Attend Med City FC soccer games this season and there AJ Jarvis will be, hands and arms fully extended to the top of the goalie crossbar just prior to first kick, and lightly swinging from it.
It’s a 3-second ritual for the 24-year-old Jarvis and brims with emotion. It’s come after a year of heartbreak and endless physical and emotional tests for the native of Kings Lynn, England.
“When I am hanging from the crossbar, I am talking to my dad and my mother-in-law, telling them that I love them,” Jarvis said. “Once I’ve done that, I am in game mode.”
The conversations are imaginary ones. His father, Barry Jarvis, and his mother in law, Susan Moenssen-True, have both left this Earth. Barry died in December of COVID complications at the age of 59. Moenssen-True died three weeks ago after a nine-year-battle with cancer. She was in her 60s.
Barry was a best friend for AJ, so much of their bond woven from their shared lifelong love affair with soccer. Barry was the one who toted AJ to soccer practices and games as a child growing up just outside of London. And Barry was the one who AJ would FaceTime in early mornings as he attended college in Nebraska, the two then proceeding to watch and banter about televised soccer games that they’d watch together during those phone calls.
As for Moenssen-True, she goes down as likely the most courageous person Jarvis has ever known, with all of those years putting up a heroic battle with cancer.
So many tests
Jarvis now knows all about the requirement of courage.
If he ever wondered if he owned it, that was answered emphatically in the past year with the mighty way he’s persevered.
He was first put to the test last summer when the soccer star and fitness fanatic became so suddenly weak that he passed out twice. That sent him to the doctor where he was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia, a disease of the bone marrow that radically depletes the body of blood cells. Survival rate for those with SAA is 80%.
It was actually regarded as good news when his doctors at Pamela Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha, Neb., settled on SAA as his condition. Prior to that, they were 90% sure that the Bellevue University senior had Leukemia.
Ten months later, the prognosis for Jarvis is now good. After being debilitated until December by SAA and all of the rounds of medication it took to fight it, Jarvis has almost returned to normal. The best evidence of that is that he is playing soccer again. In fact, he’s the starting goalie on a Bellevue University team that has advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA national tournament in Evans, Ga.
“To be honest, I’m feeling fantastic,” said Jarvis, who last played for Med City FC in 2019 and will return to play goalie for Rochester’s top amateur team early next week. Med City has its opener at 6:45 p.m. today, taking on Granite City FC at Rochester Regional Stadium. “I say 'fantastic' in comparison to how I was feeling at one point (in the fall). Considering how I was doing, I’ll sure take this. I am still on medication, but they are slowly taking me off of it.”
Going to play again
His father was right. AJ would indeed play soccer again. That is a prediction that Barry emotionally made via a FaceTime call just before Christmas.
“We were speaking and then my dad looked me right in the eyes during the FaceTime call and told me that I would play soccer again,” Jarvis said. “He told me that I could do anything that I set my mind to, because I’m a strong person. After he said that, I’ve believed it the whole time.”
Jarvis doesn’t want to take all of the credit for his ability to gather himself in the last year, even after being dealt blow after blow. He divvies out that credit for that, starting with his wife, Hannah True-Jarvis. They were married in the fall.
But there are also his Bellevue University teammates and coaches to credit and how they’ve treated him as family. And there is the relationship he’s developed with Med City FC owner Frank Spaeth and its head coach, Neil Cassidy. They’ve been in contact with Jarvis throughout his ordeals and started a GoFundMe campaign to help take care of his medical bills.
It’s been all of them, providing him an unwavering support system when he needed it most.
“It if wasn’t for all of them, my life would be entirely different right now,” he said. “I couldn’t have better people around me.”