Yuvraj Singh: the Indian cricketer who battled cancer and won

9 years ago, after leading India to a World Cup victory, one of the Indian crickets most loved players Yuvraj Singh was diagnosed with seminoma lung cancer. The cricketer had a cancerous tumor in his left lung. In regular cases, a seminoma is a germ cell tumor present in the testicle, but Yuvraj had a rare form of seminoma. In certain cases, on a rare occasion, this tumor may be present in other extra-gonadal locations. In Yuvi’s case it was present in the mediastinum. The mediastinum or mediastinal area is that present between the sternum and the spinal column, and between the lungs. When this kind of cancer is detected in early stages it can be easily cured. 

Yuvi’s dedication to the game and to his fans prevented him from taking notice of the symptoms beforehand. He stated that he ignored his symptoms early on as his mind was focused on leading India to world cup victory. He experienced severe loss of stamina, acute breathlessness and would even spit out blood. But that did not stop him from the game. 

His cancer was not a regular type of lung cancer. Regular lung cancer has low chances of survival but Yuvi’s seminoma lung cancer was easily treatable.  

The common symptoms of seminoma are:

• Back pain 

• Enlargement of breasts 

• Pain or discomfort in the testicle/scrotum 

• Dull ache in the abdomen/groin 

• Heaviness in the scrotum 

• A lump may sometimes be present in either testicle 

• Difficulty breathing 

• Headaches 

• Some individuals may experience some forms of confusion 

During the time of the world cup was when he began to experience these symptoms. He went on to say that there were nights when he would be unable to breathe and others where he would spend the night coughing. As the world cup ended Yuvi underwent a chest cavity scan which showed initial signs of a tumor. Unwilling to leave the sport, his drive and dedication pushed him to continue playing matches. Further tests revealed that a golf ball sized tumor was present over his chest. The tumor was pressing against his lungs and arteries which could have led to a heart attack. This posed a concern for him and his doctors. 

In January 2012, he decided to undergo treatment for his cancer. The treatment he underwent was chemotherapy in the United States. He went to Boston and Indianapolis to get treated by the same doctors who treated Lance Armstrong (former cyclists). The cricketer underwent three cycles of chemotherapy, lasting for nine-weeks. 

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment where drugs formed of powerful chemicals are used to kill fast-growing cells in the body. It is one of the most common treatments for cancer. This is because cancer cells multiply in the body more quickly than other cells. There are various forms of chemotherapy available, some doctors even recommend using a combination treatment. 

Yuvraj’s battle with cancer

In a regular case of seminoma (testicular) surgery would be the way to go, but since his tumor was present in the chest, chemotherapy was the way to go. He also mentioned that he was taking some forms of ayurvedic treatment side by side.

When asked to share his experience the cricketer said, just like anyone who gets diagnosed with cancer his initial reaction was to cry. Cancer is scary. In an interview, he stated, Cancer does not mean death. Don’t be scared… Be positive… Please don’t think that your life is about to end… Take the right advice and act as soon as you can… If there’s an issue in your system, don’t ignore it… Look at me, I never thought I’d get the chance to again play for India, but I’ve beaten cancer… God has given me this opportunity and my love for cricket has brought me back. I see this alone as a huge achievement… The experience has made me stronger (in the mind)… If you’re strong, then you automaticallybecome a positive person. Cancer doesn’t mean that you’re going to die.”

He found inspiration in world-renowned cyclist Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer. In a tweet, Yuvi specially mentioned how Lance’s battle against his illness was his source of inspiration. During his battle, fans from across the globe, cricketers, and countrymen rallied together supporting him through his tumultuous journey with cancer. 

A handful of sportsmen across the world have been able to make a career comeback after fighting a vigorous battle with cancer. And in Indian sports, this cricketer is one of a kind. 

Key takeaways

In 2013, during an interview with Hindustan Times, the cricketer revealed that cancer gave his life a new perspective “I am a more relaxed person now. When one is young, aspiring to play for the country, doing well, any hindrance, like injury or being out of form, can be frustrating and a cause of annoyance or even anger. But once you have a close encounter with death, you realize the real value of life,” he said. He went on to state that he now enjoys the simple things in life and no longer frets over things that are not in his control.

Coming back to 22 yards

Yuvi’s career was far from over. Despite the nasty side effects of cancer, he managed to bounce back. Although he could no longer be the same player he was before. His lack of form and fitness drove him to push further and work harder. He made a come back in international cricket 2013 and 2016, before finally retiring his Indian jersey in 2017. 

Cancer is now one of the most common illnesses. Sometimes there is no definitive reason to say why an individual contracts cancer. But what one must remember is where there is a will, there is a way. You must never lose the fighting sprite. And if you stay strong you can make your own come back. 

Yuvraj’s battle with cancer inspired many individuals who seemed to have lost hope. His dedication to the sport and his love for his fans kept him going. He started a cancer foundation YouWeCan in 2017, to help other battling cancer.

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