Northborough native refuses to let ALS defeat him
NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — One day several months ago, Matt Bruce woke up and noticed that it was difficult for him to speak without slurring his words.
He didn’t see a doctor right away. He figured, as any 26-year-old would, that things would go back to normal.
They did not.
Just over a month ago, Bruce was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The incurable disease — which recently claimed the life of former Gov. Paul Cellucci — progressively degenerates motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to death.
Bruce said though the diagnosis is devastating, he hasn’t once asked, “Why me?” Instead, he is focused on raising awareness of the disease as well as cherishing time with family and friends.
“I just want to enjoy each day I have,” he said.
Bruce said he has been overwhelmed by the support from family and friends, who have banded together to begin fundraising efforts on his behalf.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Bruce said. “Everyone is just coming together and supporting me.”
A Northborough native and 2005 graduate of Algonquin Regional High School, Bruce now lives in Worcester with two of his high school friends. Like his father James Bruce — a sergeant with the Northborough Police Department who has finished two Ironman races — Matt Bruce said he loves the outdoors, including fishing and hunting.
Bruce also loves his Irish heritage — he got a tattoo of St. Patrick’s Cross a few years ago — and has always wanted to visit Ireland.
Last month, several businesses in Westborough were scheduled to hold Jars on Bars, a fundraiser aimed at raising money for him and his family to go to Ireland.
The Central House, Westborough House of Pizza, JP’s Restaurant Pub, Mulligan’s Tavern at the Westborough Country Club and Sapporo Koren BBQ & Sushi planned put out jars on their bars to collect donations from noon to midnight. Those who can’t make it were asked to send a donation made out to Matt Bruce c/o St. Mary’s Credit Union, 100 West Main St., Northborough.
Family friend Karen Pantazis is also organizing a golf benefit for Bruce to be held on Sept. 16 at the Juniper Hills Golf Course. Bruce said he and his family plan to make the trip to Ireland sometime in September.
In the meantime, Bruce is still working on his career. He holds a degree in funeral home services from Mount Ida College in Newton, and is currently an apprentice embalmer at Mercandante Funeral Home in Worcester.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for life because of the business I’m in,” he said. “Being diagnosed with a terminal illness has brought that appreciation to a new level.”