Georgia boy who beat cancer now swims to help other children

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The pool is in 12-year old Daniel Jackson's blood.  He feels like he belongs here, like this is who he is.

"All my family swims,” says Jackson. “It's kind of a big legacy to look up to."

The Ridgeview Charter Middle School 7th grader started swimming when he was 5, the same year he beat cancer.

"It was acute lymphoblastic leukemia," says Daniel’s mother Ilsa Jackson.

"I'm just glad I got to have my voice told,” says Daniel. “And my story told."

Because Daniel's story took him and his family to some hard places.

"It was a 3-and a half year journey that we had,” says Daniel’s mother.  “We call it a journey."

The day after his first birthday, Ilsa Jackson took her youngest child for his 1-year-old checkup.

A blood test showed something troubling.

So they ran more tests. Later that afternoon, the doctor called.

“He said, 'Daniel's got cancer. You need to check him in. AFLAC (Cancer Center) is waiting for him. We've got some of the best oncologists around. They're going to take care of him,’” remembers Ilsa Jackson.

Daniel was too young to remember the chemotherapy, the ports doctors put in to deliver the cocktail of intense medications, or the time Santa had to come find him in the hospital.

But he carries the scars as his reminder.

"They're there because they had to take our some ports, one here and one here,” Daniel says, pointing at both sides of his chest.

"The day they took his port out, he was a little over 5-years old,” says Ilsa Jackson. “And he came home and said, "Daddy, Daddy, my cancer is gone.  They took it out."  So, to him, that port signified cancer. The port being gone signified, I'm done with it."

Now, years later, Daniel is still fighting childhood cancer, only this time in the pool.

Training with Buckhead Aquatics, he's finally old enough to participate in Swim Across America Atlanta, a relay to raise research money for the AFLAC Cancer Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.  Daniel is part of the Riverwood team.

"Knowing his story, it's just amazing that he has been able to push through what he has gone through,” says his team captain Hannah Sherrill.  “And that, now, he, you just wouldn't even know. He's going through and swimming like any other kids and just doing a phenomenal job."

On Saturday, September 17, 2016 Daniel will swim a half-mile -- by himself – on open water across Lake Lanier, his part of a two-mile relay with his big brothers.

"I'm a little nervous and excited, it's my first time," he says.

But Daniel Jackson will swim his heart out for all of the other kids, just like him.

"It makes me just think about just how lucky I am to still be alive,” he says. “I hope I feel amazing and just proud to be doing that."

Since 2013, Swim Across America Atlanta has raised more than $530,000 for the AFLAC Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and about $100,000 for Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.  To learn more about this year’s fundraiser, visit: