MICHELLE OBAMA surprised cancer patients using the Maggie's Centre with a visit to mark the Hammersmith project's first birthday this week.
The US First Lady – who flew in to London with the President for the G20 summit – dropped in unannounced to the centre in the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital on Wednesday morning.
Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife and patron of Maggie's, was also there to celebrate the anniversary.
At least 12,000 people have visited the centre since its launch. It offers advice, information and emotional support to anyone affected by cancer in a peaceful, comfortable and carefully designed environment, and is based on similar cutting-edge schemes in America.
Mrs Obama said: “I was delighted to be invited by Sarah Brown to help wish Maggie’s a happy first birthday in London, community jewels like this centre should always be celebrated.
“I was impressed with the centre’s warm and caring environment and enjoyed meeting the people who work and get services here.”
The visit is one of a handful of official engagements being carried out by the First Lady while Mr Obama talks with world leaders to try to thrash out a plan to resuscitate the global economy.
She was shown round the centre by Charles Jencks, who founded the charity with his wife, Maggie, architect Richard Rogers and landscape designer Dan Pearson.
Mrs Brown said: “Bringing Michelle to the London centre was a great opportunity to demonstrate the role that Maggie’s plays in the community, inspiring wellbeing through their design and providing the emotional support required to live with a critical illness such as cancer.
“They were originally inspired by American influences in the provision of cancer support which has now taken root all over the UK.”
All Maggie's Centres are built next to hospitals which specialise in cancer treatment and are designed to be as 'non-institutional' as possible.