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Dubnyk Family Sees Happy Ending to Cancer Story

Barb Dubnyk, mother of Wild goaltender Devan, is a breast cancer survivor

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Dubnyk Family Sees Happy Ending

Dubnyk Family Sees Happy Ending

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk opens up about his mother Barb, who is a breast cancer survivor, and the importance of Hockey Fights Cancer

  • 04:35 •

Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was 15 years old when his mom, Barb, was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The youngest of three children, Dubnyk remembers the fear he felt when told about his mother's diagnosis. Because he was the youngest, his parents and older siblings did their best to help shield him from some of the realities of the disease.

"They tried to keep as many of the details from me, keep me sheltered from it," he said. "It was very scary for me when I was told what was going on and what she had."

At 15, cancer meant one thing to him.

"To me, it meant that she was gone," Dubnyk said. "I didn't know that people survived cancer. It seems strange to be that naive when you're 15, but we never faced any of that sort of thing in our family before."

Thankfully, Barb's diagnosis did not end sadly, as she has been cancer free for more than a decade now. Unlike so many others, the story of how cancer has touched the Dubnyks has a happy ending. 

But that doesn't mean there wasn't a struggle.

After having a grim outlook on his mom's prognosis, his parents and siblings sat Devan down and explained that cancer wasn't necessarily the death sentence he thought it was. 

"Kind of how I think about things in life in general, I just immediately switched to the optimism," Dubnyk said. "They probably understood how scary it was more than I did. I went from thinking that she was going to die for sure, to when they told me that people beat cancer, that she was going to beat it for sure."

There were bumps along the way. But even as Barb battled the cancer inside of her, she never let it affect her job as mom. 

Devan remembers his mom going to the far end of their home so that nobody else would hear Barb getting sick. She was still there at hockey games, making dinners and being her normal self.

"All she was concerned about was being mom and not wanting us to see her be sick," Dubnyk said. "It's just is crazy to me that somebody can be going through that and the only thing she was worried about was us.

"If I can give half of that to my kids, then they'll be doing okay."


Tightly knit

Devan's family moved all over Canada as a kid, a lifestyle that made the family a close one.

"Before all of this happened, we were very close," Dubnyk said. "That helped us prepare to get through the battle. And it brought us even closer than we were before."

During the toughest of times, the family relied upon each other to get through it. It's a bond the group still carries with them.


Even when she was sick, Barb did her best to keep the family's hectic lifestyle as normal as possible. 

"It's amazing the things she did," Dubnyk said. "She was always making dinners, looking after us and trying to keep things as normal as possible for us. For me, it made it so much easier to forget about what was going on."

Devan said it's a lesson -- and a sacrifice -- he has not forgotten, and never will.

"For someone to be in a situation that is that difficult and that tough, to only care about the people around them, that's something that I'll take with me the rest of my life."

The hockey family

The Dubnyks are not the only Wild family to have dealt with cancer. 

Zach Parise lost his father, J.P., to lung cancer in January of 2015.

Zac Dalpe's mom, Lisa, passed away last fall from kidney cancer.

Marco Scandella's dad, Francesco, was lost to prostate cancer last December.

Cancer also took the life of Bruce Boudreau's father, Norman.

Each time, it reminded Dubnyk of his own family's experience and how blessed he is that his mom's story had a different conclusion.

"It just reminds me how lucky we are and how thankful I am that she is okay," Dubnyk said. "It's a terrible disease, and it doesn't always work that way. It could have very well been that way for us and I can't even begin to think what people have to go through when it does go that way."

And like the cancer diagnosis brought he and his family closer, all hockey players know there is always a support system in the dressing room as well.

"You're just there for them. If they want to talk about it, you can talk about it. And that goes for anybody in the hockey community," Dubnyk said. "That support, I had my close family. But when you're here playing hockey, you're all family, as well. That support is there and that's all you can do."


A happy ending

Devan still remembers the day his mom went into remission. It was a giant weight lifted off his and his family's shoulders, although he said he never saw it ending any differently.

"I just always told her that I needed her around," Dubnyk said. "So I never thought for one second that it was going to go any other way. Maybe that was a little bit foolish of me, but to have that day come, that's what actually happened, that's exciting." 

Still, no matter where he goes, Dubnyk said he thinks of his mom every day, even if it's just a glance at the back of his goalie mask, which bears a pink ribbon in honor of Barb's fight.

"I'm reminded of it every day sometime, with stories, hearing good stories or sad stories," Dubnyk said. "It's everywhere and it affects everybody. And I'm reminded every day of how lucky I am to have it turn out the way it did for us."

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