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Hockey Fights Cancer

Blue Jackets announcer staying positive

Bill Davidge, diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2014, helping others cope with cancer

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

The handshake is firm. His interest is sincere when he asks how you're doing. His voice is strong and his words optimistic.

Nothing has changed the traits Bill Davidge cultivated in Dunville, Ontario, a community of about 12,000 less than an hour from the United States border. Not a tragic personal loss, nor his ongoing battle with cancer.

Through it all, the longtime analyst for the Columbus Blue Jackets has used his life experiences to map a plan that has allowed him to do what he loves - come to the rink, swap stories and offer encouragement.

"He's so positive," Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said. "He comes in here and brightens up the room whenever you see him. He's just an outstanding man.

"To see him battle, it hurts, but the way he's handled it makes you feel really good about his approach and is one of the reasons he's doing so well."

Davidge was diagnosed in July 2014 with multiple myeloma, a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells that affects bone marrow. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 30,000 cases diagnosed in 2016, with about 12,000 deaths expected.

Working through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in 2015, Davidge announced on July 25, 2016 he was cancer free and the multiple myeloma was in remission.

"My first test said I had no monoclonal protein in my blood, which basically is a cancer you can't cure but that it was gone. That was a good sign, a real good sign," he told on Nov. 4. "Then, when I repeated the test last month with the same result, that was another good sign. Now I go in next week and talk to the oncologist to see if they'll cut my chemo in half. I go 14 days on, 14 days off.

"When you're on it, it ravages you. When you're off it, you almost feel human again. … I look for those 14 days of humanness."

His Fox Sports Ohio studio partner, Brian Giesenschlag, has seen Davidge suffer, yet not let it impact his work.

"He had some bad days for sure, but never missed being here and never wasn't the same positive, upbeat guy whether it was pertaining to himself or the team," Giesenschlag said. "I could tell when he was fighting it. I could tell he wasn't feeling good. I really respected that fact he's always an other-people-first kind of guy. It was never about him. It was never about his struggle with cancer unless it was to help somebody else."

Davidge learned he had cancer after a routine blood test administered by the Blue Jackets medical staff.

"I was stunned," he said. "Right away I said, 'Hey, another hurdle in life.' "

It was that positive outlook that helped him through other dark times. He played hockey for Ohio State from 1973-77, getting 101 points (45 goals, 56 assists) in 114 games, and it was on the Columbus campus that he met his future wife, standout OSU tennis player Leann Grimes.

After they each graduated, she became the women's tennis coach at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where Davidge was working on his master's degree. He eventually became an assistant for the hockey program, but his life was shattered on Jan. 27, 1985, when Leann was killed in a car accident, shortly after the birth of their son, Rob.

Davidge carried on as best he could and was coach of the Miami hockey program from 1985-89 and later was a part-time scout for the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers.

The expansion Blue Jackets hired him in 2000 ostensibly to be a scout and occasionally contribute to the radio broadcasts with play-by-play man George Matthews, but the two immediately clicked and Davidge was given the gig fulltime and moved to the television side beginning with the 2011-12 season.

Life was good for Davidge and his wife, Jayna, in Columbus, and they were considering another home in Florida, but those plans were put aside by the cancer diagnosis, and their focus shifted from long-term to surviving week-to-week.

"Surround yourself with people who are positive - my oncologist, my wife, my kids, my family, prayer groups in Edmonton and Calgary and Buffalo and Toronto and my hometown in Dunville," Davidge said. "My faith is as strong it ever can be. I'm a believer in that, and my faith has increased because of that."

He's vigilant about his health and takes blood tests every two months to check his progress.

"Right now I've got a semi-quality of life. Now we're working on the quantity," Davidge said. "They always tell you you're not going to die of multiple myeloma. You'll die of something else along with that; whether it's skin cancer, renal cancer, your kidneys or whatever. They have to keep an eye on that."

Giesenschlag knows Davidge understands he's fortunate to be alive.

"We've had some conversations about how blessed he feels that things have turned in a different direction for him," he said. "He knows it's not necessarily over by any stretch, but he has a deep appreciation and sense of how blessed he's been in this fight to get to the point where he's gotten."

Davidge's visibility has given him the vehicle to reach out to cancer survivors.

"This is something the Lord said will make you stronger, and share that experience with other people," he said. "And that's what I've been able to do in the last couple of years."

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