I recently had the privilege of sitting down with 22-year old Brandon Davidson, originally from Taber. He relayed to me, the story of his diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer.
Brandon is somewhat of a local celebrity, as he was a sixth-round draft pick for the Edmonton Oilers in 2010. He currently plays hockey for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League. Brandon had one prior health obstacle in his hockey career, when during the combine in Toronto in 2010, a physical exam by a doctor discovered he had a heart murmur. It was devastating news, as most teams would not take a chance on him with the condition, even though it may never complicate his life, especially during his playing years. It may have explained why he went from being ranked 48th in the North American skaters, projected to go in the second round draft, but was chosen 163rd in the sixth round. Fortunately, the Edmonton Oilers recognized his talents, and put their faith in him.
On Nov. 1, 2012 Brandon endured yet another devastating set back to his hockey career when he discovered a lump in his testicle, and went to the doctor to learn he had testicular cancer. He underwent surgery on Nov. 3 with his dad by his side. Brandon had a great support group in his dad Scott, his mom Laurie and his girlfriend of five years, Caitlyn. They each took a rotation of travelling to Oklahoma and staying with Brandon during his recovery from surgery, and his continuing treatment.
Brandon said the hardest part was telling his team. When he walked into the dressing room and said, “I have cancer,” it was the first time he had said it out loud, and it was tough. His teammates, and especially his roommate Taylor Fedune, were a great support to him. He said Taylor was there through everything. The team all pitched in and bought him an i-Pad so he had something to do during his treatments. A few of them even shaved their heads to show their support. Brandon fondly said the Edmonton Oilers met his every need and treated him with great respect during the entire time, and between the Oklahoma City Barons insurance and the Edmonton Oilers, all of his medical expenses were covered. It was the team doctor’s decision for Brandon to remain in Oklahoma for his treatment, because there was a brand new cancer treatment centre there.
There was no history of testicular cancer in Brandon’s family, and compared to other cancers, testicular cancer is rare.
Males 15-34 are at highest risk, and it is more common in white males than black, according to information provided by the Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testicular-cancer. There are two types of testicular cancer, Seminoma & Non-Seminoma. Seminoma is a non-aggressive form of cancer, and if you are diagnosed later in life it is likely that this is the type you would have. Brandon was diagnosed with Non-Seminoma, which is usually the cancer that strikes younger men earlier in life. It is also the form that is more aggressive and may spread through out the body, if left undiagnosed.
Fortunately, Brandon saw his doctor immediately upon finding the lump and his cancer was diagnosed early. Through further testing, blood tests and a body scan — the doctors determined Brandon’s cancer was at Stage 1. Good news. Brandon began chemotherapy the week before Christmas. He commented he spent nine hours at the hospital on Christmas Day. He took 13 chemo treatments over the next 29 days, and it was his final treatment when his hair began to fall out, so he shaved it off.
With the exception of a couple of tough weeks, Brandon maintained a positive attitude throughout his battle. It was his fear of losing his hockey career that plagued him the most. He lost weight, and near the end of the chemo he became quite ill.
It was difficult for him to imagine that he could ever be in the shape he needed to be in to return to the ice.
It was fear and the determination to secure his job again that put him back in the gym two-and-a-half weeks later. For one month he worked one on one with his trainer in the gym, then he began skating, and practised with the team for a week. He was sent to the East Coast Hockey League and played 10 games, during which he scored seven goals & earned 12 points. Brandon finished out the season back in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City Barons were a struggling team when he returned, but they pulled it together and went on to make it to Game 7 of the third round of the playoffs. Brandon is one of the younger players on his team, “the kid” as they refer to him was back! For a guy who said he felt like he was back to about 65 per cent of his potential, he played pretty well, imagine what he can do when he returns to 100 per cent.
Brandon’s treatment is behind him, he has follow-up exams with his doctor every three months for the next two years. He appeared to me to be in great shape. He is working out and skating daily with his friend and trainer Trevor Hardy. He will head off to the Oilers camp on September 3rd. It will be a battle from there, and if he gets cut he will return to Oklahoma to play.
Thank you Brandon for sharing your personal battle with cancer. I asked him if he had any advice to young men his age what would it be? He said, “if you find something abnormal get it checked out right away, don’t wait.”
It was clear to me that Brandon is a remarkable young man with a wonderfully positive attitude. I wish him the best of luck with his hockey career, but it is his determination and dedication that will propel this young man to achieve great things on and off the ice.
The Taber Terry Fox Committee wishes to celebrate this year as the year of the survivor. We want to celebrate all those that have won their battle against cancer. The Terry Fox Foundation has donated $400 million dollars to cancer research over the past 30 years to help find treatments and a cure for people like Brandon. Terry Fox funded researchers have discovered many successful treatments for many types of cancer over the past 30 years, and through your donations they will continue to strive to find a cure. In a study published by Charity Intelligence Canada, it found that a number of our top cancer fundraisers donate less than 22 per cent of your donation to research. The Terry Fox Run donates 84 cents of every dollar you donate directly to cancer research.
Join us on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Taber Community Centre for the annual Terry Fox Run. Registration is from 8:30-9 a.m., with the run commencing at 9 a.m. You can run, walk, bike, skateboard, rollerblade, whatever you chose. You can sponsor yourself or pick up a sponsorship form at Pro-Performance Gym, the Bank of Nova Scotia and many other locations around town, to collect sponsorship. Come on out, join in, bring your donations and support those in the fight for life!