15 January 2024

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Amy Greer is snuggled up on a sofa hugging a cushion, one leg tucked under her.

The bright, bubbly 19-year-old is chatting away about her friends, going into second year at university, her new digs, the gym, skincare, the future. Like any other teenager.

She's comfortable and relaxed, completely at home here. As if she's settling down to binge the latest Netflix hit.

This place isn't her home, though. It is her refuge, her oasis of calm.

Amy's been living with the reality of her beloved dad Kenny's terminal illness for almost three years.

Initially, the shock spun Amy's world off its axis. But cancer-support charity Maggie's has helped to reset her.

And her relationship with the team at her local centre has been key to Amy finding strength, purpose and even optimism in the future.

Amy admits, "It's a bit scary to think where I would be without Maggie's. They've helped with more than dad's diagnosis - it's been everything in life.

"I'm still only 19 and Dad was diagnosed when I was 16. I've had to grow up with that - and he's not going to get better. The hardest bit is living your life. Maggie's has helped with all of it. They are amazing."

Helping Maggie's To Flourish

Players of People's Postcode Lottery have, to date, raised more than £22.8 Million for Maggie's centres across the UK - funding which has helped their unique cancer support network continue to flourish.

Amy and her family have been supported by Maggie's in Oldham, Greater Manchester, close to their home in Rochdale.

The centre became so important to Amy that you would often find her there studying for her A levels.

She was just 16 when her dad Kenny, now 53, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The former senior operations manager became unwell just after Christmas 2020 with headaches and sickness.

But medics soon discovered there was more than one tumour and they weren't the primary cancer. That was in his bowel and had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

Since then, Kenny has undergone surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and changes in treatments.

But his positive attitude and support of his family - wife Lisa, Amy and younger daughter Katie - has seen him beat the average two-year prognosis doctors first intimated.

Amy is realistic. She knows her dad's story - their story - only has one ending. But Maggie's has helped prepare her, helped her live with it. More than that, helped her meet it head-on.

Speaking about the shock of the diagnosis, Amy said, "I didn't sleep properly for weeks.

"I was showing signs of having anxiety and stress. My mum and sister stopped eating really, and I wasn't eating properly.

"We then obviously had to tell people. But I couldn't talk about it. Talking about it made me cry."

Amy struggled to cope with college lockdown lessons for the first few weeks and that was when her mum contacted Trish Morgan, the centre's head, for help.

Amy said, "I didn't know how to help myself and Mum didn't know how to help me, so she rang Trish and obviously I started talking to her and things started getting a bit better.

"I started learning how to deal with things a bit more, I started talking more. I felt like I could start putting words to how I was feeling. I realised it was more normal than I thought it was. I wasn't alone."

Maggies Storyphoto Amy Greer Ezgif.Com Webp To Jpg Converter

Transforming Cancer Care

Amy - now in the second year of an economics degree at Chester University, doesn't underestimate the power of Maggie's, the very power that founder Maggie Keswick Jencks knew could transform cancer care.

She said, "I've got incredible friends, and I've got amazing family friends and incredible family.

"But I don't think I would have gone to uni, I don't think I would have done half as well at my 'A' Levels. I did really well, and that is because Trish helped get me there.

"I don't think I would be in this place. I don't think I would be half as close to my friends if it wasn't for Trish and the team. They helped me to push myself because I don't think I would have had the mental capacity to go and see them and keep up the relationships."

Pocket Penguin

She takes a tiny penguin out of her pocket. It's a tool to be used, part of a coping mechanism.

Trish gave it to Amy for starting university - as well as keeping in regular virtual contact during the hurly-burly of university life. But Amy explains why the penguin has also become a symbol of the bond she shares with Trish and the team.

Amy said, "When I first went to uni, Trish gave me something called a pocket penguin and I keep it with me all the time. It came on a card which said, 'Even when I can't be with you, I'm always there for a hug'. I can give it a squeeze when I need it. I'll always have it with me."

To begin with, Amy had sessions with the centre's clinical psychologist Laura Cramond, who helped her deal with panic attacks. And two years later, she's still using those techniques to cope.

She said, "Trish is a major part of it, but it's all the other little bits, like the volunteers that chat when I come in or know me when I ring up. It's a place I'm so proud of. The difference between now and the very start is that I know I have a support system."

And she recognises that funding support for Maggie's - including from players of People's Postcode Lottery - is key to ensuring that others like her can get help when they need it most.

She said, "It is so important. Without this place, I don't know what I'd do. It's brilliant that through the generosity of the players of People's Postcode Lottery that Maggie's centres receive so much funding.

"Until you're in the situation or know someone who is, you don't realise how much a place like this helps. I try and explain to people how this place has changed my life. It sounds so dramatic, but it genuinely has."

She added, "Trish always says it's about learning how to live alongside the diagnosis, and it really is. My life didn't end when Dad got diagnosed. I had to learn to live alongside it, which I don't think I could have done on my own."

Trish has the final say, "When I first met Amy, she was a vulnerable, scared 16-year-old, trying to cope with her dad's diagnosis and prognosis, but also trying to be a teenager.

"In the time I have known her, she has grown into a young woman who is confident, so honest with how she feels and is so aware of what she can do to help herself.

"It's about working with her, alongside her and I feel so privileged to be a part of that for as often and as long as is needed."

Maggies Storyphoto Amy Trish Ezgif.Com Webp To Jpg Converter