Laura visit a number of UK-based cancer organisations, including, among others, Mount Vernon and the Lynda Jackson Centre. They attend a conference at Hammersmith Hospital, where Maggie is inspired by a woman who speaks about her determination to ‘die as well as possible’.The search for a site near the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh reveals an old stable block that could be converted.

Maggie meets with the Chief Executive of the hospital, John Connaghan, and persuades him to allow a Cancer Caring Centre to be developed on this site. Five architects are considered for the project and, after initial discussions, Richard Murphy is selected.

Maggie's Edinburgh sketch

1995

April/May

Maggie further refines the idea of a Cancer Caring Centre and asks Sir David Landale to oversee setting it up, as Chairman of a new charity. In the last month of her life she raises £70,000 from the Holywood Trust, and continues talks with Laura Lee, Charles Jencks and Marcia Blakenham about the centre.

8 July

Maggie succumbs to the disease. 

August

David Landale initiates discussions with John Connaghan, Chief Executive of the Western General Hospital and asks him to sit on the Board of Trustees. David Landale is himself a Director from February 1996 until March 2007, and serves as Chairman from September 2003 to May 2005.

Over the next 10 months the charity is formally founded as The Maggie Keswick Jencks Cancer Caring Centres Trust.

Right from the start public fundraising is an intrinsic part of Maggie’s. The Community Fundraiser quickly becomes a vital part of the Maggie’s team and enough income is raised to pay for the operating costs of Maggie’s Edinburgh. Community fundraising becomes an essential part of the mix because of its ability to inspire support from those closest to the centre, their families and friends, and the local community.