Life was good for Judy DiPalma.
A 50-year-old Johnston mother of three, she was engaged to longtime love Michael Delmonico, with whom she has spent the last eight years.
But DiPalma’s world unexpectedly went tumbling down when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme brain cancer (GMB).
“We’ve been told there are only 20,000 such cases of GMB in the world,” Delmonico said. “It’s a cancer that spreads like wildfire ... it’s deadly. We were all crushed with the news that Judy has a malignant brain tumor.”
It was back on Dec. 4, 2012, that Judy DiPalma’s world started to unravel. On that date, she got word that her ex-husband (and her children’s father) passed away after losing a battle to cancer.
Soon thereafter, DiPalma began to experience frequent headaches. At the time, she was misdiagnosed.
“Doctors attributed this – along with a loss of appetite and an increase in blood pressure – to a common form of depression,” explained her son, Anthony.
“A week later, the headaches got worse and in early March she began to lose control of basic functions. There was one point when she was driving her car and suddenly couldn’t remember where she was or where she was going. That’s what GMB does to a person,” he said.
Then came the diagnosis. But as Anthony DiPalma emphasized, “She’s a fighter. Between daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she’s making progress.”
The news was devastating to Delmonico, who lost his own daughter in 2009, when Melissa was murdered at the young age of 19.
Friends too are shocked, especially the many people that DiPalma has come in contact with while working at the Rite Aid Pharmacy on Atwood Avenue. She has worked as a pharmacy technician there for nearly 12 years, winning numerous “Smile Awards” for her performance.
On Sunday, many of those friends and supporters turned out to support DiPalma. Approximately 350 people flooded the Kelley-Gazzero VFW Post 2812 for a special fundraiser that organizers said will help defray the cost of treatments and medicine.
Delmonico took the lead on the event, using the Melissa Delmonico Foundation that he created to organize the fundraiser. His older son, Mike Delmonico Jr., helped to sell tickets at the door and to sell raffle tickets. Paul Russo bought gift cards at area businesses and donated them to the raffle, as did Enza’s Beauty Salon in Scituate.
“Lots and lots of people were giving from their hearts and that really gives Judy a huge lift,” Delmonico said.
The contribution, he continued, goes a long way.
“Judy is just overwhelmed with this party,” he said as he wheeled her up a ramp and into the Kelley-Gazzero Post on Sunday. “She was really happy ... she said this made her feel like a new person. She said, ‘I can’t believe all the support.’”
Delmonico thanked everyone who bought tickets and showed up Sunday.
“On behalf of Judy, Anthony, Amanda and Alexandra, we say thank you. The support people continue to show is absolutely amazing and certainly greatly appreciated,” he said.