“I’m throwing everything I learned in my soccer career at it.”
Sven Habermann is drawing from the same strong will that helped him become a Canadian international and a champion goalkeeper with the Vancouver 86ers in his battle against Mantle cell lymphoma.
But just like in his playing years, he quickly found out that his whole team has his back.
“I was blown away by all the support. About 90% of the money raised was through the soccer community,” says Habermann.
Last summer, when news spread of his plight against the rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Habermann’s teammates rallied around their old keeper, with former assistant coach Alan Errington organizing a fundraiser to aid with the medical expenses.
“Throughout my career, I tried to be a really good and loyal teammate that would take a bit of punishment for the betterment of the team. It's amazing how many years later, the teammates didn't forget that,” tells Habermann. “I was overwhelmed with the love and support from the soccer community, especially the Vancouver Whitecaps.”
A lot of financial support came from the same people he battled with in the trenches en route to the 1989 CSL title, but he also received help from former ‘Caps he didn’t share the pitch with.
Former midfielder Aaron Keay, who joined Vancouver in 1997 long after Habermann hung up his cleats, was especially generous in ensuring the Habermann family was not saddled with the financial burden by themselves.
“Aaron saw that the GoFundMe was at a certain level, and he called Bobby Lenarduzzi, basically asking, ‘What does he need to get to his goal?,’ and he wrote a cheque for the balance,” says Habermann. “I literally was in tears with my wife Dawn (pictured) because we needed that help to get to where we are today.”
Things are looking up for the Habermanns. While he will always have Mantle cell lymphoma, which is uncurable, Sven is cancer-free. He’s been feeling better, thanks to a healthy lifestyle, as well as regular IV infusions that help treat the lymphoma.
Committed to a healthy diet, regular cardio workout, and meditation, Habermann is applying the same discipline he had when he was the last line of the 86ers defence.
“I jump on a mini-trampoline every day to get my lymphatic system to clear out disease, I need to have movement. I’m working very hard to stay healthy,” explains Habermann. “I’m finally back to work, full-time. I feel like I did probably five years ago when I wasn't sick.
“Fingers crossed, it just keeps going the way it is.”