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Updated: March 21, 2013 02:19 IST

Going strong

VIJAY LOKAPALLY
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The cover of the book, “The Test of My Life…from Cricket to Cancer and Back”
The cover of the book, “The Test of My Life…from Cricket to Cancer and Back”

Yuvraj Singh tells about his book “The Test of My Life”, and still being in the game

I have known Yuvraj Singh as a chirpy, busy youngster, who grew into a fine cricketer, a grand strokeplayer. Soon after the World Cup, meeting him at his Gurgaon residence was a sad experience. A melancholic Yuvraj, coughing and gasping, presented a miserable sight even as his doting mother, Shabnam, wore a worried look. Was it cancer? Will Yuvraj ever play cricket? “Am I going to die,” he lamented.

But Yuvraj, 31, fought, survived, played cricket again and had the strength and desire to pen his journey. It has taken the shape of a book “The Test of My Life…from Cricket to Cancer and Back”. Unsurprisingly, he has dedicated the book to Shabnam. His touching tribute reads, “To my mother, Shabnam Singh. This book is not about me; it’s the story of a brave mother. A mother who has given me birth twice. Someone said rightly, God can’t be everywhere so he made mothers. I can tell you I saw that.”

Seasoned journalist Sharda Ugra and Yuvraj’s longtime friend and former cricket scribe Nishant Jeet Arora have come together to compile an engaging book that details the all-rounder’s World Cup triumph in April, the first chest x-ray in May, the treatment in Indianapolis under Dr Lawrence Einhorn at the IU Simon Cancer Centre in January and, to complete his brave fight back, his first match for India after his recovery from cancer on September 11 against New Zealand in Chennai .

How was the idea to write a book born? “In USA while going through one of the toughest days of my life, I was reading Lance Armstrong’s book and trust me that book was a great support. And I would write notes, record stuff on Dictaphone. There were times when I didn’t have the energy so I used to dictate notes to Nishant. Then I launched my charity YOUWECAN. The aim of this charity is to spread awareness and remove the stigma around cancer, especially in India where there is a lot of myth and wrong perceptions about cancer. Sharda and Nishant helped me to pen down my thoughts. If this can inspire even one person while fighting cancer or any other hardship in life I would be a very pleased man.”

The journey, from recovering and penning thoughts for the book, was eventful. “It wasn’t easy at all. At times to recount all that I had gone through was very painful. It took me back to my tough times. It also has a bit about my childhood and the kind of health issues I faced during the World Cup 2011. It is straight from the heart and I hope people will understand the message behind in the book. It’s about awareness, removing stigma and making people more responsible about their big and small health issues.”

Yuvraj, with an experience of 40 Tests and 282 ODIs, believes the book can do a lot to create cancer awareness. “I don’t know why but in India, especially celebrities and the educated class, aren’t very keen to talk about cancer. Even after getting cured and regaining their life completely. Look at Indian movies, from Anand to Kal Ho Na Ho, eventually the hero dies because of cancer. And it has made cancer similar to a death sentence. And even when people are fighting it, they are scared of coming out and facing the world. And that is something I really want and hope to change with my charity YOUWECAN.”

Obviously, health also assumes importance in Yuvraj’s life now. “ I want to tell people not to ignore your small health issues. Get yourself screened on time. Sixty per cent of cancers are curable if they are detected at early stages. We are trying to organise detection camps so that people can get themselves screened. In India out of every 1000 detections 40 people have cancer and if that is caught at the right stage it is curable. Whatever I can do in my humble capacity I will do. This is my mission in life.”

The book is a nice balance between his life on the cricket field and his battle against cancer. “This book has a bit of my childhood, the time around the World Cup when I was facing health issues but kept ignoring them. It also deals with a very important aspect about cancer and its patients. Most of the patients in my age find it hard to believe that they have cancer. So denial is always there. And then it covers how I fought through it and then took baby steps to regain my place in Indian team.”

He has a message for those fighting cancer. “Fight hard, don’t give up. Stay positive, count your blessings. God gives this test to some of the toughest people. So keep your chin up, and note small improvements in your health. At times the treatment and the side effects are extremely tough and demoralising. But don’t forget that all this is healing you. So you have to take it in your stride. And don’t forget if Yuvi can, then you can. YOUWECAN.”

He is back to being his chirpy self; back to being Yuvraj Singh, the entertaining cricketer.

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