Westborough native battles serious illness with help from friends
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough/Grafton – Although Judy Ann (Burke) and Denny Grey now live in Grafton, they still have close ties to their native Westborough. Denny works for the Westborough Department of Public Works and one of Judy’s many hobbies is participating in a Westborough sewing group. Judy is one of the “golden girls,” a group of close friends who have stayed in touch since their elementary school days in Westborough.
When Judy, 62, was recently diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), many of their friends rallied to their side to offer their support at a special fundraiser/benefit.
Judy and Denny married in 1971 and raised two children; Scott, now 42, and Jill, now 39. In 1979 they began building a log cabin house in Grafton which they completed a year later. Always one to lend a helping hand, Judy was right there by her husband’s side throughout the process. She helped to fell the many trees that were later used in the home as door frames, kitchen counters, and some of the floors boards.
A dedicated horse lover, Judy opened “Grey Pines Stables” on her 16-acre property abutting the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton. It is here that she currently boards 12 horses including two of her own. Among the boarders is Daisy, a “Supreme Champion Pinto.”
Denny’s sister, Judi (Grey) Smith, is also a close friend.
“My sister-in-law is a tall, beautiful, soft-spoken, sweet, thoughtful, hard working woman and I have always thought of her as one of my dearest friends,” said Smith. “She is the consummate hostess who opens her home to everyone. She is everything to everybody.”
In 2009, Judy was diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently underwent 36 radiation treatments. Although she is now in remission from that cancer, she was diagnosed in January with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which was most likely caused by her earlier radiation treatments. MDS is a hematological (blood related) medical condition formerly known as pre-leukemia and often referred to as “bone marrow failure disorder.” Treatment for Judy’s MDS began in February with chemotherapy and several blood transfusions. Ultimately, she knew she would need a bone marrow transplant.
Because Judy is an only child, she needed to find a donor from a bone marrow donor bank. Fortunately a donor from Europe ended up being a match. On Aug. 28 Judy was admitted to UMass Memorial Medical Center to begin the bone marrow transplant process. After seven days of extreme chemotherapy to kill off the existing bone marrow, she received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant on Sept. 5.
Throughout her treatment, Judy’s daughter, Jill, has coordinated her schedule, making sure there is coverage for all of her doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy sessions. Denny, who has remained by his wife’s side, said that she is “the strongest woman he knows,” Smith said. It is a sentiment echoed by her friends and family.
“The Westborough DPW has been incredibly flexible and sympathetic to Denny’s needs at this time,” said Smith. “They have really stepped up to help the family and have shown incredible compassion.”
A fundraiser aptly called “A Day for Judy Grey” was held Aug. 24 in Westborough. Dozens of family and friends partook in a golf benefit and banquet/silent auction.
“The family is eternally grateful for all of the acts of kindness shown to ‘our’ Judy during this fearful but hopeful time,” said Smith, who is encouraging everyone she knows to donate blood and, hopefully, someday be a match for a person in need.
Monetary donations to help with Judy’s medical expenses can be sent to Sovereign Bank, 70 East Main St., Westborough. Checks should be made payable to Judy Grey #9567.
For more information on the bone marrow registry or to become a donor visit www.bethematch.org.
For more information on Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) visit www.mds-foundation.org.
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