As hard as it may be to envision an imposing, 6-foot-3 man, former NHL goaltender, Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster and now president of hockey operations for the Columbus Blue Jackets breaking down and crying, that's what John Davidson did on Oct. 17, 2013.
That was the day Diana Davidson, John's wife of 42 years, found out from her doctor that she had breast cancer. It was a life-altering phone call.
"The hardest thing was telling my girls and telling John, but John was probably the worst," Diana, 60, said in a phone conversation Wednesday. "He was like a basket case. I wanted to, like, slap him a couple times and be like, 'Come on. Get it together.'"
Davidson did, quickly.
"When something like that happens your mind travels and you wonder what's going to happen, but you catch yourself and you say, 'All right, we're in this thing, let's go win it,'" he said. "That's what we're taught to do. That's in our DNA. 'OK, we're in a fight here in this game. This game is more serious than other games, but let's go win it.'"
The positive news was that Diana's cancer was caught early. Once diagnosed, the Davidsons, with a team of doctors from OhioHealth, developed a plan and began to fight the disease.
Diana had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor on Oct. 31. She required radiation treatments but no chemotherapy because the cancer was caught before it attacked her lymph nodes.
Six weeks later Diana got another phone call from her doctor, this time telling her she should be fine.
She is, still, which is why Diana will be at Nationwide Arena for the Blue Jackets' annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, FS-MW, NHL.TV) feeling great, looking fit, and lending her support to help fight the disease that she's already beaten.
Diana, a CrossFit competitor, will be volunteering with Barbells for Boobs, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting against breast cancer by promoting early detection services regardless of age, gender, income and insurance status.
"One reason why I love to tell my story is because I want to bring awareness to as many women as I can to please, please, please get your mammograms done," Diana said. "A lot of people, when they find out that they have cancer, they choose to keep it to themselves. But I never hesitate to tell people because I want the awareness out there."
In a way, Diana saved her own life by self-diagnosing herself first. She felt a lump in her breast after a CrossFit training session and immediately sought to get it looked at. The Davidsons, though, had just moved to Columbus, so Diana didn't have a doctor in the area yet.
She tapped into the Blue Jackets' medical staff to schedule a mammogram.
"I feel terrific now," Diana said. "You live with it every single day. It never leaves your mind. I find once you hear the 'C' word it is something you just live with. Even though mine was caught so early and I was very lucky, it's still cancer and that's a scary, scary word for everybody and anybody. Unfortunately, you feel aches and pains and different things, and right away you feel cancer. That end of it stinks. But the positive end of it is I feel great. I still work out tons, do everything, try and lead my new, normal life. That's what I call it."
Diana, though, was like so many other cancer patients in thinking it couldn't happen to them.
"That's what I had to get over," she said. "I was eating properly. I was working out. I was doing every preventative measure possible not to get cancer and I still got it. It doesn't discriminate against anybody."
The toughest part for Diana and John were the early days, the time in between getting tested and getting the diagnosis.
"That time just kind of hangs," John said. "You just don't want to wait. Then the phone rings, she's talking, she's nodding to me, and she says, 'Got it.' So then you sit there and you feel just brutal. But then you figure it out and say, 'That's enough. We felt sorry for ourselves long enough, so what do we do now?' Away you go."
They went, but Diana said she still hesitated to answer the phone every time it rang until the day she finally got the positive news that they got the cancer.
"That's probably the first time I broke down and cried," she said. "The worst part about cancer and going through it, I found, was answering those phone calls from the doctor because you just never knew what was coming. When she told me it all looked good, I broke down and cried."
Already an advocate for volunteerism, Diana's fight has emboldened her do to even more in the fight against cancer. She volunteered to help fight pediatric cancer with an organization called Flashes of Hope when John was an executive with the St. Louis Blues. Barbells for Boobs has become impactful for her in Columbus because of what breast cancer means to her now.
"When it comes to breast cancer I don't hesitate to volunteer," Diana said. "Any type of cancer, really. I don't hesitate. Anybody that's attached to cancer, I'll volunteer for them."
Her message is to get tested early. She did, which is why she's alive to deliver that message.
"She got it early because she went and made sure she took care of herself," John said. "I think a lot of people, including myself, don't do that. Go. Get it done. That's what you have doctors for. You have a chance at life if you go and take care of things now."