Diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in late 2014, Vincent Christian was told by doctors that he had only about six months to live.
So even though his illness caused him immeasurable pain and fatigue, he was determined to make the trip from Australia to Singapore last June just to catch his daughter, national wakeboarder and waterskiier Sasha Christian, in competitive action at the South-east Asian Games for the very last time.
Unfortunately, while Vincent did manage to make it to Singapore, the pain ultimately proved too much to bear. It forced the 61-year-old to cut short his trip to the Republic and return to Australia, just three days before the start of the SEA Games waterskiing competition.
As he embraced Sasha, his last words to her before he left Singapore were: “I’m sure we’ll catch up again sometime, darling.”
But that was the final time Sasha saw her father. Sasha went on to win two SEA Games gold medals in the individual slalom and wakeboard events, and a silver in the mixed wakeboard team event. But two weeks later, Vincent died.
It is why, despite her success at last year’s Games, Sasha still looks back at that period with regret.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before he would go, but we didn’t know when exactly, so when it did happen, it still came as a shock,” the 23-year-old told TODAY.
“In my mind, I thought there was still time. He put on a very brave front and never allowed me to know how much he was suffering.
“I think that because I didn’t know how severe it was, I was angry with myself and filled with regret when it happened.
“I felt frustrated that I was kept in the dark and kept thinking about what I could have done differently, such as calling him more often during that time even though I was busy preparing for competition.”
But a year on from his death, Sasha, who has four brothers, says she has finally made peace with herself after realising that her father played down the severity of his illness in order not to worry her.
She explained: “I finally understood that he did not want me to be worried about him, and that gave me a lot of comfort. I also constantly remind myself to be grateful for the times we had, and for being so blessed to have him as my dad.”
Reflecting on the life lessons she learnt from her father, Sasha admits she would not have become so successful in her sport without his input and guidance.
“He’s very different from my mum, who plays a much more active role in my sport,” said Sasha. “But he gives me a different perspective of it. He shaped my character, and how I carry myself, and that is translated into my sporting career.
“For example, he always tells me to do what I love and enjoy every moment of it. And that’s the way he lived as well.
“When he was diagnosed with cancer, his motto wasn’t something to do with getting stronger.
“Instead, it was all about treating each day as a blessing, and that’s the kind of philosophy that I adopt in my sport, where I seize each moment and make the most of it.”
Because she lost her father to cancer, Sasha did not hesitate when she was invited to be an ambassador for the 24th edition of Run for Hope, which will be held on Feb 19 next year at the Bayfront Event Space.
The annual charity run, which will feature a 3.5km route and a 10km category, is expected to attract more than 10,000 runners.
Aimed at increasing awareness and support for cancer research, the event will raise money for the National Cancer Centre Research Fund, which provides seeding and bridging funds for clinical research projects.
Sasha, who will run in the 3.5km category, will be joined by several other Team Singapore athletes such as swimmer Danny Yeo and high jumper Michelle Sng — both of whom also lost their fathers to cancer — as well as fellow waterskiier and wakeboarder Mark Leong.
“I think this race is a great platform for people who, like me, have been affected by cancer, either directly, or indirectly, to come together for a worthy cause,” said Sasha.
“It’s very reassuring to see such a huge community working towards the same goal. I hope it will encourage cancer patients and their families. They must know they’re not alone, and there is a lot of support out there for them.”
The wakeboarder says she is looking forward to testing herself on the road.
“I’ve loved running since I was young, and I usually get a bit competitive once I start a race,” said Sasha, who took part in this year’s Run for Hope as well. “I’m going to have to train for this coming edition though, but I think I’ll be fine.
“My plan is to try and get all my brothers to run with me, and maybe my mum.
“My brothers like running, so it shouldn’t be an issue. I think they’ll want to do the 10km run, though, so I’ll just meet them at the finish line!”
Source: TODAY Online