Melanie Biccum has lived pretty much every high and low one can experience when fighting cancer. But even she didn't expect the rollercoaster of emotions she did on Saturday when she was a very special guest of Wild defenseman Matt Dumba's for the team's Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at Xcel Energy Center.
Biccum and her husband Brian have been important in Dumba's life for nearly as long as he can remember. The Biccums have been close family friends of Dumba's parents Charlie and Treena.
So close are the families that it was Mel and Brian who celebrated with the Dumbas the day Matt signed his five-year, $30 million contract with the Wild two summers ago. Those photos of Matt, his brother and his dad celebrating joyously on the golf course? It was Brian who was snapping the pictures. When Matt learned of the life-changing contract, he called Treena and Mel and told them to meet the guys at the course to celebrate.
They made it another hole or two before heading back to the clubhouse where the party lasted well into the night.
So when Mel was diagnosed with lymphoma nearly 10 months ago, it once again brought the cancer fight close to home for the Dumbas. But Mel's diagnosis hit especially hard.
"She's a special lady," Matt said. "She's like family to us."
Knowing that, Dumba wanted to do something special for her. So he began his plan to personally honor her before Saturday's game weeks ago, but he wanted it to be a surprise.
Video: Hockey Fights Cancer: Dumba surprises family friend
"I just want to show her that our family is there for her and there's people there for her," Matt said. "There have been tough times but she's been able to make through to the other side of things."
The backstory became a trip from Kelowna, British Columbia, where the Biccums currently live, to the Twin Cities to celebrate a couple of milestone birthdays. Both Treena and Scott have or will celebrate 50th birthdays in 2019.
The Biccums would come down for a game and then spend the team's off day Sunday together celebrating the big days.
"That was the smoke in the mirrors," Brian said. "She had no idea. I knew it was Hockey Fights Cancer, so I was trying to kind of shelter her from it a little bit. We were listening to the NHL app and I was having to mute commercials because we knew we were coming and all they were talking about was Hockey Fights Cancer night and we were trying to keep it a secret."
The Biccums arrived in the Twin Cities on Friday night and she had no idea for the day she was in store for. It began earlier in the day Saturday when Charlie and Treena brought Mel and Brian to Dumba's Minneapolis condo.
"I told her I needed to see Matt before the game," Treena said.
Once they arrived, Dumba, dressed in his game-day suit, revealed to Mel the inside of his jacket. One one side, embroidered were the words, 'I fight for.' On the other, it said, 'Melanie Biccum.'
She broke down.
"Having cancer is really hard," Mel said. "It's kind of new for me to realize that I don't have to fight s hard anymore. I've got so many people supporting me and Matt showed me his suit ... and my name was in it. I was like oh my God. I melted right there."
But the suit was only the beginning.
Mel knew she was coming to the game, but she didn't know that she was meeting Matt again outside the Wild dressing room after warmups and she didn't know that Matt would be presenting her with a one-of-a-kind Hockey Fights Cancer jersey, complete with his number and her name on the back.
He was dedicating the game to her, he told her.
The best part is, Biccum had no idea any of this was happening until it actually happened.
"I was amazed just being here," Mel said. "I still can't even believe it. I don't even know if I'm awake right now. Just a big surprise, huge."
"To see her smiling there with my parents ... it was definitely tugging on a couple of my heartstrings," Matt said. "There were definitely a couple of tears. She's an inspiration to me and to my family."
As it turned out, Biccum's trip to Minnesota became a celebration afterall. The chemotherapy she was taking has worked, as she has taken large steps forward in her goal of one day beating cancer for good.
It's still too early to say remission, but from where she was at the end of last January, it's major progress.
"I'm lucky," she said. "There's leaps and bounds progress in treating cancer, especially lymphoma. It can hit any age, even little kids, but not everybody comes out of it at the end like I did."
Even during her darkest days following her diagnosis, Mel tried to keep as upbeat and positive an attitude as possible. When the news came back in September that she was making progress, it didn't catch her too much by surprise because she had tried to put herself in a mental place to expect that.
"That's the fight. When I heard the news, I was like, 'oh I knew that,'" Mel said. "I didn't really, but it took a long time to sink in because your life is consumed by treatment. You have a routine and it's all around cancer and the cancer center."
It was during that routine that Matt decided he wanted to try and do something to bring a day of joy to Mel's life.
Turns out, he did a lot more than that. He gave her a memory she will always remember and a reminder that she has enough friendship, support and love to get her through anything the future may hold.
"When you have cancer, it's different than knowing someone who has cancer," Mel said. "You have a different perspective, of course. But now I know how important it is to give back to other people that have cancer and to support them. To see all those people out there, it's just so powerful.
"Without good people like the Dumbas, you can't do it," Mel said. "You need people to support people to support, you really need it. You don't have to ask, it's just there like it is today. It's just there ... I'm so shocked, and so blessed."