Tammy Mumme, founder of Mirror Image Salon in Mount Pleasant, poses for a portrait at her salon on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Tammy is the mother of Dillyn, an aerospace engineering student at Iowa State University, NASA intern, and cancer survivor, who is one of many who benefit from the UI Dance Marathon program. Tammy along with husband, Corey, began refurbishment of the building in October, and plan on being open for business shortly. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Space for Dance Marathon veteran


Dance Marathon kid lands an internship with NASA and celebrates being cancer-free for five years.

By Marissa Payne


Dillyn Mumme shoots for the Moon and inspires others to do the same.

Mumme, who has been involved in Dance Marathon since 2009 after being diagnosed with leukemia, is living out his dreams this summer with an internship with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Until his return in mid-August, Mumme said, he has opportunities to sit in mission control and other areas of the center, making the most of the chance to fulfill his ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut.

The 22-year-old Iowa State University aerospace-engineering student also celebrated being cancer-free for five years in May.

Despite the triumphs this year has brought so far, he said it has also been one of the largest roller-coaster years. The five-year cancer-free milestone happened to be the same day the Mummes buried his grandfather, who died after battling Alzheimer’s and lung cancer.

While his experience with cancer was not one he enjoyed, Mumme said, he became the person he is today because of his diagnosis, and he learned to not take anything for granted and live life to the fullest.

“My journey … has kind of showed me that you need to be there for everyone as long as you can, because you never know who’s going to be gone the next day,” he said. “… Family means a lot to me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”

Although he is a Cyclone, his mother, Tammy Mumme, said her son was a Hawkeye at heart when he enrolled at ISU, even bringing Hawkeye gear with him to decorate his dorm room. He begrudgingly enrolled at the Ames institution because it offered his academic program of choice.

And when it comes to the two university’s Dance Marathons? University of Iowa’s organization tops ISU’s, she said.

Dillyn Mumme said he returned to Iowa City after reaching the five-year milestone to celebrate with his Dance Marathon family.

“It’s not a student organization to me, it’s a family,” he said. “What they’re able to do is absolutely amazing, and I’m just humbled to be a part of it. It’s one of the few great opportunities to share my story and hope to inspire others to not only follow their dreams but help out others when possible.”

The Mummes said he has been that inspirational force, pushing them to pursue their dreams. Since October, Tammy Mumme has worked on opening her own business — Mirror Image Salon & Spa, 114 N. Main St. — in her hometown of Mount Pleasant.

“It’s just kind of amazing that here we are in small-town Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and a kid goes through cancer, and he survives, and now he’s living his dream,” she said.

Jayde Mumme, Dillyn Mumme’s sister, is studying fashion marketing and management at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. She said she likely would not have pursued her passion if not for her brother.

“He was the one that told me to go to Chicago and go to school for fashion, because I didn’t think that I could turn that into a job and make money from that,” she said. “He went to school for what he’s always wanted to go for … You want to get a job that you want to go to every day.”

When Dillyn Mumme travels to outer space, Tammy Mumme said, Dance Marathon and his experiences in Iowa City will follow him once he lands among the stars.

“He had said that when he becomes an astronaut that the three letters of FTK [For the Kids] will be on his flight suit along with the leukemia ribbon …” she said.

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