BRUNSWICK — Luke Vazdauskas’s life had already been altered due to the coronavirus pandemic, but his life changed even more in early October when he was diagnosed with Lymphoma — a cancer that affects infection-fighting cells of the immune system.

Luke Vazdauskas dribbles the ball upfield during a game last fall in Brunswick. Photo provided by Luke Vazdauskas

Vazdauskas, 16, a Brunswick High School sophomore, is undergoing outpatient chemotherapy and is progressing with his treatment.

“I can say I’m doing pretty well and progressing,” said Vazdauskas. “Everyone from the team and the community as a whole have been great in showing me their support through this process.”

Vazdauskas felt some pain in his knee toward the end of the summer, and had an MRI that came back abnormal. He took a bone marrow biopsy that revealed he had Lymphoma.

The Dragons rallied in support of Vazdauskas, with the team wearing “Luke V Strong” bracelets throughout the fall.

“He couldn’t be there due to his immune system being compromised, so we wanted to wear the bracelets as a visual that he could see while watching the games online and be a part of the team,” said Brunswick head coach Mark Roma. “This gave us some extra motivation, resulting in training harder and elevating our play.”

The bracelets meant a lot to the players, with many saying it gave them some extra motivation.

A “Vaz” sign hangs off the Brunswick bench at Brunswick High School soccer field. The sign is hung in support on Brunswick player Luke Vazdauskas. Photo provided by Luke Vazdauskas

“By having the bracelets we all felt that Luke was always on the field together with us,” said sophomore starting goalie Brady LaForge. “Everything we did on and off of the field this season was for Luke.”

“I think the news humbled all of us, including myself,” Roma added. “Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves about the whacky season and losing sight on things, this helped us appreciate each game and practice even more as a gift.”

While Vazdauskas was unable to be with the team, the Dragons made sure he was never far from their minds.

The team hung a sign behind their bench at several home games that read “Luke V Strong” to show support. They also had him create their pregame music playlist for warmups, and the seniors on the team each pitched in to buy him an Arsenal jersey with his last name on it.

“We all just wanted to show our support to Luke and let him know that we are all here for him,” said senior captain Lane Foushee.

Vazdauskas says the response from his teammates represents what it means to be a part of a team.

“The response of the team has been great during this time,” Vazdauskas said. “I used to think that the term being a part of a team is like being a part of a family as cliche and took it for granted in a way, but times like this are where it’s more apparent that saying rings true.”

Coach Roma kept Vazdauskas involved throughout the season by giving him tasks to complete, such as watching game film and figuring out different formations.

“I would go to practice when I was able to help out coach Roma and just be another set of eyes,” Vazdauskas said. “I enjoyed watching the game film and analyzing it, and I appreciated coach Roma for getting me involved with that kind of stuff. Having multiple perspectives on things within the game is never a bad thing.”

The Brunswick boys soccer team wore these bracelets this season in support of teammate Luke Vazdauskas. Photo provided by Mark Roma

Jack Banks, a defender with the Dragons, said Vazdauskas hasn’t changed since the diagnosis.

“Luke acts much differently than I would have thought someone who is dealing with what he is dealing with would ever act,” Banks said. “He makes jokes, laughs, and is very brave, but it really shows how amazing of a person Luke is.”

Vazdauskas has been friends for years with many of his teammates, and he leans on those friendships today.

“It’s been great to have these guys by my side through all these years and have them support me now with my diagnoses,” Vazdauskas said. “It’s been awesome to see us progress as a team on the field and friends off the field.”

Vazdauskas was awarded the “Coaches Award” for this season, which Roma presented him over Thanksgiving break.

The two share a love for Premier League soccer, with Roma a self-described Liverpool fan and Vazdauskas an Arsenal supporter. Arsenal and Liverpool are big rivals.

“We always go back and forth talking about the English Premier League as well as other things,” Roma said. “It’s been good to see him keep his normal positive attitude through everything that he has been dealing with.”

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