The phrase “I’ve been Maggied” came into being in the world of breast cancer clinical research to describe the effect that my friend Maggie Wilcox had on helping scientists and clinicians to see the light and listen to patients.
Maggie, who has died aged 79, was a founding member and first president of Independent Cancer Patients Voice (ICPV), a patient-led organisation that tries to bring the views of cancer patients, their families and carers to the forefront of cancer research.
A skilled communicator, she was instrumental in setting up ICPV Voice, a training course that introduced patient advocates to the science behind breast cancer. She was also a respected board member of the UK Breast Cancer Coalition, and as a member of UK Breast InterGroup worked closely with the Warwick Clinical Trials Unit to ensure meaningful patient and public involvement in many of its trials.
Maggie was born in Liverpool to Thomas Jones, a foreman at a metal works, and his wife, Edith (nee Swain), a secretary. After attending Merchant Taylors’ girls’ school in Crosby she worked as a paediatric nursing aide until she was old enough to enter nurse training at the Royal Liverpool Infirmary.
Working as a staff nurse there, she eventually moved to London to study midwifery at Queen Charlotte’s hospital with the aim of becoming a health visitor. But after a spell working in the accident and emergency department at the West London hospital, and the death of her two-year-old daughter, Helen, of Reyes syndrome in 1982, she ended up spending the rest of her professional career as a clinical nurse specialist in palliative care, working for various hospitals.
Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, but made a good recovery after surgery, radiotherapy, and 10 years of endocrine therapy. That personal experience of diagnosis and treatment equipped her with a powerful ability to advocate the importance of patient insight and involvement, to help develop kinder treatments and improve outcomes for people living with the disease.
Maggie worked tirelessly to encourage a greater involvement from lay people in cancer research. Her approach was one of collaboration, networking and partnership; focusing all parties – whether patients, clinicians or healthcare professionals – to work together to improve treatments.
She was a warm, compassionate woman with great generosity of spirit, someone who brought levity as well as wisdom into discussion of even the most serious of topics.
Maggie’s husband, Colin, predeceased her. She is survived by her brothers, Phillip and Alan, and 11 nephews and nieces.