PENTICTON, B.C. : SEPTEMBER 05, 2013 - Edmonton Oiler prospect #88 Brandon Davidson gets past #71 Kyle Platzer, September 5th, during practice with the other prospects at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton. (Ward Perrin/PNG) (Please see story by SPORTS/The Province SPORTS/Vancouver Sun SPORTS/Calgary Herald SPORTS/Edmonton Journal) 00023446B ORG XMIT: 00020997A
Photograph by: (Ward Perrin/PNG) , Canada.com
For the most part, Brandon Davidson doesn’t have time to ponder ‘what ifs.’ Not with so much living to do.
Not only is he about to head into another season with the Edmonton Oilers, he’s determined to play an even more prominent role with the Oklahoma City Barons defence. Physically, he’s bigger and stronger than he was at this time last year. Mentally, he’s now equipped with the kind of perspective that follows a fight with an insidious disease.
Davidson, 22, was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, requiring surgery and a debilitating round of chemotherapy.
“It’s definitely changed everything. It changed my attitude. It’s changed my outlook on life. It’s definitely made me stronger,” he said. “You know the old saying? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s what it was.
“It’s definitely motivated me to be all that I can be because you do only have so much time. So I’m really excited, really looking forward to this year.”
It was November of last year that Davidson announced he would be putting his first pro season on hold while he underwent treatment. At least he had hoped it would only be a temporary leave.
He underwent a 21-day cycle of chemotherapy, requiring 13 injections — eight hours each — to try to ensure the last of the cells were killed. He lost his hair, he lost strength but he didn’t lose hope — even on his worst days — and by January, he was back on his skates, returning to the Barons on Feb. 8.
He’ll be in the lineup again on Saturday when the Oilers rookies take on the Winnipeg Jets in the Young Stars tournament in Penticton.
“I was hit and miss. Some days I was fine, some days I’d be flat on my back. My body handled it better than most, but there were definitely ups and downs. The doctors said I had a good run with it because I was in such good health before I was diagnosed.
“I couldn’t imagine what it was like for the people in there doing it for a year and a half. It takes everything from you.”
His parents flew to Oklahoma City, where he was treated, and his teammates shaved their heads to show their support.
By season’s end, Davidson, a sixth-round pick in 2010 and former captain of the Regina Pats, was the AHL’s recipient of the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award, which is handed out annually to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, determination and dedication to the game.
“When I was sick, I was wondering how things were going to end up. Was I going to get another chance to come back and play? The Oilers did a tremendous job taking care of me medically, physically, everything, then the guys starting showing up at the hospital. They kept my spirits up. If I was down, I’d just go to the rink to see them. They didn’t treat me any differently.
“But it was hard to get back. I trained so hard with Kevin Hanlon in Oklahoma City — he got me to where I needed to be — but it was the hardest I’ve ever pushed my body. I earned it.
“Physically, I am bigger and stronger now than I was before last year. I just feel like my position called for me to be bigger and I just needed to get my strength back up, especially after losing so much from the therapy (chemo).”
Still, there are times when even he can’t keep thoughts of cancer at bay — especially when he finds tufts of hair.
After camp, Davidson will have another of his regular checkups but is certain this one, like the last, will be clean. He is checked every three months for the next two years then once a year for five.
“It crosses my mind. Sometimes, I’ll comb my hair and I get hair coming out, so I think, ‘Is it going to be back?’ It’s a high recurring cancer, but we did the therapy. Hopefully, that kicked it in the butt.
“I just try not to think about it.”
Davidson speaks easily about his journey because he wants to spread the word that it’s important to get checked and that the disease can be controlled with early detection. He’ll be featured in a public service announcement later this month, and he has donated items for an auction that will be held in his hometown of Taber, Alta., in conjunction with the annual Terry Fox run.
“Like I tell people, I’m not sick now. I’m not dying anymore. I’m just very anxious to get back out there.”
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