World Cancer Day: Yuvraj Singh on how he’s trying to create awareness about cancer through YouWeCan
Hitting six sixes in a row in T20, picking the Man of the Series trophy in 2011 World Cup and being a cricketer who youngsters looked up to - Yuvraj Singh is all this, and more. A cancer survivor, he made a smashing comeback and proved that ‘if you have the will, there’s no stopping for you’. On World Cancer Day, Yuvraj opens up about how through YouWeCan (YWC) Foundation, founded in 2013, he’s trying to create awareness about cancer and touch lives of millions who suffer from this deadly disease.
Be it your game on field, personal life or battle with cancer, you’ve inspired millions.of people. Looking back, how does it all feel today?
I feel very proud and extremely blessed. I’m very passionate about the work im doing through YouWeCan Foundation and it’s given me a sense of purpose and belief that this is something I can do after cricket. Because I’ve gone through it myself, I want to give hope and courage to other people who are suffering from cancer and inspire them through my own story, so that tomorrow they can be an inspiration in someone else’s life and set an example for society.
It’s been six years since YouWeCan Foundation started. What has changed from then to now in terms of initiatives you started and campaigns you spearheaded?
Over the years, we’ve built a large dedicated team to implement programs directly. We’ve also created targeted programs to achieve our core objectives of driving cancer awareness, facilitating early detection and providing patient support.
Do you think India still lacks awareness when it comes to cancer and its treatment? Also, is money the main problem with most of the people who suffer from cancer?
Yes, lack of awareness is a huge issue. We estimate that about 15 lakh new cancer cases are reported each year and about 70% of them are at advanced stages of the disease. This is mainly because of lack of awareness and early detection facilities and we’re working very hard to address this issue. In terms of money, the average cost of treatment is about Rs. 3-5 lakh, however, the government’s Ayushman Bharat Scheme is a game changer where cancer patients can get upto Rs. 5 lack of free treatment per year, provided they meet the criteria.
The common notion is that cancer means no survival and end of a life. How are you, through your foundation, making sure to change this very notion?
This is a very wrong perception. In this context, I feel my own story helps people understand that you can have a normal life after overcoming cancer and we’re trying to take it to as many people as possible through our screening and awareness programmes, which are designed in a way that in addition to screening people for cancer, we can also spread awareness on self examination techniques and the importance of frequent screenings — leaving them with the message — ‘There’s nothing to fear. If Yuvi can fight cancer, so can you’. Till date, we’ve screened over 1.5 lakh people and spread awareness to about 2.3 lakh people. We plan to touch over a million people by 2020 through our screening and awareness drive.
Hazel came into your life after you overcame cancer, and has stood by you through thick and thins. Being a cancer survivor, there’s always a fear of relapse. Has such a thought ever crossed your or her mind?
Both Hazel and I are quite positive and optimistic about the future. Obviously a fear of relapse if always there in the back of your mind, but we don’t really focus on it. The first five years after treatment is very critical and I’ve crossed 5 years. Having said that, anything is possible in life, so you have to hope for the best but stay prepared for the worst.
We’ve heard that you’ve decided to support treatment of 25 kids suffering from cancer, 2019, directly or indirectly. Tell us more about it and how are you ensuring that you involve other people in this?
Yes, this is a pledge I’ve made on my birthday (December 12). Already many companies and individuals have come forward to support. I am hoping that more and more people come forward to support so that we can take this number to a 100 children and hopefully many more.
YWC is supporting cancer survivor children by reintegrating them into formal education through scholarships. What’s the aim behind such a noble move?
In rural areas, we observed that once children overcome cancer, it’s tough for them to go back to regular school because of fear in the family and stigma in society. Also, there’s also a great financial strain on the family because of the cost of treatment. So, we’re addressing this issue through a targeted scholarship program that helps cancer survivor students to get reintegrated into the formal education system. We also provide counselling to the family, the school and the local community on how they can support these children to come back to school. Till now we have supported 150 students through this initiative and hope to take it up to 500 students.
Interact with Monika Rawal Kukreja at Twitter/@monikarawal
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