Yuvraj Singh is unstoppable, a survivor of many battles, not just on the field, but also with cancer in 2012. The latter led Yuvraj to launch YouWeCan, an initiative that helps people combat cancer by spreading awareness and evading the stigma around it.
On World Cancer Day today, Hindustan Times Paathshala — an initiative that supports and funds the education of underprivileged children — collaborates with TogetherWeCan campaign by YouWeCan to support the education of cancer survivor kids.
In a chat with HT, Yuvi talks about how this collaboration would be the most constructive way to help spread awareness.
Tell us about your association with HT Paathshala? How would you encourage people to join this movement?
It’s a great initiative that HT has taken to educate those who don’t have the means for it. YouWeCan and Paathshala can send out a strong message together. At YouWeCan, we also support children whose parents have spent all the money towards cancer treatment and have none left to educate their kids. Also, several kids are stuck in child labour. They have dreams, but no means to work for their future. TogetherWeCan shall send out this message and hopefully, corporates and people will help.
While growing up, did anyone’s deeds inspire you to help others?
When we’d play cricket, a lot of kids weren’t able to afford the equipment. I remember my dad giving them stuff and helping them out. So in every sport and education, there are people who don’t have that opportunity... I feel blessed that I had it all — good school, education and parenting. That’s what I want to give back to the society.
How important is it to have value education as a part of our school curriculum?
It’s a must, and it comes from teachers and parents. What’s the point of carrying 50 books to school if you understand only four. A child shouldn’t be thinking that I have to finish 15 subjects. The lesser the burden, fitter the mind.
How did you handle the news when you were diagnosed with cancer?
It was hard to come to terms with it that suddenly when you are at the peak of your career, you were diagnosed with such a disease. It was a long and tough journey but now when I look back, it was a big learning lesson in my life. I learnt, ‘Every day you have to live life’. You hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. I’m a changed person. Earlier everything was about cricket and now, I look forward to life.
Did you ever feel like asking God ‘Why Me…’?
At some stage, these things come to your mind that being an athlete why anything wrong would happen to you. But then you realise you are also a normal human being. Once you come to terms with that, you realise anything can happen to anyone. After I was diagnosed with this disease, I realised how many more people are going through it. Eventually you have to look at the positive. Maybe I was chosen for this. Obviously, nobody wants to go through cancer but it has definitely got the better person out of me. After that, the roller coaster ride I went through, I never thought of ‘why me’.
What kept you going during the treatment in the US?
I had a good set of friends, strong core system with my mother who was 24*7 taking care of me. I had the blessings of my Guru Ji to come out of that traumatic phase and the love of the whole nation.
What was your fitness regime like in the recovery phase after the surgery?
I was in pain initially. Your body becomes slow and heavy and you feel that it’s not going to react. But slowly and steadily, things change. It took me over two years to get my body back in shape. For fitness, I had to work extra hours and change my diet completely. Ageing makes things harder. But with more recovery on the body and more sleeping hours, I made huge changes in my lifestyle.
What would be your advice to the youth today?
Well, I carry a big example for all of them. Life can go in any direction. It’s okay to fall, as it’s then that you learn to get up. Elders and seniors will always tell you the right things but unless you don’t learn through your own mistakes, you will never become a better person in life.
There’s a social stigma around cancer patients who wish to get married. Did you face anything like that?
This stigma of cancer is only when you don’t know what you’re going through. If you have the right doctors and treatment, you can beat cancer. Also, there’s lack of education and people feel if someone has had cancer, it might come back and that’s the reason why a lot of people don’t get married to a cancer patient or survivor. I think I’ve been an example of coming back and being hard and healthy and getting married to someone who has believed in me as a person who’s been a pillar of strength. So people who actually come out of it are stronger in life because of the journey they have been through, and they can be actually a better life partner than you can ask for.
You had one of the biggest comebacks in cricket playing for Team India in the ODIs this year. And that 150 runs score was just outstanding. Can you describe that feeling?
Oh, it’s hard to put it in words. It was a very emotional moment for me. The life I went through has really been full of ups and downs. I had a couple of tough years in between, so it was hard to get back to my best of fitness and ability. But I continued to believe in myself that one day it will happen. It took a lot of years but eventually I was able to come back and prove myself.
Share something about your new innings as a businessman where you want to invest in new startups with young minds. How did the whole idea crop up and where do you see it five years down the line?
YouWeCan Ventures started a couple of years ago with my partner, when we decided that people out there have lot of wings and it would be great to convert them into reality. With it, we’ve been able to create more jobs, as we have invested in health, education and sports. At the moment, I’m at the backseat, as I’m back to cricket. Five years down the line, it depends where the startup world is going. If it keeps evolving, I am sure YouWeCan Ventures will also evolve along the way.