The Duchess of Cornwall has written a moving tribute to the loved ones she has lost to cancer. Camilla also shared her wish that everyone could be supported by Maggie’s Centres in an exclusive article for the Daily Mail.
“We have all, in some form or another, received news of a cancer diagnosis: whether our own or of someone we love. We have all, even if for a short time, lost the joy of living in the fear of someone dying. We have all endured the terrifying sensation of groping powerlessly in the dark for a comforting hand to guide us,” Camilla wrote.
The article coincides with the 25th anniversary of Maggie’s Centres, a cancer support charity that has claimed Camilla as its president since 2008.
“Like everyone, I have seen close family and friends fight cancer. Sadly, some have now gone, but others came out the other side,” Camilla wrote.
“I wish that a Maggie’s centre had been available for them all – as, indeed, I wish a centre were available for all those who are now in the worrying position of waiting for their cancer treatment.”
Maggie’s Centres is named in honour of Maggie Keswick Jencks, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988 and sadly passed away in 1995. Before her death, she planned Maggie’s Centres with her oncology nurse, Laura Lee, who put those plans into effect and opened the first such centre in Edinburgh in 1996.
“Staffed by experts in cancer care, benefits advisors, psychologists and nutritionists, it was somewhere to have a cup of tea, to have a bit of quiet contemplation, to chat to a professional, to join a relaxation class or to sit with people who, without needing lengthy explanations, instinctively understood you (three out of five people find the mental challenges of living with cancer harder than the physical),” Camilla wrote.
“Each person would be supported and encouraged to create the ‘map’ that would lead to the best way for him or her to cope with cancer.”
Camilla’s first visit to a Maggie’s Centre was to the Edinburgh site in 2008. She wrote that she felt trepidation and worry that it would be clinical and gloomy, but was delighted to find that it was “a beautiful building full of light, laughter and thoughtful detail.”
She continued: “At its heart is the kitchen table. I sat down with an inspiring group of people, who shared, with honesty, humour and a few tears, just what a difference this sanctuary had made to them and their families.”
After this initial visit—and her announcement as president of Maggie’s Centres—one of Camilla’s close friends was diagnosed with cancer. She wrote that she encouraged her to seek out a Maggie’s close to her house, which, thankfully, there was.
“Her visits there were enormously helpful and, now that she is cancer-free, she attributes much of her healing to the comfort, reassurance and guidance that she received from the centre.”
There are now 24 Maggie’s Centres in the UK and three overseas. Camilla has visited 15 and wrote that “I have every intention of visiting them all!”
Her article ends with a call for women to get mammograms. “Estimates say that almost a million women missed their mammograms over the pandemic. I salute each and every member of NHS staff who are working so hard in the wake of lockdown to support those living with cancer. Now, the work of Maggie’s is more vital than ever. Thank you to the whole Maggie’s family for 25 years of outstanding service to those living with cancer, and let us hope and pray that in the next quarter century we will have a Maggie’s centre in every major city in this country.”