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After Beating Cancer, Wild Fan Fulfills Road Dream

Kris Detviler and Carlee Tyler travel to Winnipeg to see Wild play and fulfill a promise for survival

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Nothing helps get something done faster or better than a little motivation. 

For Kris Detviler, her incentive was -- quite literally -- a life or death proposition. But even under the most dire of circumstances, a little extra enticement never hurt.

Detviler, a nurse by trade, has experienced more pain and heartache over the course of the past decade than most do in a lifetime. Yet through it all, she continued to fight, earning herself a lifelong friend along the way, a pal that helped her achieve a dream of hers in the process.


A romance steeped in hockey

Detviler's love for hockey began as a kid, when she would follow her hockey-playing older brother, Mike, around the rinks in which he played. She was always in the stands when her brother player for Simley High School, cheering on the Spartans, as doting and loyal as a sibling can be.

She was interested in the Wild when it was announced the state was getting an NHL franchise in 1997, but it wasn't until she met her boyfriend, Jay, that her passion for the Wild was born.

It was love at first sight.

Shortly after meeting, Jay brought Kris to his hockey "museum" in his basement, where the walls are loaded with memorabilia from the North Stars days, including the four seats from Met Center, where he had season tickets. 

It was a passion that had scared some women in the past. But Detviler was hooked. 

"The first thing I said when I walked into the room was, 'This is the coolest thing I have ever seen,'" Detviler said. "He said, 'Seriously? A lot of girls are really weirded out by it.' But if you saw the basement I grew up in, it was all sports. My dad was all sports. So to me, that was cool."

The two of them immediately went about making new hockey memories together.

Kris and Jay, two of the team's earliest season ticket holders, have pictures from inside Xcel Energy Center before there were even seats.

"We were touring it long before the team was ever there," Detviler said. "That first year, with him, we were going to lots of games. He was going to let one of his tickets go, so I bought it, and I had a season ticket for seven seasons."


A bump in the road

With their relationship budding, things were going along smoothly until a bombshell of a diagnosis on New Year's Eve in 2006.

Detviler has multiple sclerosis. 

Her father, Ken, and mother, Geni, worked in catering. Kris said she remembered that they had a job that day, so when the call with the diagnosis came, she didn't want to tell them. 

Detviler had tickets to the Wild game that day, so she went to the game and waited to share her news with her family until after.

"My dad, the biggest softie ever on the planet ... I told him that I had it and he just bawled, right there in front of me," Detviler said.

The diagnosis meant that life was going to become more difficult. Her dad was making plans to do everything he could to help, buying her a computer to keep her close on days she wasn't feeling great. He prepared Geni for a day in the future when Kris might have to move back in with them.

After she was diagnosed, Detviler decided it was time to leave the Wild season ticket holder family and begin to do things that might be more difficult as she got older; she traveled more and spent time with her niece and nephews, bringing them to the Wisconsin Dells. 

"[I did] everything I could do with the kids because I still could," Detviler said.

One year, she asked her dad if she could accompany him along with several others to Florida for a trip to take in spring training. 

"He said, 'Fine, you can go, but there's a lot of baseball,'" Detviler said. "I told him, 'That's okay, I like it more than my brother does.' So I went to spring training and had a ball."


Another bombshell

Later that same year, Ken was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. It was a devastating blow for Detviler and her three siblings, a tight-knit family. It was especially hard for Kris, her dad's caretaker and fellow super fan. Her dad was her best friend.

Ken spent some time in the hospital and what had become an annual trek to Florida for spring training was in question. But because Detviler was a nurse, the doctors made a special exception. 

It ended up being the last trip she would take with her father. 

In November of that year, Ken went to the doctor, where he was told he had two years to live.

He died five weeks later, a couple weeks shy of his 72nd birthday.

"He came home from work and died on the kitchen floor, right there in front of us," Detviler said. "Massive coronary, right there. Done. He had worked 12 hours the night before."

It's a defining moment in her 43 years on the planet, something that hasn't gotten easier to shoulder in the three years since it happened.

"I was more like my dad than anyone," Detviler said. "I always had a sports page under my arm, and my sister would always say, 'Just like dad.' A chip off the ol' block."


'For the heck of it'

With her heart aching from the loss of her dad, Kris hoped to help fill the void by starting a family of her own. While prepping to begin the process, she went to the doctor for some routine tests. 

The results were anything but routine. 

Detviler had leukemia. 

Her hopes for kids dashed, at least for a time, Kris likely would have died had she and Jay not been trying for a family, she said. Without the results of a randomly assigned hemoglobin test, it's possible she never would have known she was sick until it was too late.

"The doctor just said, 'We'll add that test for the heck of it,'" Detviler said, shaking her head. "For the heck of it ... without that test, I'd be dead."

The results of the test that Friday indicated something serious was wrong. On Monday, she was sent to the University of Minnesota for further testing. She spent the next month at the facility getting daily chemotherapy.

"They started oral chemo an hour after I got there," Detviler said. "I shouldn't have survived."

Told she would be unable to work for a year as she underwent the process of recovery, Detviler had to move out of the townhome she had purchased and move into the basement of her parents' home.

It was a tough transition.

"I lost my house, my hair and my job," she said. "You can't be a nurse for a year, so you have to learn to be something else. You have to be a good volunteer. I started volunteering at the church all the time. I started volunteering at the Lions Club, the MS Society. You have to be a good aunt, a good daughter. You have to do something else."


A friendship made

In her nearly two decades as a nurse, Detviler had become quite the favorite in the hospital. Her bubbly personality and chatty nature makes her a natural at keeping her patients at ease. 

One of the nurses she formed a friendship with was Carlee Tyler. 

The two didn't spend every waking hour together, but had one passion in common: Wild hockey. 

They met during the 2004 NHL All-Star Game in St. Paul. It was that weekend and their continued chats about their favorite team that helped burnish a friendship that still lasts today, growing stronger through hardships.

After watching her friend work through the death of her father and overcome a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and the beginnings of a fight against cancer, Tyler and her husband, Tom, were ready to provide Detviler with a bit of incentive. 

It came on the night of Carlee and Tom's wedding in the fall of 2015. 

Tom, a Winnipeg native and big Jets fan, called Kris on stage. Horrified, without her hair and wearing a beanie, Kris obliged. 

Next came the challenge: Beat cancer, and they would bring Kris north of the border for a Wild-Jets game.

"She always gives everything to others," Tyler said. "I don't think you will find a kinder person and bigger sports fan in Minnesota than Kris. [We wanted to] give her something back."

Surprised, Detviler didn't think much of it at the time.

"I didn't think they'd keep their promise," Detviler said. "I mean, it's their wedding night. They were drinking. They brought me up in front of everybody, in front of all these Canadians. I thought I looked ridiculous."


A promise, kept

After battling for a year, Detviler got her first bit of really good news: The leukemia that had ravaged her body a year earlier was in remission. 

Then one day, out of the blue, Kris received a text message on her phone.

Not one to back away from a promise, Tom and Carlee told her she was headed north of the border for a game at MTS Centre against the Jets. 

But this wasn't a trip where the pair would be cramped into the upper bowl far away from the action. Tyler scored her, Tom and Kris seats on the glass behind one of the goals. 

"She is very kind-hearted, generous and always puts everyone else first," Tyler said. "My husband picked up on that right away."

More than a year after the promise was made, it was kept, when the Wild traveled to Winnipeg on March 19. 

"If I ever had a dream, like a bucket list beyond bucket list, that would have been it," Detviler said. "I can't even tell you. It was the best time ever."

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