Sixth Form students at The Nottingham Emmanuel School received a visit from an inspirational volunteer who works for Nottingham’s Maggie Centre, the charity which provides support to people diagnosed with cancer.
Mark Blatchley is a former Deputy Head Teacher who was diagnosed with stage 3 skin cancer almost four years ago. He visited the students to talk about his personal journey since diagnosis, and to highlight the work that the Maggie centre carries out.
Mark said, “One of my roles is supporting and providing information to schools to raise awareness of cancer and the work of the Maggie Centre. I think the message I have for students is that cancer is not the scary harbinger of doom that is was 20, 30 or 40 years ago.”
Mark says that alongside the advances in treatment, there is support available that the NHS simply doesn’t have the resources for. “What Maggie’s do is provide a warm and caring environment where a cancer patient, or a carer of somebody who has cancer, can meet people who are struggling with the same emotions, and have the same questions, and are looking for support.
“It’s an environment where you have professional, kind and compassionate staff who can help with lots of things, including finances. But just as important, at Maggie’s you have people who understand the journey you are on.”
Mark says that he received support at a crucial moment. “I had been into Maggie’s before for a cup of tea between blood tests and appointments, but at that stage was coping and didn’t really see them as an important support network. When I was later diagnosed with brain tumours, – and really wasn’t in a good place, I found myself in Maggie’s on Christmas Eve.”
Mark says that the head of the centre was there and due to leave work to spend time with her family for Christmas. “The head of the centre basically mopped me up and spent 3 hours with me, most of it on her own time. That support started me on a journey in which the centre has become a focus for me. The staff there have an intuition about when you are coping and when you need support, and they give you their time.”
Principal of The Nottingham Emmanuel School Derek Hobbs says that the visit relayed an important message and an inspirational show of resilience. “The focus at Emmanuel is rightly about helping students achieve the best possible grades in their qualifications and moving onto higher education, apprenticeship and employment opportunities. But part of a rounded education is also exploring life issues and learning how to look after ourselves and others in good times and bad. Listening to Mark speak about his experience over the past few years, and the support he received from the Maggie Centre, really inspired students to do just that.”