Fierce Flyer Cammy Singh, member of the Volée, shares the story of how her relationship with running has helped her manage the pain of an unimaginable loss.
BY: CAMMY SINGH
People often tell you to "stay strong" through difficult times in life. When I had my share of grief and loss four and a half years ago, I had no idea how I could possibly find the strength to face each day and stay strong. I was in full flight, fight or freeze mode and ‘running’ the longest race of my life. Everything in me was on the backburner… my physical and mental self were consumed by grief and pain.
My sweet boy, Rohan, was diagnosed with a brain tumor two days after his 7th birthday. The shock and overwhelming feeling of despair and hopelessness, coupled with the fact that I was on the other side of his medical team with a medical understanding of his tumor, threw me into complete disarray. The short yet grueling 28 day battle shattered me, yet in the end, shaped and defined me, allowing me to live life intentionally with a deep sense of purpose. As I look back on his life, I see a huge sense of urgency in everything about him; from being advanced in school to running, not like a child but an athlete, with incredible stride and focus. He would laugh and smile the entire time as I would remind him to “look forward when you run”. He did not lose, he won the race... he went heavenward.
My mental fog, intense pain, grief and blurred focus following those 28 days caused me to desperately search for constructive ways to live life again while keeping Rohan’s memory alive. I was looking for survival in a real, tangible and hopeful way. Running came into my life by way of a postcard advertising a free Running Evolution Couch to 5K class. I was intrigued and decided to check it out. When I first started running, 9 months after my loss, I was still very troubled by it and life was still very much “one foot in front of the other.” Running and the conversations that happened while running, helped clear my mind for a few minutes at a time and I got to the point where I felt it was helping me find a renewed purpose and focus... a way to gain mastery over something. By the end of the training, I discovered that running had become that strength for me. Putting one foot in front of the other and realizing that same feeling in life will not last forever. I felt stronger, physically and mentally; strong enough to recognize and figure out who I really was. Running has given me time to compartmentalize my emotions, it has become the ultimate therapy.
Shortly thereafter, I ran my very first half marathon. I didn’t know what to expect, except that my training and the support from my running buddies assured me that I would run the race with endurance, courage, strength and intention. Rohan loved legos and butterflies, so in his honor and in memory of kids gone too soon from cancer, I pinned a gold ribbon on my bib and held a lego butterfly tight in my fist the entire time. I was surprised my sweaty palms didn't let go of it. As I was approaching the finish line, I heard an inner voice saying, “Run Mom, Run,” and I saw the butterfly fly out of my hand and never to see it again. I took this as a sign that he was with me the entire time, cheering me on.
After completed a few half marathons, I decided to take the plunge and train for 26.2. I chose the Portland Marathon because it coincided with Rohan’s 11th birthday. Running Portland was truly a celebration and the exclamation point at the end of an intense training cycle that involved injuries, setbacks and a lot of self-doubt. That relentless forward motion, the feeling of hurt, fatigue and “hitting the wall’, the fight with every muscle fiber in my being is something I will always cherish because it gives meaning to the miles and to life and all its challenges. It edged me to push through just a bit more and leap with joy when I saw the finish line.
A special bond has emerged between my daughter, Norah (name scrambled from Rohan) and I through running. Though her memories of her time with Rohan are just a short three years, she holds those memories close to heart and runs each kid's race with enthusiasm and determination - running for, and with, Rohan in her heart.
So, this is my journey that encompasses both grief and running. Through this journey, I have learned that running gives me a sense of control when I may not be able to control anything else around me. Running is a place of hope, a place of defiance and coming out strong when things look impossible. Running gives me the space to enjoy 'the now' in a mindful way. There is more determination and fight in me than I may accept and grasp in the moment. I will always know Rohan’s pain and strength to be far greater than any I endure. I will continue to run each race, big or small in honor of my sweet boy, dedicating every mile of my race to his life. I will continue to create awareness and raise funds to fight pediatric brain tumors in his honor. All this may be small in the grand scheme of things, but the feeling of pushing my limits, and honoring my son who underwent so much is perhaps a way for me to fight back. To make a stand. To remember.
For as long as I can, for as long as the pain and grief exist, I will continue to run and remind myself that life is a gift and worthy of purpose. I do not run for medals, I run for Rohan, because running for Rohan brings profound meaning to my miles.
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