TCU soccer player fights through disease and pain to reach final conference tournament

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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No. 7 TCU in Big 12 Tournament (At Kansas City) Wednesday: vs. No. 2 Texas Tech, 8 p.m. Friday: Big 12 semifinals Sunday: Big 12 Finals

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From the age of 4, when Brittany Slyman began playing soccer, the sport became her passion.

Wednesday begins the Big 12 Tournament for TCU (6-9-3, 2-5-1 Big 12) and is a last shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament for its four seniors, including Slyman. They will look back on the extra laps, missed social opportunities and countless practice hours that helped them get here, fighting for a tournament bid.

Slyman’s memories will stretch back further, to countless doctor visits, blackouts, intense pain and not knowing if she would be able to play the sport she loved.

Slyman was an energetic 12-year-old in Frisco, playing high-level club soccer when she first noticed something was wrong. Soon, climbing a flight of stairs became a chore, leaving her painfully short of breath. She even passed out during soccer games.

Doctors couldn’t determine what was causing her to feel the way she did.

“I just kind of fought for the fact that I knew something was wrong and kept searching for an answer and found it,” Slyman said.

Ultimately, after a year and a half of searching that saw her miss out on soccer her junior and senior years of high school, Slyman was finally given the answer — Lyme Disease.

“It’s a chronic illness,” Slyman said. “It’s a bacteria that lives in your blood and it makes you get fatigued really easily. I get sick easily. I get fatigued and tired and my muscles get tight and my joints get sore quickly when I’m playing. It’s just a thing I deal with and I try to manage with treatment and honestly I push through because I love this sport and I want to keep playing.”

Between 2006 and 2008, when Slyman believes she could have developed the disease, there were just 221 cases confirmed in Texas, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Standing by Slyman’s side through that anxious time were her parents, naturally. But also standing with Slyman was the TCU soccer program, which had began recruiting the forward before she fell ill.

Slyman quickly went from a high school athlete who thought she may never play sports again, to a TCU commit two years removed from her last real game.

“They were just one of the few programs that still had faith in what I could do,” Slyman said.

However, the struggle didn’t end there.

Slyman had to raise her game back to the level it had been before she developed the disease, a task that involved constant treatment, especially during the off-season.

She pushed herself to the limit, passing out after one of TCU’s matches against Wyoming and needing to be carried to her room and put in bed, only to play again two days later at Air Force.

Through all of the extra treatment, pain and uncertainty, Slyman said she doesn’t regret any of it and will push herself again this week to try and secure an NCAA Tournament bid for the Horned Frogs.

“Going into this tournament I think through like back when I was 13 to now, every doctor and struggle I went through with the illness to think that I still have this opportunity to play in the Big 12 Tournament my senior year,” she said. “It’s incredible motivation. I want to leave everything I have out on the field, not because of me or what I’ve been through, but for my teammates.”

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