THE outpouring of cross-community support for the ‘Regina’s Fight for Life’ campaign has surely shown how we are still a compassionate people. The huge sympathy for the plight of this young secondary school teacher from Drummin, Westport, has been expressed in a myriad of fundraising events from Inishturk to Louisburgh, Tuam to Naas, Westport to Castlebar and beyond.
There have been bucket collections – with that iconic picture of her smiling face on her wedding day last year – in shops and forecourts all over the county. Those who stood outside MacHale Park on Saturday evening in the middle of a full-blown gale raising money for her treatment showed their mettle – as much as the Mayo and Roscommon footballers inside the stadium.
A mere fortnight ago, many of us did not know anything about this brave teacher’s third battle with cancer. Married last March, she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She bounced back with characteristic optimism, only to be stricken with a brain tumour in 2014. Once again she made it through treatment and bounced back.
Regina also had to deal with the death from breast cancer of her mother Julia – with whom she had a very close relationship – in 2016.
By 2018, however, life seemed to be on a more positive footing when she and her fiancé, Tuam native Jason Donoghue, were married on March 10. The icing on the cake for the couple was the move home to her native Co Mayo and a new teaching job for her in Claremorris.
Now, rather than enjoying a candlelit dinner in a romantic setting, the couple will spend their first wedding anniversary in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
NORMALLY we can argue that we are all inured to such harrowing tales about this horrible disease that has touched many of us in one way or another. But hasn’t something about Regina’s beautiful smiling face resonated deeply for us? Perhaps the ‘Regina’s Fight for Life’ campaign has become a symbol for all the battles individual families and little communities have fought – and continue to fight from one day to the next – on behalf of loved ones stricken by cancer or one of the other horrific diseases that can afflict healthy people with such callous abandon?
Hadn’t her devoted family – led by sister, Adele, and sister-in-law, Sian Devine – a precipitous mountain to climb this time two weeks ago? It was then that they discovered her rare form of brain cancer could be treated if they could raise €370,000-plus for her urgent treatment to start in this specialist New York hospital. All they cared about though was that wonderful, life-affirming news that she had a chance, could be treated, given a reprieve, after a stark prognosis in a Dublin hospital.
Of course, the huge mountain they had to climb to raise this multi-million-euro amount was daunting and possibly seemed prohibitive at certain times in this intense journey.
But despite the diet of cynicism we are fed every day through the increasingly intrusive world of social media, the incredible support through the online gofundme.com site has been phenomenal. This campaign has gripped the nation. It has brought out the very best in people. People – old and young, rich and poor – who had never heard of Regina Duffy just over two weeks ago.
Of course, this huge groundswell of support started in villages and townlands, clubs and pubs, shops and schools, all over Co Mayo and spread like a wildfire of love that is so affirming and welcome during tough times when many of us grapple with a daily diet of bad news.