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Mount Pleasant senior, former Dance Marathon kid hits the mat after leukemia battle

BY STACEY MURRAY | JANUARY 21, 2013 6:30 AM

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Most wrestlers strive to keep the winter weight from complicating their seasons in an emotionally and physically demanding sport, but Dillyn Mumme, a Mount Pleasant, Iowa, senior, struggles to keep 132 pounds on his 5- 7 frame while recovering from leukemia.

“When you work as hard as he does, [weight] just falls off,” coach Roger Pross said. “It’s hard to keep weight on, and that poses a problem. He was a good wrestler before he got sick, and having to come back is taxing.”

While the mental aspect of wrestling challenges others, Dillyn uses his medical history to his advantage.

“You have to put your time and effort into anything,” he said. “You can’t do everything. Just like when I was going through treatment, I had to put my mind on schoolwork because there was no way I could’ve done everything.”

His perseverance has inspired those close to him — especially his coach and mother with his lengthy treatment. He has used his story as basis as a motivational speaker for the University of Iowa’s Dance Marathon.

His diagnosis came after experiencing pain in his sternum. His mother made an appointment with a local chiropractor but then decided to see a family practice doctor when a tiny red spot developed on his chest.

The doctors referred the Mummes to another hospital following a blood test in order to verify the results. A typical person’s platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 200,000 platelets, and anything below 100,000 platelets puts a person at a risk for bleeding to death.

Dillyn’s test revealed his platelet count sat at a dangerous 34,000, and doctors were unsure if it was rising or dropping.

With instructions to watch his count closely, Dillyn retired from wrestling for a week — but it took roughly four years until Mumme made another appearance on the mat.

Within 24 hours of the initial blood test, Mumme’s platelet count dropped to 19,000.

“I was in entry-level biology, and I knew what the different cells were,” Mumme, 17, said. “I heard 100,000 platelets is at-risk — I normally don’t get scared — I started to get concerned.”

One week after the initial chest pain, doctors diagnosed Mumme with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The next few years held adversities for the Mumme family, including a bone-marrow biopsy — an operation removing tissue from inside his bone — amid chemotherapy treatments administered through a port in Dillyn’s chest.

The treatments created nightmares for the Mummes.

Following a platelet transfusion, Dillyn bled for an hour as nurses struggled to keep pressure against a wound while it clotted.

“I was extremely scared,” mother Tammy Mumme said. “It was overwhelming not knowing if the bleeding was going to stop or what would happen next or if he would be with us — lots of prayers.”

While the physicality of wrestling and the hygienic concerns of wrestling mats kept Dillyn away, he made a return his senior year for his first match as a high-school wrestler.

His doctors told him he wouldn’t be allowed to dip below 132 pounds in order to prevent the body from going into shock. Despite the regulations put on by his doctors, he awaited his return to the mat.

“Once I got started back into wrestling, I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I went from running a six-minute mile to eight minutes, so that put me down on sports a little bit, but I was lucky to stay active in the long run.”

The leukemia forced Dillyn to adapt, but his work ethic enables him to continue wrestling.

“He’s always at practice and comes in every morning for the extra workout,” Pross said. “He’s one of the better kids to work with. He has the drive to succeed and get better.”

He currently works toward a successful wrestling season — something his coach is confident in.

“I feel it has positively affected my own life because I see he is strong enough and worked enough to put himself in a position to compete,” Pross said. “I have pretty good trust when he goes out onto the mat.”


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