Lothian mum says Maggie's offered lifeline to her family

From the window of her hospital treatment room, Annette Fox could see her children playing.

Friday, 25th November 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:40 am
Maggie's Centre user Annette Fox, who appeared on Children in Need on Friday, with her husband Pete and children Emilia and Thomas. Picture: Bill Fleming

The 44-year-old was having her last bout of chemotherapy at the Western General Hospital when she caught a glimpse of her two children Emilia, 11, and Thomas, 9, in the Maggie’s Centre across the road.

Knowing they can find support and care at the centre has been an enormous source of comfort to Annette and her husband Pete, 48, after her diagnosis with breast cancer in 2010.

“It was extraordinary because I had been for treatment in so many places but for that last session I was by that window where I could see them,” she said.

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“I remember distinctly seeing them playing with a jack-in-a-box and they were having cake and there were balloons.

“To see them really happy and giggling was just fantastic.”

Established in memory of landscape designer Maggie Keswick Jencks, the Edinburgh Maggie’s Centre has offered emotional and practical support to thousands of cancer patients and their families over the past 20 years.

The Evening News has teamed up with Maggie’s and city fundraiser Lisa Stephenson for our ‘Buy a Brick’ appeal, which aims to raise more than £750,000 to extend the Edinburgh Maggie’s Centre so it can help more people like Annette.

The award-winning tennis coach’s world was turned upside down when she found a tiny lump in her left breast in 2010.

Doctors initially thought it was nothing as Annette was so fit and healthy but tests later confirmed that she had breast cancer.

Annette said: “Our whole world there and then fell apart. The shock was the hardest thing as there was no family history or anything.

“I play sport every day, I eat healthily, I barely drink alcohol, I don’t smoke. My consultant just said I was one of the unlucky ones.”

The next few years were a blur of operations and endless rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as Annette battled the disease.

Despite eight operations, including procedures to have her womb and breasts removed, she continued to pursue her love of sport through her role as head coach at Gullane Tennis Club.

But last year the keen runner realised she was struggling to breathe while out exercising and doctors discovered tumours in her pleural cavity, the lining around the lungs.

As the cancer had spread, Annette was given the devastating news that her diagnosis was terminal.

Annette said: “After both of my diagnoses, the first thing the children asked for was Maggie’s.”

The Fox’s story was broadcast to millions when it was shown on BBC Children in Need on Friday - the six year anniversary of Annette’s diagnosis.

The family travelled to London to be part of the live show where they rubbed shoulders with celebrities including pop group Little Mix and Craig David.

Shot in August at their home in Drem, East Lothian, the film allows Emilia and Thomas to describe how staff at Maggie’s answered questions they were too afraid to ask anyone else,

Annette said: “They just think Maggie’s is wonderful. Especially Emilia who will never ever talk to anybody about cancer and what I am going through.

“She said the only person she will speak to is Andrew [Anderson, centre head at Maggie’s].

“There’s stuff that I don’t want to answer or know how to answer.”

They also attended a Kids Day funded by Children in Need, where youngsters can learn about treatment and meet other children in the same situation.

Andrew Anderson, Maggie’s Edinburgh Centre Head, said: “A cancer diagnosis in the family can have a profound effect on young people.

“With active imaginations they can fear the worst or have complex thoughts about what is happening to mum or dad. We are here to answer their questions and to gently help them express difficult emotions.”

Our extension appeal has raised more than £35,000 in the first two weeks, which will fund three new therapy rooms and extensions to the garden.

The £1.2m project has already banked £440,000 but we need your help to bring it to life.

Backing the campaign, Annette said: “If Maggie’s wasn’t here I don’t know what we would do. We have no help in the community, no phone calls from the doctor, nothing.

“I don’t know how anybody would cope - just left with the diagnosis.

“It’s always there for you.”