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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - When a Wesley Chapel mother was diagnosed with cancer, her son took to the water as a way to deal with the news and quickly became a top fundraiser for Swim Across America.
Wesley Chapel native Michelle Deaton will never forget April 25, 2018. It’s the day she was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer.
"It's called secretory carcinoma," Deaton explained. "It used to be called juvenile carcinoma because the average age they found it in was 9-year-old children. I was lucky that my cancer was very slow growing and hardly ever metastasized, but they didn't know that in the beginning, so I went through 11 rounds of chemo and three surgeries."
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After learning the news, she had to have a tough conversation with her then-7-year-old son, Wyatt.
Michelle Deaton and her son Wyatt.
"He was kind of in denial. He was really, really sad. He didn't want his mom to die," Deaton recalled.
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He immediately wanted to do whatever it took to support her and began raising money for cancer research through Swim Across America Tampa.
Michelle Deaton's son began swimming as a way to deal with his mother's cancer.
"He started swimming and that was an outlet for him," Deaton added. "He swims 4-5 times a week and when this opportunity was presented to us in 2019 he was like I can do this. I got this. I swim!"
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This year marked Wyatt's fifth open-water swim for the non-profit, and it will forever be a special one for him and his mom.
Michelle Deaton and her son at Swim Across America.
Deaton, who is now healthy and celebrating five years cancer free and her 50th birthday, made the splash and completed the course, right alongside him.
"I was very fortunate. I lost a friend a few weeks ago to stage 4 cancer who was instrumental in walking me through everything I had questions for when I was first diagnosed," Deaton said. "So, I feel like I did this for Megan. She left her 12-year-old daughter and I'm proud of myself."