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Karen Verrill qualified as a nurse more than 35 years ago. She has worked for the last 20
years as a Specialist Nurse supporting people from the point of their cancer diagnosis until
the end of life.
In February 2013, Karen was appointed as Centre Head for the newly built Maggie’s Centre
adjacent to the Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle. Maggie’s is a cancer support
centre which offers a drop‐in service for anyone affected by any type of cancer including the
person with the diagnosis and their family and friends. Karen is responsible for every aspect
of the management of the centre from the upkeep of the centre itself to the delivery of the
programme of care as well as directly supporting people affected by cancer on a daily basis.
Some of these people have extremely complex needs.
Karen’s specific area of expertise is breast cancer and a large proportion of her time is spent
with people with breast cancer and their families although she does work with those
suffering from other types of cancer.
Karen runs courses and support groups including a 6 week ‘Living with secondary breast
cancer course’, a secondary breast cancer support group and a young women’s secondary
breast cancer support group for the under 40’s.
As well as practical and emotional support, during the detailed assessments she carries out
Karen frequently picks up oncological emergencies and symptoms of disease progression.
Karen then refers urgently to the relevant medical teams.
From 2017‐2019 Karen took part in a joint working initiative which recognised an unmet
need for specialist support for those with secondary breast cancer at the Northern Centre
for Cancer Care. This included attending MBC clinics to provide support and direct access to
the services in Maggie’s. The pilot has since become operational as a result of its success.
From November 2017 to May 2019 she took on the additional role of Maggie’s Head of
Operations for the North of England, Midlands and Wales. She is now back full time in the
Newcastle Centre reflecting her passion for working face to face with centre visitors.
Although most Maggie’s Centres were closed to people with cancer during lockdown Karen
kept the Newcastle Centre open as she felt there was a vital role to play in supporting
people with cancer during this period. During lockdown with no visitors, it allowed patients
from the cancer centre who were close to the end of life to spend time with their immediate
families in a non‐clinical and beautiful environment with professional support available from
Karen and her small team.
The Maggies Centres are now all open and seeing people every day who are suffering from
cancer, its effects and the severity of the isolation and restrictions imposed because of the
Coronavirus pandemic. Karen is working with people who are requiring more support than
ever before