Last November, Brandon Davidson received news that no young man wants to hear. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The former Regina Pat, and 2010 sixth round pick of the Oilers was devastated, but he didn’t let it defeat him. Nine months later Davidson is feeling great, and I spoke with him about his ordeal, and how it has changed him.
Davidson joined Brownlee and I on my radio show yesterday to talk about the past nine months, and his plans for the future.
Jason Gregor: Quickly take us through when you first found out you had testicular cancer; and what was your reaction?
Brandon Davidson: It was tough to take at the time and very emotional and kind of an unsettling feeling going into the whole process. I was diagnosed on October 30th and shortly after November 1st we went right on the operation table and we had to remove the testicle. From there on out I basically had to recover and to do about a month and a half of chemo therapy, and that went very well.
Basically I’m all good now. It took a long time to get the strength and the energy back; it really takes it out of you. But I was happy to come back and play a little hockey at the end of the season.
Gregor: How did you find out you had testicular cancer?
Davidson: I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but we just did a regular checkup with the team that we do at the beginning of the season. We found a lump and that’s how it was discovered and how it was dealt with, basically after that we went to the doctor’s and got it all checked out.
Robin Brownlee: It was really remarkable how quickly you did come back. Is this thing in the rearview mirror for you now, or are there still checkups?
Davidson: Basically it is in the rearview mirror now. There is a checkup that we do every three months, but for the most part it’s just a standard checkup to make sure that nothing does come back. It’s fairly standard that most cancer and most testicular cancer survivors have to go through. For right now, I’m as healthy as an ox and I couldn’t be happier with the Oilers organization and the medical team that helped me get through that.
PUSHING TO PLAY….
Gregor: You talked about your strength and that you are healthy as an ox now, but when you returned for games late last season, where is your strength then as compared to now?
Davidson: Then I was sitting at about 65, 70%. I didn’t feel the greatest, but I did want to play and I did want to make an impact, especially it being my first year as a pro hockey player. It was a battle to just get back on the ice and then playoffs are a whole other level. It just was engrained on my mind that I needed a big playoff performance. I do want to be at the next level, the NHL, and I knew that the playoffs were very big for me so I pushed my body to the max, let alone it only being at 75, 70% sort of thing. Right now I feel 100%. I had a great summer in the gym and on the ice too. I believe it’s definitely time for me to take it to the next level now.
Brownlee: Let me ask you about a couple of things; I remember seeing a picture of some and your OKC teammates, they did the head shave thing, the way that the team and the organization rallied around you and also one specific player, Taylor Fedun. There had to be some uncertain times for you just as there were for him. He’s been through this with that badly broken leg, how important was the support that you received from around you?
Davidson: It was extremely important. It was the only thing that kept my mind busy and away from the cancer stuff. It was very huge just having everything at my disposal, from the Edmonton Oilers taking care of the medical part of things and getting me back to where I am today, and keeping my spirits up.
Taylor Fedun, he’s my roommate, he’s my brother, he’s my best friend, and he’s a good guy. He helped me through everything. He made things fun for me. He got things off of the top of my head, and had me thinking fun. It was a good effort from all of the guys, but just that little extra effort from him being around me 24-7 and really seeing the struggles that I had to go through. I couldn’t have done it without him, he’s a great man and my hat goes off to him.
Gregor: What did you learn about yourself going through testicular cancer?
Davidson: I really learned how far you can push the body and you can push the limits on things. There was a lot of down time and reflecting on stuff, but I always knew that I was going to get through this and that it was very curable and that when I come back that my new outlook on life was that everything would have meaning. And everything that I do now, even on the ice or with my family, everything has meaning now and there is a purpose to all of it. I put that little extra in all that I do, and I’m putting that little extra into hockey just trying to get to that next level.
Brownlee: You’re a young man, 22 years old, training camp approaches, you say that you’re healthy, strong as an ox. What’s next for Brandon Davidson?
Davidson: You know what; I’m very excited for camp. We go to the rookie Penticton camp soon and that’s a lot of fun and that’s great. I can’t wait to be there for that but I’m looking forward to main camp. I’m looking to make a great impression, to keep progressing and moving forward in my development and if my development has pushed me far enough to be on the Oilers then that’s where I want to be. If it hasn’t I want to be getting better down in OKC and just keep improving.
Gregor: What do you feel are your areas of strength, what do are your areas you need to improve the most on?
Davidson: My areas of strength are my defensive play, my ability to move pucks whether that be in the D zone or the neutral zone. The few things that I need to work on are just moving my feet and getting my pivots a little better. I feel I’ve come a long way though, and that they’re right there with other players, but you’ve always got to be that much better.
Brownlee: When you look at this roster of players there is some depth on the blueline. Do you just put that out of your mind and do what you do, or do you have to be aware of who’s going to camp?
Davidson: You know what, I always tell myself before even day one that it doesn’t matter who’s there. It’s up to me to decide how far I’m going to go and how far I’m going to push myself. I don’t care what the next guy is doing and I don’t really look upon that as a marker, other than these guys are going to be my teammates. I want to be better for them so I’m going to push myself as hard as they would want to be pushed. In the long run the best man is going to come out on top, but these are my teammates and these are people that I want to be a leader among one day and look towards improving.
Gregor: Battling, and then beating cancer, taught you have how far you can push your body. Has that helped you in the gym, not stating that you didn’t work hard before, but do you feel that you had more to give before and then battling and beating cancer helped to recognize that?
Davidson: To be honest with you I don’t know if that’s what ignited it, but that’s the pivoting point and that’s where I found that extra gear, and realized there was another level for me, and even more levels to go to. Just going through that whole experience and really taking a new outlook on life made me grab that whole other gear and made me push myself even harder. It was a big summer for me, especially trying to get my health back to 100% and I feel that it’s there now. I felt like I’ve improved a lot and I have a lot to show.
Brownlee: What’s your routine like now in terms of when do you get back on the ice, and are you bigger and stronger than you were last year?
Davidson: I’m 210 lbs, so I put on a few pounds this summer. 210 pounds is a good weight for me, but basically I have a trainer here in town and I work with guys like Devin Setoguchi, Chris Versteeg, Rob Klinkhammer, and numerous KHL and European players. We push each other very hard at our gym and we rent the ice. We don’t do the Perry Pearn thing, but we have a guy named Mike Dyck who comes out and runs the ices for us and keep us in top shape. Also we’ve gone to Edmonton a few times and we work on things with Steve Serdachny (Oilers skill and skating coach). That’s basically how I get ready.
After speaking with Davidson it is impossible not to be pulling for the young man. Just listening to him talk was inspiring and motivating. He’s a guy who likely needs a few years of seasoning in the AHL, but after battling and defeating cancer, he’s shown he’s resilient, and I wouldn’t rule him out a guy who will battle for a potential 3rd pairing spot in the future.
I wish him all the best.