Sophomore goalie Blake Lieberman has started against Trinity’s strongest opponents, but in his 17 years of soccer, his toughest adversary was one he had to face off the field.
When he was 11 years old, Lieberman noticed a golf ball-sized lump on his back. At first, he wasn’t convinced that anything was awry. He was a pretty active kid, so naturally he figured that the bump was just a bruise from soccer. But the bump persisted for months. By this point, Lieberman had a feeling something was wrong. Two weeks of testing finally led doctors to the conclusion: Ewing’s sarcoma.
Ewing’s sarcoma is an extremely rare form of cancer that impacts about 5,000 people worldwide per year, mainly children and adolescents. The cancer usually occurs in the bone, but this was not the case for Lieberman.
“My form of Ewing’s sarcoma presented itself in a different way, in my soft tissue. Only about 10 percent of childhood cases of Ewing’s sarcoma occur in soft tissue,” Lieberman said.
Due to relatively early detection, Lieberman was fortunate his cancer had not metastasized. But still, the road to recovery was going to be a long and grueling one for the young soccer star.
“I had the choice of doing either radiation or another surgery to try get all of the tumor out. I had a bunch of MRI’s, PET scans, CAT scans and ultimately had to endure 14 rounds of chemotherapy,” Lieberman recalled.
During treatment, Lieberman was unable to participate in soccer, the game he loved so much. He was home-schooled, and all of that time that could have been spent with teammates and friends was spent in hospital rooms, wondering if he would ever make it back to the field.
“The chemo was awful, to say the least. I lost a lot of weight. My blood cell counts were always low. I was always tired,” Lieberman said.
Through all the pain and difficulty, Lieberman has persevered.
“I’ve been cleared since 2009,” Lieberman said.
Despite being out of club soccer for an entire year, Lieberman joined the local Houston Dynamo club, fittingly, a team whose head coach was a cancer survivor himself. With a sympathetic coach who wanted to give him a chance at returning to form, Lieberman made the most of his opportunity and earned a spot on the team. He stayed with the club team for a bit before advancing up the rankings to play with another club team.
Then, in high school, Lieberman started for his school team while still making time to play club. Now, Lieberman is the starting goalkeeper for a Trinity soccer team that finished the season 21-2. In games that Lieberman started, the team posted a stellar 19-2 record, with Lieberman enjoying a save percentage 78.4 percent.
Lieberman could have abandoned his goal of ever playing soccer again. Thankfully, he didn’t.