Calcutta: “It was cricket that brought me back,” a beaming Yuvraj Singh said, here, on Tuesday, speaking at a cancer awareness programme, organised by actress Rituparna Sengupta for Bhavna Aaj O Kaal and Illusions, in association with the Apollo Gleneagles Cancer Hospital.
“It was good to make a comeback,” Yuvraj said, whose success story against the dreaded disease has become an inspiration for thousands afflicted with cancer.
“We are a symbol of hope and courage,” he said, referring to his companion on stage — the ravishing Manisha Koirala.
“It is not easy, but what helps you overcome such great obstacles in life is how hungry you are to get your life back. You need the passion to come back to your work and lead a normal life,” he added.
“It is a fight within yourself. You need your friends and family for support. The love and wishes of everyone brought me back from the clutches of cancer.”
Saying that Manisha was looking 10 years younger, Yuvraj urged fans to give her time to make a comeback. “I am sure she will, but give her time.”
He added with an impish grin: “You people never gave me time, always asking when will I play again.”
Manisha, looking radiant, said she called herself a “cancer crusader” since “survivor” is too weak a word. “I don’t like being called a survivor. It doesn’t give me strength,” said the Bollywood star who has started her own platform “Be Mad” that works for the spreading awareness and creating a support system for cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
Iterating Manisha’s view, Yuvraj said that he too did not like being called a “survivor”. “We are fighters,” he emphasised.
“When I went through the crisis, I realised how fragile life is. Through our organisation, we reach out to people and help them value life and health.
“A fight against cancer doesn’t always have to be sad. It is tough, but we can make it fun and live life while combating it,” she expressed.
Manisha, who was afflicted with ovarian cancer, added that one should always try to lead a healthy life, and not wait for disasters like cancer to hit them to understand the value of health.
Yuvraj, back in the India ODI and T20 squads for the upcoming series against Australia, is “anxious” to be back on the pitch.
“I am always anxious before a match, even if it is a domestic one. And it will be great to play again for India.”
The day India won the Champions Trophy in June this year, Yuvraj was on his way to France.
Along with Zaheer Khan, he underwent a rigorous six-week training programme at Brive La Gaillarde, in France.
He was coached by Tim Exeter — a high performance physical trainer well known in Europe’s rugby and soccer circles.
“My mother is extremely happy that I have been able to come back to the senior team,” he said. “I gave more than 200 per cent to be fit enough to make the comeback.”
Yuvraj’s foundation YouWeCan has been working for spreading awareness about cancer and helping victims with a support system.
Teaming up with the Apollo Gleneagles Cancer Hospital, the foundation has already reached out to about 60,000 people in West Bengal, screening them for cancer.
About three per cent of them have been found to be positive, said Dr Rupali Basu, CEO of the hospital.
“Cancer is life changing,” Yuvraj maintained.
Asked whether he found inspiration from the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, he replied: “I was always in touch with them throughout my treatment.
“Sourav was my first captain, and was always an inspiration.”
The governor MK Narayanan also graced the occasion. “There is a world beyond the dreaded word cancer.
Life becomes different, but you understand the real value of life beyond the rat race,” he said.
He hailed Yuvraj and Manisha as inspirational figures who have shown the world that cancer can be conquered.