The family feel of the non-league football community was a huge comfort for Paul Jarvis as he fought a battle against cancer.
The 29-year-old winger – who currently plays for Lancaster City and lists Chorley and AFC Fylde as two of his former clubs – has just put his boots back on in readiness for the start of the new campaign after thankfully overcoming the disease.
Feeling tired and rundown while in action for the Dolly Blues towards the end of last season, Jarvis was starting to think that his footballing prowess was on the wane.
But after getting himself checked over – compelled to do so following the sad passing of his father-in-law to the disease in March – Jarvis was shocked to discover that his symptoms were the first signs of testicular cancer.
He immediately went under the knife to remove the diseased testicle and then underwent a course of chemotherapy.
His plight soon caught the attention of team-mates – both current and past –
officials and supporters.
Jarvis – who posted regular updates of his condition on social media – revealed that he drew strength from the ‘overwhelming’ messages of support and was keen to thank everybody who had helped him through his darkest hour.
“It’s been really good,” said Jarvis, who has recently been given the all-clear.
“Obviously I know a lot of people within football. I was happy to post my situation on social media because I knew people would find out eventually. The response I received was great.
“To have had so much support has been brilliant.
“It’s been really good to feel that support from the rest of the football community. I have said previously, one of the great things about non-league football is that it feels a lot more community-based.
“There are a lot stronger links between the players, fans and backroom staff. So all the messages of support really helped me.”
Those get well soon sentiments especially helped him through the dark days when he had a long wait to discover whether the cancer had spread to other parts of his body.
“Cancer has been an issue with my family this year,” said Jarvis.
“ My father-in-law passed away from cancer in the month of March. I was kind of showing symptoms before he died, but I was just kind of dealing with the situation.
“I had put it off going to see the doctor, but it was after his funeral that I decided to go and get it checked out.
“I just had that feeling something was wrong.
“Once I went to see the doctor, it all went quickly from there.
“I was sent to have the operation and then I had to wait to have it confirmed via a scan that it had not spread.
“That was the worst thing – the wait after the operation to find out that it had not spread.
“That was not a great time if I am honest. I had a month to wait to get those results.
“You get a lot of things going through your mind – what the outcome could be.
“So it was a big relief to get the results which showed that the cancer had not spread and that I only needed one dose of chemotherapy.
“Obviously there is a 5% chance of it coming back at some point, but I am cancer-free at this moment in time and I have just got to think as if that’s it and put the thought of it returning to the back of my mind.”
The game of football has been terrific in spreading the importance of men being aware of the need to self-check their bodies. There have been a number of footballers at all levels who have been afflicted with the illness in the past.
Jarvis revealed he was happy to highlight his own battle if it helps to prevent other men – both inside and outside of the game – from ignoring their symptoms.
“I have spoken to a couple of players who have been through something similar to what I have,” he said.
“I spoke to Ryan Edwards, who was a player at Morecambe and he’s now at Plymouth. He had testicular cancer and was diagnosed slightly before me last season. I also spoke to Joe Thompson who plays for Rochdale. He’s had lymphoma.
“It was definitely good to speak to them about their experiences and how they got through it.
“I know men’s cancers like testicular cancer is something that has been talked about in the game – getting players to check their testicles.
“I had no issues talking about it with my GP, that I thought something was wrong. It is something that the game has tried to promote. I have no problem talking about my situation and what I have been through.
“If I can help create more awareness about it in football and outside of football, then I am happy to do that.”
Jarvis is confident once he returns to full fitness, the Dolly Blues fans will see the best of him again on the pitch, although he is going to take things slowly.
“I don’t want to rush to get back just so I can play in the first game of the season,” he said. “I know that the first couple of games are not going to decide where we end up at the end of the season,” he said.
“So I won’t be too concerned if I am not ready for the start of the season.”