Maggie’s Fiction Library

The Maggie’s Fiction Library is an innovative spiritual care resource being trialled in Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres across Scotland. Part of the Cancer Fiction Library research project designed by ITIA PhD student Ewan Bowlby, the Maggie’s Fiction Library invites people affected by cancer to use fictional stories to explore personal experiences of cancer. The library contains novels, films and television series about different aspects of living with cancer. The accompanying Maggie’s Fiction Library Guide explains how these fictional stories could help people to process and find meaning in their own experiences of cancer. The stories contain characters, ideas and plotlines that can mirror real experiences of cancer, or offer new perspectives on living with cancer. The guidebook helps people using the resource to choose a novel, film or television series that engages with a specific theme or question that feels relevant to them, such as how cancer changes our sense of time, or why cancer affects our relationships. Reflections in the guidebook offer information about each fictional story and suggest why the story might be revealing, interesting or even healing for someone trying to understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis.

The Maggie’s Fiction Library Guide
The Maggie’s Fiction Library live in the Lanarkshire Maggie’s Centre

There are also a selection of novels and films in the library suitable for families, that could be used to begin difficult, sensitive discussions about cancer with younger children. The guide can also help friends and family of cancer patients to find stories in the library that are relevant to their situation. And there are some stories in the library that are not about cancer at all, but which still address issues that someone affected by cancer might face.

Maggie’s Centres provide practical, emotional and psychological support for anyone affected by cancer. Situated near cancer centres on NHS sites, Maggie’s Centres offer a welcoming, comforting sanctuary set apart from the main hospital building. As part of the support Maggie’s Centres provide, visitors to the Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife and Lanarkshire centres have been able to use the Maggie’s Fiction Library resource since February 2020. Trialling the Maggie’s Fiction Library in centres has allowed Ewan to gather evidence of the value of this resource. People using the Maggie’s Fiction Library have been invited to provide feedback on their experiences of using the resource. Their feedback has shown that the guide and fictional stories together can help people affected by cancer to find affirmation, inspiration and meaning.

Users of the Maggie’s Fiction Library have described the resource as:

  • a resource that “gave me an opportunity to talk about my struggle”
  • “an opportunity to test my brain”
  • “easy to use”
  • “a nice way in to explore topics that may need a light touch to begin with”
  • “very helpful”
  • “perfect for Maggie’s during lockdown / reduced access to the centres”
  • “a perfect fit with the values of Maggie’s”
  • “a great way of leading a gentle reflection on the meaning of life”

The aim is for future research projects to develop and expand the Maggie’s Fiction Library resource, enriching the spiritual care offered to cancer patients across the UK.

To read the Maggie’s Fiction Library Guide, click here.