Mavis Robinson, MBE 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The unique achievements of Mrs Mavis Robinson were recognised in the New Yearís Honours List with the award of an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for her outstanding work assisting UK asbestos victims and their carers. Working as a Macmillan Nurse in the 1980s-1990s, Mavis saw more and more cases of a purportedly rare cancer called mesothelioma. Unfortunately, what Mavis was witnessing in Leeds was the tip of the iceberg; while, the number of cases of mesothelioma was increasing nationally, the incidence of this disease in hotspots such as Armley, Leeds was wreaking havoc on the local population, many of whom had worked at or lived near the J. W. Roberts Co. asbestos textile factory.

In 1998, Mavis set up a national mesothelioma telephone hotline to provide information for patients, their carers and health professionals. Her pamphlet: Mesothelioma: Information for people with Mesothelioma and their carers, first published in 1999, is now in its 4th edition and has proved an invaluable resource for asbestos sufferers. A training scheme Mavis designed and implemented to disseminate information to a national network of lung cancer specialists on health care, diagnosis, clinical research, palliative care and medical treatment has been successful; there are now more than 60 key specialist nurses in affected areas such as Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, London and Portsmouth. In September, 2000, Mavis made a presentation entitled: A Mesothelioma Project to the Global Asbestos Congress in Osasco, Brazil. While the general reaction to her talk was positive, the comments of one Italian epidemiologist are memorable. He reported that plans were being made in Italy for a project on mesothelioma, which did not even begin to consider many of the factors that Mavis had already addressed.

In January, Mavisí reaction to the public recognition of her accomplishments was typical: "I was thrilled and astonished when I heard. Iím really proud, although I keep thinking there are so many other people who deserve it more." Russell Hancock, the son of one of Mavisí mesothelioma patients, disagrees. He says: "I can think of no one more deserving than Mavis to receive this award. It is a credit to her hard work, dedication and commitment that she has received such a remarkable and so richly deserved honour. I know Mum would have been so pleased and proud for her. We, as a family, have so much to thank Mavis for and we will never forget the help and understanding she gave to Mum and ourselves during those very difficult times. Her continued dedication to help others who are so desperately in need whilst at the same time "ruffling the feathers" of the people who stand in the way of her aims is outstanding."


February 8, 2002



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