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May24WedA decade after she was first diagnosed with cancer, Maureen Rego still refuses to let the disease define her. May 24, 2017
"Cancer need not be a death sentence,” stated Maureen Rego in the September 2007 edition of Faith & Friends. “Only God knows what's in store.”
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At that time, the mother of two had just survived a life-threatening bout with cancer, undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Last Thanksgiving, Maureen celebrated 10 cancer-free years with a party in her honour at the Salvation Army church in Ajax, Ont. “There were all these people taking photos of me,” she laughs. “I felt like a celebrity surrounded by the paparazzi!”
Faith & Friends interviewed Maureen and her husband, Stephen, at their home:
Let's backtrack to 2007 when we ran the article in Faith & Friends. How did you handle the diagnosis?
Maureen Rego: In the beginning, I didn't handle it well. I kept saying, “Why is this happening to me? Why now? Why me?” Then I realized, “Well why not me?” That helped put things in perspective.
Were there any health scares during that time?
MR: Oh yes, especially in the first five years. Every cold, every cough was a crisis. But since then, I've been very healthy. After the chemo was done, I started exercising more, eating better and taking vitamins to build up my immune system. The doctors kept on top of things and then after the five-year mark, the surgeon no longer needed to see me; at the seven-year mark, the oncologist no longer needed to see me, and I thought, Well no one wants to see me! (laughs) I guess that's a good thing, right?
It still must have been a stressful time for you.
MR: Absolutely, without a doubt. After one of my checkups, the doctor requested a biopsy. But fortunately the results were negative.
You imagine the worst and before you know it, you've got yourself dead and buried.
In situations such as this, many people say that their faith never wavered. I'd put a brave face on things, but in my deepest, darkest moments, my faith did waver and I questioned.
“God, you brought me this far,” I'd pray. “Are you going to take that all back?” I couldn't help it.
Stephen Rego: Throughout this whole ordeal, even before she had her surgery, Maureen based her life on the Bible's Jeremiah 29:11, where God says: “For I know the plans I have for you.” That brought comfort to her. Every time something came up, Maureen said, “God, this is Your plan, we'll run with it.”
MR: I needed to get past my worry and focus on my faith. Trusting God freed me from anguish, whatever happened.
SR: Maureen refused to let the cancer define her. She was determined to be the best wife, mother and colleague she could be.
How did your church community figure into your recovery?
MR: Prayer support was ongoing and people would stop me and say, “I'm still praying for you.” Here were people who doubtless had concerns of their own, yet they were caring enough to care for me! It was humbling.
If you had to sum up these last 10 years, what would you say?
MR: God's brought me this far. Even if I stepped out on a limb, He never let me fall. He's given me wings and I've sort of flown—even if I've sometimes done it apprehensively!
SR: I look at what Maureen has been through—how deep her faith is, how she sets a great example for her daughters and for everyone at our church—and I just try to follow in her footsteps. She's an inspiration.