Running for Adrian, and also for hope

Dhanaraj family joins event to raise awareness of cancer, and funds for research, as ambassadors

Asking how the past year has been is a simple question, yet one that understandably brings tears to Peter Dhanaraj’s eyes.

Although battle hardened after serving almost three decades in the army, the 63-year-old’s answer was soft and tremulous.

“It’s not been easy,” he offered.

Sitting in the living room of his home in Yio Chu Kang, there is no disguising the pain both he and wife Sulojani feel at the loss of their son Adrian to cancer last September.

The former national footballer died aged 29, after a year-long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Since then, Peter – a long-serving football administrator – has kept his distance from the local game.

“I used to attend all his matches, so now when I talk about football, I can’t help but be reminded of him,” he explained.

Nevertheless, the Dhanarajs hope to honour their son’s memory by signing on as ambassadors for this year’s Run for Hope. The race is scheduled to take place on Nov 16. 

Organised by the Four Seasons Hotel, Regent Singapore and the National Cancer Centre Singapore, the annual charity run is into its 22nd year in the Republic and aims to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

“This will be one of the biggest steps in moving on,” said Sulojani, known to her friends as Sue, before taking her husband’s hand in hers and adding: “For Adrian.”

Not just for him, though, because the Dhanarajs are also taking part on behalf of their dear son.

“If Adrian had recovered and been approached, he would 100 per cent have done this,” said Peter.

Indeed, it is clear that the former midfielder – who had donned jerseys for the Young Lions, Singapore Armed Forces FC, Geylang United and Gombak United – never let his condition get to him.

During his stint of chemotherapy sessions, he continued to live up to his reputation as one of Singapore football’s fittest players by pumping iron and running.He also signed on with the Children’s Cancer Foundation as a volunteer tutor.

“What we’re doing is carrying the torch that he would have carried,” Sue said.

A nurse by training who had worked in an oncology ward some 15 years ago, she saw first-hand how far cancer treatment has progressed when Adrian was battling the disease.And the 57-year-old believes that it can only get improved further with greater awareness and support.

“Research really is the offence and the defence,” said Sue, now working as a regional operations manager for International SOS.

“Adrian will not be one of the beneficiaries but I’m sure there will be lots of people in the future who will benefit from solid cancer research.

“He may have lost the battle but we cannot lose the war.”

stsports@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on Aug 17, 2014