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Breast cancer survivor raising money for YMCA

The YMCA of Southern Maine was there for Mia Dyson and her kids while she battled cancer. Now, she's cancer free and swimming hard to raise money for the Y.

PORTLAND, Maine — You never know how far your body can take you until your life is on the line.

"I was recently divorced, so my first thought was, who's going to mind the store?" says Mia Dyson. "I was really worried about the emotional impact on my kids."

When Dyson was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was a mother of four -- her youngest child was just five years old.

"I was suddenly really unable to work and could only gradually pick up hours," says Dyson.

Stressful thoughts were swimming through Dyson's mind. What about the kids? How could she afford child care? How would she be able to pay for sports and extracurricular activities? All those questions were answered at the place she and her family used to stay fit and have fun.

"I went to the Y pretty quickly and said, 'I don't want to lose our memberships, but I can't keep paying the fees,'" says Dyson. "They were incredibly understanding."

Instead of turning them away, the Y embraced Dyson's family, providing free and discounted services for her kids so Dyson could focus on her recovery. The kids swam, did martial arts and smiled through a very tough time in their lives.

Now a grown adult, Tess Gallagher, Mia's daughter, understands just how much the Y helped her and her mother.

"It gave me and my siblings a sense of that foundation that we still had," says Gallagher. "We still had this place to go back to that we felt totally welcomed and that we had grown up at, so amidst all the change and the chaos, there was that constant."

Dyson is now cancer free, and is using her strong body to pay it forward. She's swimming in the Peaks to Portland for the first time this year.

"I'm nervous but excited to be doing the swim and happy I raised the money for it," says Dyson.

She's staying strong and swimming hard so other moms can feel the love she felt from the Y community.

If you would like to donate to someone swimming the Peaks to Portland, visit the Y's fundraising site: http://www.ymcaofsouthernmaine.org/swim