SALEM, N.H. — Officer Joey DeFeudis needs support before boarding a plane to Hawaii early next week for the Ironman World Championship.
He'll do the legwork: A straight-out trek of 2.4 miles in the ocean, 112 miles on bike and 26.2 miles on foot. You can help by donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the cause that's fueling him.
Over the last year, DeFeudis, 44, has raised $70,000 of his $100,000 goal. Most of the support has come from the Salem community he polices and the North Andover community he lives in.
The fit cop has run the Boston Marathon twice for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in 2016 and again in 2018. That same year, he took on the Marine Corps Marathon.
On his mind through every donation and rigorous training regime is his mom, Deborah DeFeudis, who died of leukemia in 2015, he said. She was 63 years old and blindsided by sickness.
It took its toll on her quickly, starting Christmas Eve 2014 with an incorrect diagnosis of "a touch of pneumonia," DeFeudis said.
She ended up in an emergency room the day after Christmas, only feeling worse as she faced another doctor.
After more tests, that doctor's face showed bad news, according to DeFeudis.
"I knew something was coming," the son said.
The professional explained the normal range of a healthy person’s white blood cell count. It should be at 11,000 to 14,000, DeFeudis recalls. His mother’s was at leukemia levels, over 114,000.
Two hours after the diagnosis, Deborah DeFeudis was receiving chemotherapy and had a treatment plan in place, her son said.
He would tell her continually, "we are going to get through this," he said.
Six grueling months later, one fight ended and another began. This time, DeFeudis didn't have his mom.
"I decided that I was going to get the most out of life by staying in the fight," he said. "It's time for a cure, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are doing incredible work."
He was flooded with emotion this week ahead of the big flight west.
"Excited, scared, anxious, eager," he said Thursday.
Joining him on the 5,000 mile journey is some family, both biological and from the Salem Police Department.
"My mom will be in my heart the entire time too," he said.
There won't be much time for DeFeudis to join his traveling team of supporters on Hawaii's picture-perfect beaches before race day, Oct. 12.
"There are some periods of training, trying to acclimate to the the environment and warm weather again," DeFeudis said. "There are media portions, safety briefings, a whole list of appointments I have to be at for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society."
The most important to him is involvement with the charity group on a mission to wipe out blood cancer.
"This is for everyone," he said. "A quest to find a cure."
To donate, visit heart4cures.com.