8-year-old Durham boy fighting leukemia gets dream Disney trip

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DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- An 8-year-old boy fighting leukemia is getting his wish come true.

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina dropped off his tickets to Walt Disney World on Wednesday.

Like any 8-year-old, Benjamin Paulakonis loves toys, but his Legos hold a special meaning.

"When I was in the hospital, for when I first got sick, I built some Legos, and this is one of them," Paulakonis said.

He was diagnosed with two forms of rare leukemia and a condition causing abnormalities in his chromosomes - something that took his mother by surprise not long after her son walked her down the aisle.

"Going to the honeymoon, and come back, and all this happened was a nightmare," his mother, Francheska Macerou, said.

Not long ago, Benji's liver stopped working, leading him to spend eight days in the intensive-care unit. His mother was unsure whether she'd see him open his eyes again.

"Then the ninth day there, he just woke up and opened his eyes, and looked at me and said 'mommy, I love you,'" Macerou said.

"Things like Make-A-Wish, and all the foundations that have been helping us, give us a couple seconds of real breathing, you know," she added.

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina dropped off tickets to Disney World, celebrating Benji with cupcakes and pizza, as he passed on the motivation that's kept him strong.

"I'm very thankful," he said.

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"Other kids that are sick, it's OK to be scared, but not to be unhappy. Just know that you can get through this," Benji added.

"Benji, keep fighting every day. Mommy is here with you," Macerou said. "I hold your hand until the day they say you're cured, and life is going to be completely different. You're an inspiration for us, and you are our hero."
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