The film TUESDAYS is almost finished and the invites for the premiere are going out. I have filmed for several months with a group of very different women who come together every Tuesday in Dundee. They laughed and cried, exchanged shopping and cooking tips, and supported each other through life after a diagnosis of secondary cancer. One in three of us will develop cancer: it is a future most of us dread. This documentary shows that the reality is a bit more interesting, complicated and joyful than we fear – because once you've had the worst diagnosis, what is left to be scared of?
I have loved working with the Maggie’s Centre. Watching as the psychologist Lesley Howells holds the group week after week, encouraging discussion, even, or especially, about the really tough things, and bringing them through, makes me adore her. The team behind the scenes, based in London, are visionary. They offer – and expect – thinking outside the box. It was also very astute to bring Nell Dunn in as a consultant writer: she responded with such grace and clarity to the early cuts of the film. In fact the film ended up being structured chronologically, reflecting the ebb and flow of a group where mortality is first on the agenda: as Ruth Cave put it, “I joined this group to see how it is to die from cancer.”
Complementing major NHS cancer hospitals across the country, Maggie’s provides a unique approach to cancer that, at its simplest, can be described as ‘calmness, clarity and a cup of tea’.
Their unique approach to cancer started with Maggie Keswick Jencks. Maggie lived with terminal cancer for two years, and during that time she used her knowledge and experience to create a blueprint for a new type of care. One that lets people with cancer feel in control, not part of a production line; one that recognises the importance of reassuring spaces when people are feeling vulnerable; and one that never allows people to “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying” as she put it.
If you know someone who might benefit from the practical, emotional, or psychological support they offer, have a look at their website to find your nearest Maggie’s Centre.