Jamie 'Bravedart' Harvey shows great courage in cancer battle
JAMIE Harvey could have had it all when it came to darts.
The Scot, nicknamed Bravedart, was one of the pioneering 16 professionals - along with Phil "The Power" Taylor - who split from the British Darts Organisation in 1993 to form what was then the World Darts Council and became the Professional Darts Corporation.
Harvey was at one point No.4 in the world and played in every world championship between 1994 and 2006, reaching two quarter-finals and a semi-final.
Then in 2009, just as the PDC was taking off worldwide to become the phenomenon it is now, the now 62-year-old's world fell apart.
He did not feel well on a trip to Las Vegas for his son Steven's honeymoon in the September of that year and when the family returned both Steven and Harvey's wife Marie took him to hospital in Glasgow.
The Scot was diagnosed with throat cancer, had a 10-hour op to save his life, then underwent chemo and radiotherapy. He also had his voicebox removed and had a permanent laryngectomy stoma fitted so he could talk.
"We went in at 1pm and I was having surgery at 4.30pm," Harvey recalled.
Harvey, who loved his karaoke and was a heavy smoker and drinker, said he wished he had taken the plunge and sorted his health out earlier.
"I knew that from about four years before the operation there was a problem," he said.
"When I was talking I was losing my voice, it was breaking up and I was scared to go to the doctor.
"Everybody kept telling me 'go to the doctor' and I used to tell them to go away I am not interested but I knew there was something wrong and I had a feeling I had cancer.
"I wish I had gone earlier because it would have only been polyps and I wouldn't be sticking my finger here (in his voicebox) all the time."
Harvey was given the all clear five years after the life-saving surgery and is now enjoying a second lease on life.
I spoke to him on the seventh-floor balcony of his Gold Coast hotel room where he was relaxing before playing his second game of News Corp's International Pro Darts Series.
Harvey was genuinely thankful that chairman of Dartplayers Australia, Kevin Berlyn, had backed up a promise to get him back Down Under after playing in some exhibitions a few years ago.
"For me having the cancer, I don't get invited to a lot of things, so it was good when Kevin phoned me," Harvey said.
"I was supposed to come two or three years ago but they cancelled it and he said they would give me another shot if they came back.
"He phoned me about five months ago and said "you're coming over" which was a brilliant feeling, it was great to be invited.
"This place is beautiful, especially the Gold Coast."
Harvey said the cancer had almost taken his life but he was determined to enjoy his new beginning.
"This (the Pro Darts Series) has brought me back to my old days," he said.
"It actually has taken me back to my first TV appearance and I was crapping myself.
"I was nervous as anything but I got through it and won my game for Scotland against Wales.
"It's like the old times, especially with Phil Taylor here as well.
"Phil's an old mate, Russell Stewart is also a pal.
"I came through with Phil at the start on the circuit, so we went all over the place together.
"We had a bit of fun and according to Phil now they don't have the fun we did. The players keep themselves to themselves because there is big money.
"Back then the money wasn't as big but we were trying to make it big, that's why we left and broke away.
"We tried to get what they've got now.
"I would like to have started (playing professionally) now but I couldn't do kit at my age with the amount of practice I put in then (8-9 hours)."
While having no regrets about his lifestyle which contributed largely to his illness, Harvey said there were a couple of changes after the cancer which he was not so happy about.
"The cancer was cancer and there was nothing I could do about that," he said philosophically.
"The thing that really got me was some of the players and their reactions.
"Some would totally ignore me - one (I won't mention his name) who was a very good friend of mine used to phone me every day after the operation and after that he has hardly spoken .. he doesn't want to know.
"The other thing that got to me … I was in the top 16 at the time .. then darts started getting really big and all these players were earning big money and I would go home and I would sign on (for dole money)."
Now Harvey is just living life to the full and enjoying his time in the beautiful country.
The series heads off to Townsville on January 24-25 before finishing in Mackay on January 27-28.
Harvey said he would love an invite back on any future tour but he wasn't sure whether he would get one.
"I would love to come back it would be brilliant," he said.
"Getting an invitation would be the hard thing, so maybe if I win one of the tournaments they would have to bring me back."
Tickets are still available for Townsville and Mackay from Ticketek.