Muay Thai legend Singtongnoi Por Telakun may have captured many titles, including Lumpinee Stadium and WMC Muay Thai World Championships, but he never imagined his most important battle would take place outside of the ring.
In August 2016, after complaining about not being able to hear anything out of his left ear, Singtongnoi was taken to a hospital in Singapore for a routine check-up.
What seemed like just a normal trip to the doctor turned out to be the shock of his life.
“After the check-up, the doctor had me wait in the waiting room for a while,” the 37-year-old begins.
“When the doctor called me back [into the room], he spoke to me in English, which I could not really understand.
“They translated it on my phone, and I read, ‘There is a high chance that you have cancer.’ I was stunned. I could not believe it. I asked, ‘Do I really have cancer?’ I started to cry. I was in disbelief.”
A two-centimeter long cancerous tumor was found in his nasal cavity. It was shocking news that changed Singtongnoi’s life in a mere instant.
Working as an instructor at Evolve MMA, Singtongnoi was providing a comfortable life for his family. But because he had cancer, his future suddenly started to look incredibly bleak.
“From having a bright, perfect future with many plans, as soon as the doctor told me I had cancer, they all disappeared. I thought I was going to die for sure,” the Singapore-based Thai admits.
“The first thing I thought about was my family and kids. I was worried about their future. If I was dead, who was going to look after them? They would not have a father to look after them and take care of them.”
Luckily, Singtongnoi had ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong in his corner for the battle of his life. Sityodtong used his resources to take care of the Muay Thai legend’s medical bills and cancer treatment, something which he is eternally grateful for.
“Chatri told me not to worry about anything and purely focus on fighting the cancer. He told me that he would take care of my family and kids if anything happened to me. This made me very relieved,” Singtongnoi explains.
“Once I started the treatment, I was not really able to eat. I lost about 5kg. I did not have the energy to do anything. All I could do was sleep.”
Singtongnoi was exhausted during the entire treatment process. His throat was hurting non-stop, and he had radiation burns all over his neck. It was even difficult for him to walk.
“There were points during my treatment that I wanted to quit,” he says. “But what made me fight was thinking about my children’s future and the people that I loved. I could not quit, as I had to fight for them.”
After braving through 36 sessions of radiation therapy and seven sessions of chemotherapy, his time in the hospital was finished.
The Thai still felt the effects of the treatment, however, and continued to stress about whether he was going to be declared cancer-free.
Finally, like a ray of light peeking through the clouds, Singtongnoi was given the news he was anxiously waiting to hear: he was cancer-free. He beat the cancer, and was given a new lease on life.
“What I learned from having cancer is that life is valuable, and that you should not take it for granted,” he explains. “It is important to love yourself and take care of your loved ones, as you do not know when you will die.”
Singtongnoi is now taking full advantage of his life, and even decided to make his return to Muay Thai competition.
This Friday, 18 May, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the living legend will make his comeback at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS.
He will face WBC Muay Thai Super Bantamweight World Champion Joseph “Hurricane” Lasiri in what should be an action-packed ONE Super Series Muay Thai flyweight contest.
As Singtongnoi prepares for the showdown, he will be bringing another lesson he learned from his battle with cancer to the ONE cage.
“I learned that the most important thing is to have a fighting spirit.”