I’ve been watching the FIFA Women’s World cup going on now in Canada and having a great time watching it. The finals are upon us and I am rooting for the U.S. (They also have a player with lupus, more on that later).

I’ve been tweeting during games (@LittleWolfBlog), hootin’ and hollerin’ in my apartment during games and, while having fun, I am a little sad that I can no longer play.

You see, I played soccer for three years in high school. I grew up kicking the ball around with my dad in Prospect Park in Brooklyn (he used to play too). I wasn’t the greatest player, but I was dedicated and felt proud to be part of something so cool.

That's 'me'. My favourite number is 7 and my jersey number was 35 (a multiple of 7, duh)....oh an my favourite colour is blue.
That’s ‘me’. My favourite number is 7 and my jersey number was 35 (a multiple of 7, duh)….oh an my favourite colour is blue.

I was a defender (fullback) and by my second year, a regular starting player. I learned a lot about the game during my time on the field (which is why I feel comfortable telling these professional players what they should or should not be doing. Tee hee).

I wasn’t diagnosed with lupus until I went to college, but once I was diagnosed, I realised that there were hints of my lupus while I was playing soccer in high school. There were many times when I had to come out of a game because my knees started to feel heavy and the trainer and coach said I had ‘water on the knee’ (inflammation, basically). The ‘water on the knee’ dragged me down so I couldn’t run the way that I (and my coach) wanted. I remember a couple of times that my coach was so frustrated that he had to keep taking me out. At the time, I thought he figured I was lazy and I felt responsible for always letting the team down. I always wondered “what’s going on? Why can’t I play more?”

I had both ankles wrapped for every game and every practice because they hurt all the time and we thought that stabilising them would help. I even saw a podiatrist who specialised in sports. I got orthodics and advice to ice and rest.

I really miss playing soccer and I really can’t imagine that I could ever play again. In addition to the physical stress igniting the lupus, I also had a total hip replacement (years later) and my orthopaedic surgeon advised against high-impact activities (like running). 😦

So I am getting my soccer fix right now, living vicariously through all the ladies playing on the field. One of the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) members is Shannon Boxx. She is a veteran player, having won three gold medals in the Olympic Games. She was diagnosed with lupus and sjogren’s syndrome (which I also have) and struggled with telling her coach and team members because she was afraid of the illness meaning the end of her soccer career. She is outspoken about her lupus now and I’m so proud of her. She’s retiring after the World Cup this year and although I don’t know her, I feel connected.

So while I am no longer playing the game, I’m forever a player in my heart.