362 Runs. 15 Wickets. 1 Man, with 1Deadly Tumor. Right in the afterglow of the 2011 World Cup Victory, Indian Cricketer Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his left lung, which was confirmed to be Seminoma Lung Cancer.
He proceeded to undergo chemotherapy treatment in Boston and Indianapolis, and was discharged in March 2012 after his third and final cycle of Chemotherapy. He returned to India in April. This is his story.
“When you hear the word cancer for the first time, you really get scared. Cancer. It’s like a death sentence. You become really unsure where your life will take you.” – Yuvraj Singh
In a world defined by cut-throat competitiveness, bucketloads of money, and instant fame-or-shame situations, Yuvraj Singh was definitely at the peak of his form during the 2011 World Cup, and kept delighting cricket enthusiasts all over the world with his match-winning performances. Few were surprised when he was named Man of the Series during the closing ceremony!
In Yuvraj’s own words, he kept ignoring many early symptoms during the tournament in order to stay focused on his game. Yuvi (as fans lovingly call him) later revealed that it was as early as 2011 when he began experiencing severe symptoms such as acute breathlessness, where he would spit out gouts of blood. He also experienced a severe loss in stamina, which was likely to disrupt his form.
“At first I was in denial about it — playing for India was more important than my health and for a few months I chose to ignore the blood I spat out or my decline in stamina.” – Yuvraj Singh[1:1]
A trip to the doctor revealed the reason behind these symptoms, confirming his worst nightmare.
He had Seminoma Lung Cancer. A cancerous tumor in his left lung was growing slowly, and pressing against his lung and arteries, putting him at risk of experiencing a heart attack. Treating it would require him to take time off cricket and receive chemotherapy, a much-dreaded treatment process because of the side effects usually associated with it.
“I cried like a baby. When no one could see me or hear me. Not because I feared what cancer would do, but because I didn’t want the disease. I wanted my life to be normal, which it could no longer be!” – Yuvraj Singh[1:2]
Yuvi’s affliction, however, was not routine Lung Cancer. What we know today as Lung Cancer, has a very low survival rate. Fortunately, the disease that Yuvraj had (Seminoma Lung Cancer) has a much better prognosis, and is usually considered to be manageable if treated timely. Yuvi realized fairly soon, that the only option ahead of him if he ever wanted to play cricket again, was to receive effective cancer treatment. He got started on multiple rounds of chemotherapy and flew to Boston and Indianapolis in 2012, to meet the doctors who had previously treated former cyclist Lance Armstrong.
“The side effects of chemo made me reel on my knees some days. But I was determined to come back and play for my country. That’s the one thing which always motivated me.” – Yuvraj Singh[1:3]
After three intensive cycles of Chemotherapy, he flew back to India, eager to play for the team again. Was he able to make his comeback?
This is what the official transcript from the India-vs-Afghanistan World T20 Match from September 2012says.
“Balaji gave the first breakthrough and that was followed by a triple strike from Yuvraj, which plucked the life out of the Afghan challenge.
In many subsequent media interviews, Yuvraj has stressed on the importance of accepting cancer at the symptomatic stage, accepting the diagnosis, choosing to fight cancer the right way, and staying optimistic throughout the treatment.
“It’s only once I accepted cancer that I could beat it. When life knocks down you have a choice — to get up. So I thought to myself, ‘get up and do it again.” – Yuvraj Singh[1:4]
That goes out for every person who is fighting with cancer – be it a patient, or a family member of a cancer patient, or even doctors who treat cancer day in and day out. We need to remember Yuvraj’s biggest takeaway.