"Let's go get it." In the summer of 2014, Blue Jackets TV analyst Bill Davidge was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma that also impacts bone marrow. As a youth hockey player and collegiate player at Ohio State, Davidge prided himself on his toughness, and here he was calling on that trait again in a fight, literally, for his life.
"Let's go get it."
In the summer of 2014, Blue Jackets TV analyst Bill Davidge was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma that also impacts bone marrow. As a youth hockey player and collegiate player at Ohio State, Davidge prided himself on his toughness, and here he was calling on that trait again in a fight, literally, for his life.
"I'm feeling great. I work out every day. I'm playing golf. My strength is there. And all of a sudden…" Davidge said in a recent interview at Nationwide Arena, his voice trailing off.
Initially identified through a blood test, the multiple myeloma diagnosis was confirmed through a battery of biopsies and X-rays over two days in the summer of 2014. His oncologist, Dr. Don Benson at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital, offered Davidge a choice.
"He said we can let it 'smolder' is what he called it, or we can be aggressive. He said the treatment is worse than the disease," Davidge said. "I said, 'Let's go get it.'"
He decided, with the support of the team and Fox Sports Ohio, to undergo aggressive treatment with Revlimid, a chemotherapy-like drug, on a cycle of 21 days on the medication and 7 days off. He continued to work throughout the hockey season, with an eye toward an offseason bone marrow transplant.
He never missed work.
"I'm gonna tell you what, you talk about a shock to your system. You're always tired, your insides are exploding," Davidge recalled. "I just sucked it up."
Davidge is no stranger to adversity. In 1985, Davidge's first wife, Leann, was killed in a car accident. Bill was the men's hockey coach at Miami University, Leann was the women's tennis coach, and they had a young son, Rob. Overwhelmed, Davidge put his head down and attempted to plow through. This time, however, he didn't do it alone.
"I didn't rely on other people that much [after my wife died]. You're young, you're proud," Davidge said. "This time, I had everybody lending that support. I learned that, if people want to help you, you let them."
He credited his wife, Jayna, and Rob, who lives in Columbus, calling the efforts of both family members "simply outstanding."
Fans reached out to Davidge - a fixture with the team since before its first game - with their support as well.
"I bet I had more than 1,500 emails, and I read them each and every day," he said.
The team also extended his contract, something he said not every organization would do.
"They've given me all of the tools to do what I need to do not only to stay healthy but stay in the game I love," Davidge said, his voice breaking.
His 2015 bone marrow transplant kept him hospitalized for more than two weeks. He had issues with weight gain from fluid retention, a stomach infection and he lost all of his hair.
"Anyone [who] knows me knows my hair is always in place," he said with a smile.
He also took nurses' recommendation not to eat his favorite foods, because the medicine would affect the taste and possibly "ruin" his perception of them permanently.
Still, he soldiered on, maintaining his weight (he'd been told he might lose as much as a quarter of his body weight), keeping himself in shape as much as possible and eventually re-growing his hair.
When the 2015 season started, fans would approach him at the arena to offer encouragement.
"People would come by and want to give me a hug or just share their own stories, with themselves or a family member who's battling [cancer]," he said, his voice again breaking.
On July 25, 2016, Davidge tweeted, "My oncologist called. CANCER FREE. Not a cure of my Multiple Myeloma but total remission. Thanks to all for prayers and thoughts. #Blessed."
"It's a cancer you can't cure. But I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed early. I'm blessed. I'm not the same guy I was; I don't have that same strength. But with family and faith and all the support … I'm blessed."
He still takes the Revlimid, although his treatment has decreased to 14 days on and 14 days off. He still works out and plays golf, and he's ready for another season of Blue Jackets hockey.
"When the season starts, the cameras come on and I talk hockey," he said.