Wearing a tiara and her 2013 Indiana Miss Amazing Pre-Teen sash, Diana Overman of Fort Wayne knows how to make an entrance. Among the pins covering her sash are: a Riley wagon; a gold angel for pediatric cancer awareness; and a Tinker Bell pin reminding her to “shoot for the stars.”

The 10-year-old fifth-grader at Harris Elementary will be the first to admit her health journey “has never been by the books.” With 46 surgeries under her belt, it’s an understatement to say Diana has dealt with many challenges.

Diana was born with cerebral palsy and began visiting Riley Hospital for Children when she was 6 months old. Her mother, Karen Rodenbeck, took her to see eye doctors because one of Diana’s eyes was turning in. Initial treatment included patches and an outpatient surgery. “I always considered myself a ‘lucky mom’ because we’d make the trip down to Riley to go to the CP (cerebral palsy) and eye clinics and then turn around and go home,” Karen said.

All of that changed five years ago when Diana got sick and required a seven-and-a-half-week stay at Riley after major intestinal surgery. During her extended hospital stay, Diana discovered how much she loved giving back to others. She put signs for the construction workers building the Simon Family Tower at Riley Hospital in her window and gave out “angel bells” (that she and her grandmother attached to ribbons) to bring smiles to other patients and hospital staff.

Diana’s health seemed to improve until a year later when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Diana became the first child at Riley under the age of 10 to receive four radioactive iodine treatments for her cancer.

Despite these challenges Diana and her family are determined to give back. Diana regularly participates in Fort Wayne’s MAJIC 95.1 Riley Radiothon, speaks at Ball State University Dance Marathon and volunteers at Turnstone in Fort Wayne. This year, Diana was crowned a Princess at the national Miss Amazing Pageant, a pageant for girls and women with disabilities.

“I’ve been through a lot, but helping others helps me get through it,” Diana said. “I want to show future generations that it’s okay to be different.”

This past August, after several months in remission, Diana found out her thyroid cancer has recurred. Diana’s doctors at Riley Hospital are collaborating with doctors at Lutheran Children’s Hospital in Fort Wayne to ensure she receives the best care. 

Diana will continue to face her battle with poise of a princess well beyond her 10 years of age. “This has been Diana’s rollercoaster journey,” Karen said. “I’ve learned never to give up hope.”

 

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