Swimmers take the plunge and ‘bake a difference’ for local cancer charity

Cancer charity Maggie’s Merseyside is encouraging people to host socially distanced or virtual get togethers around their kitchen table and fundraise for their centre on The Wirral. Hundreds of Kitchen Table Days will be held nationwide this month, all the while raising money for people with cancer.

Every Maggie’s Centre follows a blueprint about cancer care as originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks. Maggie lived with advanced cancer for two years and was determined that she should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying”. In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie believed people needed information, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed and beautiful setting. All Maggie’s Centres are individually designed by leading architects to feel like a home and all have a big kitchen table at their heart.

Centre visitor, Simone Pownall-Jones, was one of many taking part in the kitchen table day event and put an almighty spin on her fundraising initiative. Back in 2018 Simone was placed on the early breast screening trial and had her very first mammogram on 12th March 2019, it was two weeks later when the results from her biopsy came back revealing she had breast cancer, grade 2 mucinous carcinoma, oestrogen receptive and high grade DCIS.

Simone said, “everything was a blur to be honest. At my following appointments I was given loads of information about surgery, hormone therapy and reconstruction. It was just too much to take on board and rushing into surgery just felt too brutal to me.” Simone decided to pause the surgery as she felt well, she joined an outdoor swimming group, and said “cancer certainly wasn’t going to take over my life, I was in control.”

It was in April 2020 that Simone felt a lump in her breast and was referred back to Clatterbridge. Simone’s lump had double in size and through recommendations by her surgeon, Simone decided to follow the conventional route and have a Mastectomy in May 2020, followed by preventative chemo in July. It was when Simone started chemo that she discovered Maggie’s. “Maggie’s was just so welcoming, it was a great place to just have a cuppa and a piece of cake. I then learnt about the online groups they were running during lockdown, such as Tai Chi, Yoga and the Friday kitchen table zoom meet ups. The financial worries that cancer causes were eased by Maggie’s support and guidance, they helped advise what support I was entitled to.”

“I felt I wanted to fundraise for Maggie’s to raise their profile. If I hadn’t heard of them before I started chemo then I gathered a lot more people might not have either and I wanted to change this.” After attending one of the free online sessions and hearing about the Kitchen Table Day event, Simone signed up to receive her free fundraising pack and decided to put a spin on her event.

Simone wasn’t letting anything get in the way of her fundraising and she arranged a socially distanced photoshoot, with Colin McPherson, and her amazing outdoor swim community, The Happy Chilli Dippers, Chris Shaw, Jazmine Seddon and the “Me again” charity. Simone made her kitchen table day interactive, fun and something majorly different and managed to put a massive orange splash in the Marine Lake, New Brighton, with the entire team donning orange Maggie’s tops, tutus, orange wigs and even orange faces. The team walked the streets of New Brighton and ended the day by diving into the icy cold water to help raise awareness and all important funds for Maggie’s.

This wasn’t the end of Simone’s quest to make a mark or giant splash with her fundraising. The following weekend was when Simone and tons of others hit to the beach to take part in an open water and socially distanced dip in the ice cold River Mersey. With chilli dippers, paddle boarders and open water swimmers taking to the waves, not only for the adrenaline but for the cause, Maggie’s. Simone treated the beach as her kitchen table and was able to take a splash in the Mersey and offer delicious home-made cakes and hot soup to the brave outdoor swim groups that visit Moreton beach each and every week.

Simone said “I am delighted to take part in Maggie’s Kitchen Table Day which will raise vital funds for the incredibly important work that Maggie’s Merseyside do in supporting people living with cancer locally. Maggie’s Kitchen Table Day is an opportunity to catch up with the people you care about to celebrate and have fun whilst also making a difference. Whether it be a virtual coffee morning, a garden gate cake delivery service or even raffling off some delicious cakes, people can get involved and support the great work that Maggie’s do.” Simone has raised an unbelievable £3,500 through her kitchen table days and is encouraging more people to get creative and host their very own virtual event.

Kathy Wright, Centre Head at Maggie’s Merseyside said: “I can’t wait to see the wonderful events that people in and around Merseyside come up with to help make Maggie’s Kitchen Table Day 2020 a success. Especially this year when we have all the national and local restrictions to consider. Maggie’s Merseyside relies entirely on voluntary donations to allow us to keep on developing our unique programme of free support for all those living with cancer in the area. We have seen a rise in the complex needs of people affected by cancer this year, our support is needed now more than ever. We’re so grateful to people like Simone for continuing to raise funds during these challenging times.”

Host a socially distanced or virtual event around your kitchen table in November to raise money for people with cancer. Register now for your free pack and bunting at www.maggies.org/kitchentableday