Maggie's cancer care centre in Dundee feels like a home. It is built, like all Maggie's centres, around a big wooden kitchen table. As Lesley Howells, the centre's head, explains, "It all happens around the kitchen table. People can come in and just be, they don't have to be taking part in something, they can just sit."
The charity was founded in 1996 by Maggie Keswick-Jencks, who died of cancer a year before the first centre was built. As a landscape designer and architect, she knew how deeply a person's state of mind was affected by their environment.
After seven years of treatment for her illness, spending hours in windowless waiting rooms with fluorescent overhead lighting, and chairs lined up in a row against the wall, she decided that what cancer patients needed in addition to their medical treatment was a separate, calm and pleasant place where they could get emotional support and information on living with the illness.
There are now ten Maggie's centres around the country. They provide services that cannot be squeezed from the NHS's limited resources, or simply wouldn't fit into a hospital environment: drop-in sessions with a psychotherapist, advice on claiming benefits for people too ill to work and a library of books about cancer. There are classes on relaxation and meditation and even a course on make-up for those who have lost their hair, and perhaps their confidence, through chemotherapy. The staff are all cancer-care professionals who can talk through the treatment options and help patients understand what they have been told by their doctors. Most importantly, the centres break the isolation that a cancer diagnosis can bring, providing a community of people going through the same experience.