Funding for new cancer support specialist for St Maggie’s newcastle


Rounding off a hugely positive year, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation will announce today (Friday 20 December) that it is working with Maggie’s Newcastle to provide even greater support for people facing cancer in the North East and Cumbria.

The Foundation is helping fund a Cancer Support Specialist who will play a key role within the Maggie’s Centre, which is just outside the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital.

Maggie’s Newcastle opened in May this year to provide support for people living with cancer, and their friends and families, who are facing tough decisions and exhausting treatment.

It is somewhere to find practical advice about financial help and eating well, to receive emotional support, meet other people or simply to sit quietly with a cup of tea.

In recognition of the contribution from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, the new Maggie’s support post is called the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Support Specialist and the position has been filled by 41-year-old Joanne Tortoise, from Ponteland.

Joanne is looking forward to beginning her new role in January and will work closely with NHS staff at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, which includes the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.

She says: “I really can’t wait to get started at Maggie’s.  I’ve known about the work they do for quite a while and I know they offer incredibly important support to people with cancer as well as their friends and families.

“I’m really excited to be part of the expert team offering support at Newcastle.  I visited the Centre the other day and I just couldn’t wait to get started.”

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has now raised over £5.8million (this is a new fundraising total – previously over £5.2million) to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

As well as helping to fund groundbreaking new technology and the clinical trials of new drugs, the charity also funds projects that enhance cancer patient care.

This year it has, once again, part-funded the complementary therapy programme which provides patients at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care with relief from the symptoms of cancer and its treatment.  It has also funded a Daft as a Brush ambulance to transport patients from across the region to receive treatment in Newcastle.

Lady Elsie says: “We were approached by Maggie’s about funding a Cancer Support Specialist before the Centre in Newcastle was even completed.

“I visited Maggie’s in London and was very impressed at the marvellous support it offered people with cancer.

“Funding this role was something all the Foundation’s trustees felt would be of great benefit to patients in this region and meeting Joanne and some of the people visiting Maggie’s today has really underlined that for me.

“Being able to announce funding for this new support role today ends this year on a very positive note.  We’d like to thank all the wonderful fundraisers and everyone who has contributed to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation for helping make it happen.”

In her new role, Joanne will be responsible for giving reliable and accurate information and support about any aspect of living with cancer (treatment, side-effects, emotional issues, family relationships) according to individual needs as well as facilitating timetabled workshops and courses such as the Getting Started with Cancer Treatment and Talking Heads (for people facing hair loss and other changes associated with treatment) workshops.

Maggie’s Newcastle Centre Head, Karen Verrill, says: “This is an amazing and generous contribution to the Maggie’s Newcastle team from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

“It is incredible that a big charity like the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has provided a cancer support specialist for Maggie’s Newcastle and Joanne Tortoise is a very welcome addition to our staff.

“Since we have opened we have been very busy here with visitors to the Centre and having a cancer support specialist will make a big difference to what we can offer the people buy clonazepam drug coming to the Centre looking for support.

“Having Joanne is going to me and having worked with Joanne before I have experience of the way she has provided support for people with cancer in the past and I know she will be invaluable at Maggie’s.”

With Maggie’s Aberdeen opening in September, there are now 17 fully operational Maggie’s Centres, the first being built in Edinburgh in 1996 from plans drawn up by Maggie Keswick Jencks before she died from cancer in 1995.

Maggie Keswick Jencks lived with advanced cancer for two years and during that time she used her knowledge and experience to create a blueprint for a new type of care.  Care based around places that let people feel in control and not part of a production line; care that recognises the importance of comforting spaces when people are feeling vulnerable; and care that never allows people to, as she put it, “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”.

The unique programme of support available through Maggie’s has been developed by Maggie’s Professional Advisory Board, which includes top academics and oncologists, and includes drop-in with cancer support specialists, nutrition workshops, Tai Chi, stress management, relaxation and one-to-one sessions with clinical psychologists.

Sir Bobby and Lady Elsie launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer – including the clinical trials of new drugs.

To make a donation, view messages of support, or for more information please visit or donate by sending a cheque to Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Room 203, Cheviot Court, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DN.

Katy Vasey, 54, Blyth:

Katy Vasey believes the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation providing a new cancer support specialist for Maggie’s Newcastle is just “wonderful”.

She has been visiting Maggie’s Newcastle for the last six months after moving back to Northumberland while coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, a place she says has been her refuge.

She says: “It really is wonderful that Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is working with Maggie’s in this way.

“It shows they believe in the support Maggie’s offer and for such a high profile organisation to join Maggie’s like this will really help boost awareness of the tremendous support Maggie’s offer.

“I was told about Maggie’s by a cancer nurse.

“She told me it was about empowerment and ever since I first visited it really has become my refuge.

“Some days I am here for four to five hours, at other times an hour is all I need.

“I come in and chat to people round the kitchen table with a cup of tea or join the Tai Chi class or take part in the nutrition workshop.

“It is just a fabulous place to be, somewhere I never feel pressurised and somewhere which feels completely different to a hospital.

“It is wonderful that the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has recognised this and I know having another member of staff will make a big difference.”

Robert Fairbairn, 75, Newcastle

While coping with a prostate cancer diagnosis on top of other medical conditions Robert has found Maggie’s Newcastle a huge support in the last few weeks.

And he is delighted that the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation are working with Maggie’s to enable  Joanne Tortoise, Maggie’s new cancer support specialist, to join Maggie’s expert staff in January.

Robert says: “It is just brilliant that the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation have provided funding for Maggie’s to have a new cancer support specialist.

“I come to Maggie’s to do the yoga and the Tai Chi because I feel I have lost a lot of my personal fitness recently through ill health, but I also come to speak to people.

“I get great support at Maggie’s and I know having a new member of staff to talk to will certainly be nice at the very least.”