Jackie DeVito has been the center of attention ever since she was a little girl. Everyone who knew her said that even when she was young, she had something special. By all accounts, DeVito, of Venice, Fla., is the glue that holds her family together.
"In our family of eight people, she was the doer," said her sister Colleen Leary. "She got things done."
But last summer, the promising life of the mother of three and wife of a dental surgeon took a painful turn. She started experiencing headaches so debilitating that she had trouble moving.
"The headaches were not going away, and she had no motivation to get out of bed. The kids were wondering where Mommy was at," said her brother Jeff Leary.
Doctors told her that she had a brain tumor and that the prognosis was not good. They told her that she should begin thinking about what to tell her children and maybe even write them letters.
"It was very scary that my mom was all of a sudden diagnosed with a brain tumor," said Jackie DeVito's son Richie. "She was just like, 'Richie, Mommy has this and it will be all right. Just don't worry about me.' Life isn't forever. You really got to appreciate every day and take every day one day at a time."
DeVito's family has pulled together, and they remain hopeful.
"It's been hard, but I know that every day she will make it," said Richie DeVito. "She is going to get through it."
A Sister's Love
All through the years, Leary was DeVito's best friend, or, as her mother called her, "Jackie's angel." The sisters are one year apart in age and share the same birthday. Leary said everyone thought they were twins.
"She's the best," Leary said. "I couldn't ask for a better sister -- a better friend. She always has been there for me."
"It's like one takes one breath and exhales and the other one breathes," said their mother, Christine Leary. "It's like they are one. It's always been like that."
Colleen Leary quit her job and moved in with her sister's family.
"So I'd go and sit on her bed," Leary said. "She'd wake up, and she'd be like 'What's the matter? What's wrong with you? Why are you crying? Why are you so upset?' And I'd say, 'I don't want to see you go through it.'"
"I would switch places with her in a heartbeat. If someone told me that they could fix my sister and I wouldn't be here. I'd be gone. I love her so much I would give my life for her. Her children need her."
DeVito has remained strong and serene through her treatments, and her family said that she enjoyed watching Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network. Recently, her condition has stabilized.
"Every day I come home from school, Mom is watching the Food Network and she especially watches Emeril," said her daughter Gabby. "She loves everybody else, too, but she likes him as the best, I think."
In honor of a family who is standing together during the most challenging of times, Jackie DeVito and her family are the winners of Emeril's sixth annual breakfast in bed contest.