Cancer survivor reaching for the stars – Empty Nest, by Curt Swarm


He wants to be an astronaut or a flight director, the person who leads the team at Mission Control and ensures that the crew returns safely. He wants to be in the control room when humans return to the moon in 2024. He wants, “To understand and protect our home planet, to explore the universe and search for life, to inspire the next generation of explorers as only NASA can.”

Cancer free x 3!  Mother, Tammy Mumme, son, Dillyn, and grandmother, Linda Pohren, all battled and beat the odds against cancer.

Heady dreams for a 24-year old? Nope. You see, Dillyn Mumme (pronounced mummy), beat the odds against leukemia when he was in the eighth grade at Mt. Pleasant Middle School. He missed over 100 days that second semester and battled the disease, with the support of his family, throughout high school. He still finished in the upper 15% of his class, and went on to earn a degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University. He even co-op work-studied for Winegard in Burlington, Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids and the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston during that time. Dillyn is a fighter and hard worker.
He comes by it naturally. No sooner had Dillyn been declared cancer free, but his mother and grandmother were diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment at the same time. They too are now cancer free. Unfortunately, his grandfather wasn’t, succumbing to lung cancer. In Dillyn’s words, “I guess it’s time for cancer to understand that it can’t break this family!”
Would Dillyn change his journey if he could? “Not on your life. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing. Overcoming this disease, and seeing my mom, grandmother and grandfather go through the same thing, and meeting the people I have, and the doctors, and being involved in the dance marathons, and the public speaking, and having the support of my family, have made me such a strong person, that I know I should never, ever limit myself.”
It’s also how he met his wife, Stephanie. It was at a sand volleyball tournament. Stephanie spiked the ball into Dillyn’s face, chipping a tooth. You could say she left a permanent impression! They have just returned from their honeymoon in Europe. Stephanie is a Biomedical Engineer working for a contractor of Johnson Space Center. Dillyn works at the Johnson Space Center for the Directorate leading the charge in human exploration.
Dillyn wants to be a member of the team that makes human exploration go farther than it’s ever gone before. “It is our duty to learn and explore,” he says, and quotes Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, “Mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”
“At some point we will need to leave earth,” says Dillyn, not mincing words. “We know that the sun will eventually collapse, where solar flares and radiation will destroy the earth. It’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ that an asteroid will strike the earth, like what happened to the dinosaurs. We have a finite amount of resources. There is pollution, war, disease, pestilence, natural disaster, global warming—all problems plaguing the earth. We may have to leave and go somewhere else. However, it is all something that the earth and humanity as a whole can unite behind to help save the world—get us all working together instead of against each other. I want to be part of that team that helps solve these problems.” Quoting Neil Armstrong, Dillyn says, “I believe every human has a finite amount of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.”
With minds like Dillyn’s, being the cancer survivor he is, the world has a fighting chance.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or visit his website at

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