Throughout the 2015 season, Tom Fell knew something was not right. On the field, he was fine: 1084 Championship runs scored, making him the youngest in Division One to achieve four figures. But off it, he was experiencing discomfort caused by a lump on his left testicle. He'd been complaining about it for quite a while, yet with the packed nature of the summer, coupled with being wary of wasting a doctor's time, decided not to raise an alarm.
It was only in October, once the season had finished, that he sought attention. Even then, it was a chance assessment with the Worcestershire club doctor, who was at New Road to give Fell's flatmate Tom Kohler-Cadmore a check-up.
Fell was due to fly out to Australia a week later for five months of grade cricket in Perth. Had he not been accompanying Kohler-Cadmore and decided, spur of the moment, to ask the doctor to analyse the lump, it could have been a lot worse. "It was very lucky that I got it checked when I did," Fell said.
Straightaway, the lump was identified as cancer and the operation was swift and, initially, deemed a success. Fell was given the all clear to go to Australia later that winter. While he had check-ups out there that showed no abnormalities, it was only when he returned to the UK in March and had a CT scan that a tiny spec was detected in a lymph node around his abdomen. He was going to require three cycles of chemotherapy.
The doctors prepared him for the worst, running through the possible side-effects. As an otherwise healthy 22-year-old, he was able to do a bit of exercise around the bad days that occurred during each cycle.
Thankfully, the therapy was a success, to such an extent that Fell has a clean bill of health - the testicular cancer no more likely to return in him that other healthy individuals. Had he not had the treatment, he would have had to have monthly check-ups with the constant fear that it may return. "I feel like I can get on with things now."
"When I originally found the lump, it didn't occur to me at all that it was cancer. That's probably why I took so long to get it looked at. It's something a lot of people are guilty of. People are often scared to go because they're embarrassed it might be nothing or scared of what it might be."
It speaks volumes of Fell that the hardest thing for him during this time was telling his teammates he had cancer. "I knew how bad it was and what was going to happen. But as soon as you say the word cancer, people immediately fear the worst. It was difficult to tell my mates and teammates because you always feel a bit bad telling them, because you know they are going to react badly hearing the news. It's not a nice feeling dumping that on your best mates."
The results of the scan that showed the small cancer in his lymph node came the day before he was due to fly out to Abu Dhabi for Worcestershire's pre-season tour. He informed his director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, about the setback, then his flatmates, Kohler-Cadmore and George Rhodes (Steve's son). He then sent a WhatsApp message to the Worcestershire team thread to inform his teammates of why he would not be flying out with them.
It was on this preseason tour that the players started discussing a way to show their support not only to Fell but also Worcestershire's scorer, Dawn Pugh, who is also battling cancer.
Fell's flatmates Kohler-Cadmore and George Rhodes, along with Joe Leach, represented the players in talks with CEO Tom Scott and Jon Graham, the club's business development director, about putting on an event. With Scott and Graham in full support, the ECB were approached and backed the initiative. #Yell4Fell and the "Cricket v Cancer game" was formed.
Taking inspiration from the McGrath Foundation Day and Cricket United, New Road will go yellow on Friday, July 1, for Worcestershire Rapids' NatWest T20Blast match against Derbyshire. The Rapids will play in special edition yellow kit and supporters are encouraged to wear yellow or purchase t-shirts for a donation. The playing shirts will be auctioned off at the end of the match, with all proceeds split between various cancer charities.
"We originally banded around the idea of a naked calendar," says Leach. "Obviously that didn't take off…"
"But we came home and all the lads were constantly chatting about what we could do. It was during one of our pre-season sessions at Kidderminster that we came up with the #Yell4Fell and the club have embraced it. I think it's going to be an incredible day and a chance to show Felly and Dawn just how much support they have."
As well as #Yell4Fell, Kohler-Cadmore is playing the season with a shaved head in support of Fell and other cancer sufferers, to raise money for their cause. The support has, naturally, overwhelmed Fell. "To see so many acts of kindness, it really does make me feel so grateful."
It is heartening, too, that Fell's biggest issue right now is big runs in the 2nd XI to get back into a first team that are excelling. "It's looking pretty hard to get back in!" He says he feels in good order with the bat, as noted with a 72 against Northants 2nd XI at the end of May. "It's just a case of being patient, not rushing things and scoring consistent runs."
Thankfully, he is able to move forward and, with the help of his teammates, family and friends, raise awareness to help fellow and future sufferers. Fell's is a survival story to hold dear.