A Hong Kong centre to warm the hearts of cancer sufferers
Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre provides psychological support for patients in the grounds of Tuen Mun Hospital
Natural light filters through the floor-to-ceiling windows, illuminating the open-layout living and dining room area within. A group of people sip tea and chat boisterously. The remnants of freshly baked bread await hungry visitors on the kitchen counter.
With its open, family-home architecture that emphasises nature and sunlight, Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre is an oasis for cancer patients.
“They never made me feel like a sick person here,” said centre user Janet Tang So-man, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2016.
“At other places and with other people, I am always first and foremost a sick person, but here, I don’t feel different or incapable. They let me forget my illness.”
The non-government organisation run with public donations is able to fill the holes in the city’s overstretched medical system and do so free of charge – a stark juxtaposition to the city’s overloaded palliative care system.
Public hospitals offer just 360 palliative care beds. Outside the public system, there are 124 beds offered by the Haven of Hope Christian Service and 30 by the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care.
By liaising with local hospitals, Maggie’s Centre is able to help 23,000 cancer patients. It saw roughly 80 users a day in 2016.
But huge demand remains as cancer remains the No 1 killer in Hong Kong.
Based in Tuen Mun Hospital, the centre offers emotional and psychological support to cancer patients.
The centre is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm for users to find solace and friendship within its brightly lit walls.
Its proximity to the hospital allows patients to await treatment in a warmer environment, and not within the sterile corridors of an oncology ward.
“Relationships here are very personal,” senior manager Anna Au Hoi-man said. “We have various events and support groups that cater for the needs of each patient.”
“We are the emotional support outlet of cancer care,” Au said. “Hospitals handle the physical aspect of cancer treatment, but we work together in finding psychological balance and happiness ... We strive to promote positivity and hope in our users.”
“We want them to feel happy, to live a good and unrestricted life, and to not get dragged down by the illness they battle.”
The international group was founded in 1996 by Maggie Keswick Jencks, with the Hong Kong branch opening in May 2013.