A village responds

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    Sparta-The following day after working out at the gym last summer, Hedy Massenzio, a mother of two young children, woke up in pain. She felt a hard lump in her stomach and thought her spleen was enlarged.  Blood work later dealt her the devastating news that she had leukemia. Within a week she was admitted to a hospital. After seven weeks of treatment her cancer was considered to be in remission. The good news was only temporary. Only six months later she was readmitted for a "heavy duty chemo (therapy) to kill off the bone marrow."  "The doctors were not expecting it to work, it was just an attempt to lower the counts,"  said Massenzio.  While the medical fight continued, Massenzio's family and friends sought comfort and support in each other. Family and friends held a healing mass at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Sparta. More than 400 people attended the service.  "It was an amazing experience. Friends, strangers, people I didn't even know very well attended," stated Massenzio. Some believe it made a difference. Three days after the mass, Heady Massenzio was told her cancer was back in remission.   "It was so unexpected, the doctors were scratching their heads in disbelief," commented Massenzio.  Soon afterward, a bone marrow match was found, donated by a 21-year-old man.  Two months ago, Massenzio beat the odds once again and survived the bone marrow transplant. Typically only one in four patients is able to successfully withstand the procedure.  "It was tough, I was very weak. I don't remember most of it," said Massenzio. But she is home now, still unable to go shopping or be in public as her immune system is so compromised, but on a nice day she indulges in a walk in the sunshine and still prays for the best.  "Throughout this entire experience, the one good thing that I've learned is how caring the community in which I live is. People have been so helpful and done so much for me while I was in the hospital. I have had tons of phone calls, people have been cooking meals for my family and checking up on my children while they're at school," said Massenzio. " I've had about 75 transfusions over the year and none of them came from a blood center. That means 75 family and friends have taken a trip into New York City to donate blood specifically for me. It's overwhelming how helpful and positive everyone's been. It's also embarrassing having all this attention on me." For some in the community, their commitment to Massenzio and her family is not over. Several individuals and area businesses have united to raise funds to help defray Massenzio's medical bills. The Sparta Athletic Club, where Heady Massenzio is a member, is donating the proceeds of three classes. Two Spin sessions were held on Sept. 13 and one Boot Camp Master Class is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 21. In addition, donations are being accepted at the front desk. A beefsteak dinner is being held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25 at Pope John High School. To purchase tickets or to make a donation, call 973-956-7500. Tickets are $40 for adults; children 12 and under $25.  In addition, there will be a silent and Chinese auction. Part of the proceeds go toward cancer research and a portion will go to help Massenzio's family.