Beyond the pretty face, sparkly crown and glitzy gown, Miss Colorado Diana Dreman is a daughter, cancer advocate and caregiver. Just two years ago, these words of pageants and cancer weren’t used to describe her. Diana was just a daughter and University of Colorado Boulder student.
Life changed quickly in the summer of 2010 when her mother, Becky Dreman, found a large lump on her lower back. She was diagnosed with a hematoma and told to return to her doctor’s office in a couple of months, but the pain began to take over her life.
“I had reached the point where I couldn’t walk, and I had no idea what was wrong with me,” says Becky. “That’s when I checked myself into the hospital.”
Within a week of arriving at Rose Medical Center, Becky had been transferred to the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s clinical partner the University of Colorado Hospital, undergone a seven-hour surgery to remove the tumor on her back and been diagnosed with stage IV melanoma.
Thirty miles away, Diana was starting her senior year of college when the phone rang. Her father was calling to deliver the news. In an instant, Diana found herself driving home.
“The breath just gets knocked out of you when you find out someone you love has cancer,” says Diana.
At first, the family door, which had always been open for family and friends, was suddenly closed. Becky did not want people stopping by and feeling sorry for her.
“I remember my mom saying, we’re going to keep this in the family,” says Diana. “I don’t want this to become our life.”
In 1974, Becky, known to many as Rebecca Ann King, was crowned Miss America. As a wave maker, Becky urged the pageant to award points to contestants in the interview portion and promoted the pageant’s scholarships.
Though many would assume the daughters of a former Miss America would grow-up competing in pageants, Becky’s daughters never did.
“I never pressured my girls into doing pageants, but my husband and I always told them we’d support whatever decisions they made,” says Becky.
Last year prior to her mother’s diagnosis, Diana made the decision to compete in the Miss Colorado pageant. She finished in the top five.
“I decided to be a part of Miss America because I knew the platform it could be,” says Diana. “I felt blessed for everything I had been given and I wanted to empower young girls to strive for their dreams.”
When it came time to compete again and finish school, Diana wasn’t sure she could turn her attention away from her mom. Becky had other plans.
“When I found out I had cancer I told Diana the best you can do for me is graduate from college,” Becky says. “You can’t let this take your life.”
In May, Diana graduated from CU Boulder and went on to compete again in the Miss Colorado pageant. This time she made history. Diana was crowned Miss Colorado and was the first daughter of a Miss America to win a state title.
“Winning was a ‘we did it’ moment for all of us; it was a breath of fresh air,” says Diana. “For that moment it wasn’t about my mom’s cancer, it was about me winning and honoring her legacy.”
In preparation for this January’s Miss America pageant, Diana deferred her position at a local accounting firm. Though her schedule is full of mock interviews, dance lessons and community events, she spends half her time caring for her mom.
Whether it’s fixing meals, driving to doctors’ appointments or helping her mom out of bed, Diana has endured the “roller coaster” of the past year, but it wasn’t always easy.
“You think you have so much control, but I’ve had to realize so much is out of my control,” says Diana. “It’s really hard seeing her in the hard times but then you realize you have to laugh when you recognize that laughs are needed.”
“That’s what gets you through,” she says.
After undergoing chemotherapy, Becky was able to enroll in a clinical trial at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in January. In the six months she has been on the trial her tumors have shrunk more than 50 percent.
“The clinical trial has been a miracle,” says Diana. “I know it’s not a cure but it really feels like one.”
With both the success of the clinical trial and Diana being crowned Miss Colorado, Becky is regaining a sense of normalcy.
While many young women may go to their mothers and ask for cooking, dating or financial advice, Diana came to her mom with a surprising question: “will you help me prepare for Miss America?”
“She told me I was the one with the most qualifications to help her,” says Becky. “Even though she knows I am in a difficult situation, she asked for my help and I want to be there for her.”
Becky knows that Miss America “doesn’t fit a mold” so she’s encouraging her daughter to be herself and represent what she cares about.
That just so happens to be cancer.
As part of her platform as Miss Colorado, Diana is working with the American Cancer Society to keep teenagers from using tanning beds and thinking of ways to help other college student whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer.
“I believe that time is the most important gift you can give to people, and I want to keep speaking about cancer and bringing in money to support research,” says Diana.
“The way my mom lives every day with strength and dedication is the perfect example of the way I should live my life.”