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Women’s Rugby

Rugby player gets support on and off the field from teammates during mother’s cancer battle

  • Valley prop Sonia Chandiramani lost her mother to cancer last year, and says her teammates showed her the true meaning of sport
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 9:19pm

Sonia Chandiramani knows the second she became a Societe Generale Valley Black Ladies rugby player right down to the core of her being.

Last summer her mother Soni passed away after a lengthy, hard-fought battle with cancer at the age of 53. A huge number of her teammates showed up to her mother’s funeral out of the blue to show their support. Chandiramani had taken the season off to deal with her mother’s illness and a demanding job, but her fellow players hadn’t forgotten about her.

Chandiramani, who played on Saturday for Valley at loose head prop, said it was unexpected to have that many teammates turn up to honour her mother, and she was blown away by it.

“That was it, I was sold,” she said of the touching moment. “The seniors on the team, some of them were pregnant, and really busy and they all took the time to come out. For me, that is when it was completely official for me.”

Chandiramani, 25, said the support from her teammates during some of her darkest moments personifies what it means to be a part of a real team. Her mother’s battle with cancer contained a few relapses and she said throughout it all she always felt like her family away from her family had her back.

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“It’s not just out on the pitch, you look after each other off the pitch too, and I understand that now with Valley. They become like a secondary family to you, this team is more than just people you play rugby with.”

Her side played like a cohesive family this past Saturday in their Women’s Premiership match against Plastic Free Seas City Sparkle, pounding them 63-0. Saturday was also Pink Rugby Day in aid of the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.

Valley remain undefeated this season, showcasing what a team can do when they come together to support each other.

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Chandiramani, who was born in Curacao and is Indian by ethnicity and Dutch by nationality, moved to Hong Kong with her mother and father in 2001 when she was eight. Her family had relatives in the city and her parents were also looking for a better education for her, and business opportunities for themselves. Chandiramani originally started playing rugby in Kowloon, however seven seasons ago made the switch to Valley and has not looked back.

It happened to be the same year her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Chandiramani said it was overwhelming at times, but one thing she could always rely on was for rugby to be a positive outlet for her.

Chandiramani said her mother’s battle with cancer also created a sense of drive within herself, as while still in school at Renaissance College Hong Kong, she began fundraising for various cancer efforts.

“As much as what was going on at home, it made me not want to sit on my ass and do nothing,” she said, noting her school helped her put together her first breast cancer awareness and fundraising effort.

Chandiramani has kept up her fundraising work since then, putting on countless events and drives. Those culminated in this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Walk last week where her Valley teammates helped her raise HK$23,000.

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She noted part of raising awareness about all types of cancer is being a good listener to those who are suffering, or have family suffering from the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is the second leading cause of death on the planet. It is responsible for approximately one in six deaths worldwide and an estimated 9.6 million people will die from cancer in 2018.

Chandiramani said her biggest advice for those trying to help, is to offer support in a caring way.

“When it comes to listening you have to listen with an open heart,” she said. “And all they need to know is that you’re there, and it helps if you come in with some knowledge and sensitivity too.”