When great tragedy struck Rodlek P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym at the worst time, the Thai hero found the strength within himself to fulfill his duty to his family.
The 29-year-old – who will return to action against Chris Shaw at ONE: FIRE AND FURY – recently lost his mother to cervical cancer. Unfortunately for the ONE Super Series star, he received news about her illness when he was in one of the most important training camps of his career.
After a successful debut in The Home Of Martial Arts last June, Rodlek was preparing for his second contest on the global stage when he got the call.
“I found out about three weeks before my fight in the Philippines,” the Channel 7 Muay Thai World Champion explains.
“At first, my mom went to the doctor because she had a stomach ache. They gave her some medicine and sent her home. The pain kept coming back, so she started to see the doctor more frequently. The doctor realized something was up, and began to do some testing.
“When they did an ultrasound, they found three lumps. Two in her cervix, and one in her lung. It was stage-three cancer.”
Rodlek wanted to pull out of his match and fly home to be at his mother’s side, but everything his parents had taught him told him to stay focused on the task at hand. He was comforted by the knowledge his father and brother would not let his mother spend a single night in the hospital alone.
“When I found out, I wanted to go home right away, but my dad told me that he would take care of her, and to come home after the fight. He told me I had a job that I must do first,” he adds.
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The decision to go ahead with his bout at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES was one of the toughest of his life, and it continued to bother him as he made his preparations.
What were once joyful training sessions with his peers now seemed to drag on for hours. With his mother’s suffering constantly on his mind, he tapped into every ounce of strength he had left to persevere.
“I was always thinking about my mom. I wasn’t really into training but still got up every morning, and trained twice daily,” he explains.
“My mind wasn’t there, I was just going through the motions. During that time, it was my dad who was there to console me and keep me motivated. I didn’t feel good about it. I wanted to be with her at the hospital, but my dad told me to stay focused, do my job, and come home after my fight.”
Fans could not have guessed what he was going through when he arrived at Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena and put on a trademark performance.
Though he gave up 12 centimeters in height against Andrew Miller, he patiently found a way to close the distance and knock out the tough Scotsman with a thudding right hand in the third round.
It was a bittersweet victory for the Southern Thai native, who flew back to his hometown as soon as he landed in Bangkok. Once he arrived, he stayed with his mother until she passed.
After that, the whole family grieved and tried to come to terms with how they would continue their lives without her.
“After every fight, I would go home and see my parents. Wherever we went, we would go together,” he says.
“When my mom died it changed everything. Before, my parents were always together. They would go everywhere together and come home and sleep in the same bed. But now, my dad was alone and would now have to do everything alone. It was a big change.
“After my mom died, I stayed with my dad for nearly a month so he didn’t have to be alone. I waited for him until he got better.”
Eventually, Rodlek had to go back to the Thai capital and P.K. Saenchaimuaythaigym to start training for his next match so he could continue to provide himself, and his loved ones with a better life.
However, he talks to his dad – the man who raised him and taught him the value of hard work – whenever he can to make sure he is okay. And of course, for encouragement as he prepares to fire himself up to face another dangerous opponent in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“Now, I make sure to call him a lot, because I don’t get to see him as much as I would like to,” Rodlek adds.
“I am still fighting for my dad. He is always there for me, giving me motivation. I must take care of him and be there for him. I need to stay focused and do my job. I can’t let myself be downhearted.”