YEP Maggie’s appeal: Helping a family faced with cancer

Gary Lewsley doing a fundraising firewalk for Maggie's
Gary Lewsley doing a fundraising firewalk for Maggie's
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Readers have been thanked for embracing the Yorkshire Evening Post’s A Million For Maggie’s fundraising appeal.

After being launched just eight months ago, the campaign has already collected a massive £250,000 towards the creation of a Maggie’s centre at St James’s Hospital in Leeds – a quarter of its £1m target.

The national charity runs a network of centres across the country offering free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends.

It is expected that around 30,000 people a year will visit the Maggie’s centre in Leeds, which will be located opposite the Leeds Cancer Centre.

Helen Oldham, chief publishing officer at the Yorkshire Evening Post’s parent company Johnston Press and a member of the Maggie’s campaign board, said: “We are delighted that YEP readers have embraced this campaign and responded so positively.

“A new Maggie’s centre for Leeds and Yorkshire will make a significant, long term difference to cancer patients and this is an important milestone to the first brick being laid.

“Thank you YEP readers.”

Generous supporters have organised fundraising events, given donations and taken on charity challenges to help reach the milestone amount.

Now, readers are being asked to continue to dig deep to help the appeal hit its £1m target, which will allow work to start on the centre.

Nicola Furbisher, editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, added: “We know how many of our readers have been touched by cancer and we hope that they will help us to bring this fantastic resource to Leeds. It will be of huge benefit to families in this city and across the region.”

Acclaimed architect Thomas Heatherwick, who designed the iconic cauldron at the 2012 Olympics, has drawn up plans for the eyecatching building which is due to be built next to the Bexley Wing car-park.

Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee added: “We are extremely grateful to the YEP for supporting this campaign and to everyone who has offered support so far.

“I would also like to say a special thank you to those who have shared their very personal stories about how they have been affected by cancer.

“These stories have played such a huge part in helping us to raise awareness of the need for Maggie’s in Yorkshire.

“We now need local people to keep supporting us to reach our target. With your help, together we can bring this vital new service to anyone affected by cancer in Yorkshire.”

Gary Lewsley knows better than most the stress and upset a cancer diagnosis can cause to an entire family.

For his parents Carol and Derek have been fighting their own battles with the disease this year.

Three years ago, Carol was told she had liver cancer and last month, underwent a transplant operation.

Meanwhile Derek was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June and had several weeks of treatment.

The couple, from Middleton in Leeds, have inspired Gary to back the YEP’s A Million for Maggie’s campaign which aims to raise £1m to bring a specialist cancer support centre to the city.

The Maggie’s charity runs centres for patients and their families across the country but the Leeds facility would be the first in Yorkshire.

Gary, who is originally from Leeds but now lives in Bradford, said the cause was close to his heart as other family members and several friends had also been affected.

“This awful disease has been a constant and horrible thing in my life,” the dad-of-two said.

“This is an amazing cause.

“In time, hopefully we will have a Maggie’s centre in Leeds.”

Gary’s mum Carol was diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago after decades of ill-health linked to hepatitis B, which she contracted through a transfusion of contaminated blood in the 1970s.

The 66-year-old underwent cancer treatment but in October was told the disease had returned and was growing quickly.

After being put on the list for a transplant in November, she underwent the operation two weeks later.

“The doctors had said that if they didn’t get an organ, there wasn’t a lot they could do,” Gary added.

“It was either the transplant or die.”

Thankfully the operation was a success and Carol is now recovering at home, and doing well.

“It’s like looking at a different person,” her son added.

“I am seeing her now looking like she was when she was 40. “Having seen my mum wither away to cancer, it is great to see her now.”

Her husband Derek is caring for her, helped by the family, and he has just been told he is in remission from prostate cancer.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed in June and went through a month of treatment at St James’s Hospital – where the new Maggie’s centre is to be sited.

Gary said he was keen to support the charity’s fundraising as soon as he heard about their work through his employer First Direct.

The Leeds-based bank has pledged to provide corporate support and raise awareness of Maggie’s across the UK, as well as doing fundraising for the new Yorkshire centre.

Gary, 43, took part in one of the firm’s fundraising events, a fire walk at their head office in Stourton.

“I did the fire walk as I wanted to show support to my mum,” he added.

“I really enjoyed it and I’ll do anything to get more money in.”

He said the emotional support which Maggie’s centres offer, along with social and practical help, would’ve been a huge benefit to him.

“I didn’t have anyone to turn to and ask those questions that you really want to ask,” he said.

“I would’ve liked to be able to talk to somebody independent or just have an easy way to chat to people who are going through exactly the same thing. For people who want to talk, this would be another option.”

Maggie’s centres, which are in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, provides a programme of free support which has been shown to be of great help to people with cancer.

How to help

We are determined to raise A Million for Maggie’s – and here’s how you can help.

Make a one-off gift of £5 or £10 to Maggie’s Yorkshire by texting MYEP99 £5 or MYEP99 £10 to 70070, or by sending a cheque payable to Maggie’s centres to, c/o Ben Feely, Maggie’s Centres, The Gatehouse, 10 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, G11 6PA, with the reference: YEP A Million for Maggie’s.

For more click the campaigns’ tab at yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk, visit maggiescentres.org/millionformaggies or follow @maggiesyorks on Twitter or see facebook.com/maggiesyorkshire.

If you have any exciting fundraisers planned, or would like any help or support, email ben.feely@maggiescentres.org.