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Father’s Day 2020: A catch up with Duncan

You may remember Duncan from last year’s film about Maggie’s. Duncan’s wife Helen was ill with cancer for many years and the whole family was supported by Maggie’s throughout.
BBC Children in Need funding helps Maggie’s support young people in England and Scotland who are impacted by cancer through kids and family days, group sessions and 1-to-1 support.
Very sadly, Helen passed away in 2017, and Duncan, along with their daughters Isla and Eleanor, generously shared their story during last year’s Appeal. We caught up with Duncan again recently for Father’s Day.
Duncan, Isla and Eleanor with David Tennant

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to during lockdown.

I work for the Local Authority providing support and advice for some of those in our communities who are most at risk. We left our office immediately and have been working from home.

Our garden is looking well-tended, I have started some DIY projects and I have had to take up ‘jogging’ to remove some of the excess calories I have been accruing since the swimming pools shut. I have also spent time Zooming friends and relatives.

Please tell us about Isla and Eleanor and how they’ve been finding lockdown

The school has obviously been closed, but it has not stopped teaching taking place remotely. I have decided that I do not want to be a teacher. I was just about managing with areas of circles, but am afraid Higher Maths had me stumped! I have been quite good with History and talking through English issues, but I would prefer to leave it to those who know best.

Isla (16) was very upset and disappointed not to be sitting her exams. Not seeing her friends has felt very unfair for her – and it is unfair. However we talked it through and they completely understand the reasons for it. Looking to the future has been hard for Isla as the implications of Covid -19 could be felt for the next few years, during a critical time in her life when she should be sitting exams and looking forward to heading off to University. However she has been brilliant at keeping in touch with her friends by phone and text which helps keep her grounded.

Eleanor had her 13th birthday during lockdown. It was a bit of a low key affair, but she came down in the morning to presents, balloons, bunting and lots of cards from friends and relations. She enjoyed it. Eleanor has worked hard with her schoolwork and her school report card was fantastic and full of praise.

Is there anything you’ve all been enjoying doing together recently or any fun recent memories from lockdown?

We are a close little family unit and it has been nice to have this special time together. We went off camping during the Easter holidays. In the back garden – long trip, but well worth the journey!

I bought a set of hair clippers and they did a superb job in cutting my hair. In fact, I may never need to go to the Barbers again.

Walks around our local golf course have been fun.

At the beginning of lockdown we did a huge clear out from under the beds. Loads of stuff was put on eBay and the money they raised has been put in their bank accounts, for spending when lockdown is over.

Please could you tell us about Maggie’s and why Maggie’s has been important for your family?

The staff at Maggie’s helped through all the years that my wife had cancer. They kept us all on the straight and narrow and helped us get our heads around looking after young children, while moving forward and enjoying life. Living with breast cancer was traumatic at the best of time. When it metastasised into her lungs liver and bones it was even more difficult.  The staff at Maggie’s, Edinburgh were with us all the way. They helped us speak to our children and they became familiar with cancer themselves.

Following the death of my wife 3 years ago they have been even more important to us. We would visit every month or so and spend time getting our heads round our grief at the loss of mum. It has been a vital part in enabling us to move on in a healthy and open fashion and has enabled me to move on and start an new relationship.

Our favourite thing about Maggie’s is the space to be able to talk through our feelings, hopes fears and also to celebrate the good and happy things that are happening in our lives.

My key memory from Maggie’s has to be meeting David Tennant. The joy and excitement he brought to the centre that day last year was lovely to watch and be part of. There is joy to be had in the worst situations.

BBC Children in Need funding goes towards the Kids Days at Maggie’s – what was it like for your family to attend one of these days?

Both of my girls attended the Kids Days. Isla loved it. She got the chance to meet the doctors, nurses and see the equipment like x ray machines. This made the whole experience of cancer less scary and more understandable. She also got the chance to meet other children of her age and see that she was not unusual or alone in experiencing this.

What would you like to say to people who have raised money for BBC Children in Need?

I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have raised money for BBC Children In Need. Your efforts have made a massive difference to me and my girls who can look forward to life with hope and happiness, while carrying around the sadness of losing their mother.

Covid-19 will have a devastating effect on our children’s mental and physical health and now, more than ever, your donations are needed to help cope with loss, dislocation, isolation, hunger and anxiety as a result of lockdown. Thank you for continuing to give generously as your efforts will change lives for the better for years to come. We know – we have benefited from it!

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