Eileen DiBenedetto is no newcomer in the fight against cancer.
The 47 year old from Glendale was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, enduring a double mastectomy and two more operations after that in December.
Although she was told she was cancer-free, she began spitting up blood three months later.
In March, the mom of two found out she had stage four lung cancer.
So when doctors told her she only had six months left to live, DiBenedetto threw on her boxing gloves and a brave face once again.
“It’s a little of a step backwards, but you just have to go forward,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do but fight.”
When she heard the news, DiBenedetto said she immediately thought of her kids: her daughter Crystal Anne, who just turned eight in January, and her son John, 25.
“I freaked. I thought, ‘Oh my God. I have two kids. What am I going to do?’ I figured I have to fight it. And that’s what I’m doing. I have no choice.
My children need me,” she said. “I’m not sad. I’m going to beat it. I’m a very positive person. I’m not ready to die. I’m going to kick its butt.”
It was her can-do attitude and resilience that inspired her two friends Lori Donaldson and Susan Weissmeier to host a fundraiser in her name.
“She does for other people no matter if she feels good or bad,” Donaldson said. “It’s her turn to get something back. She deserves it. It’s hard to watch her struggle, especially since she has a young child.”
The fundraiser — held at Yerman’s in Glendale on Saturday, January 28 — drew in close to 200 supporters from the community and also throughout DiBenedetto’s past. Together, they raised about $5,000 for the family.
“She still gets up every day and takes Crystal to school and does what she has to do,” Weissmeier said. “She’s a mom. She has to get these things done, and going through chemo is not the easiest thing. It’s very rough. We did a good thing for a good person.”
DiBenedetto is currently going through extensive chemotherapy. She said part of what gives her ammo to fight is her eagerness for Easter to arrive — not specifically for any religious meaning, but for the sole fact that for the last three years, she has dressed up as an Easter bunny and visited the classes at Sacred Heart, where her daughter attends.
“I have to be the Easter bunny,” she said. “I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m going to fight ‘til the end.”