Life is unpredictable. None of us can predict about what’s going to happen tomorrow. Something similar happened to Delhi based Rahul Yadav who proudly says that he is a Blood Cancer Fighter and Founder Of Yoddhas.
The Perfect Life:
An Army Brat From New Delhi, Rahul graduated in Hospitality Management from New Delhi. He then did his MBA in International Business from SIMS, Pune.
Life was just going perfect for Rahul who had a well paying job in Bangalore and had just got married to his childhood sweetheart, Rashi Mandla on 22 Oct 2011. He couldn’t ask for a better life.
He recalls,“It was the August of 2013. I was 28 years old and had been doing very well with work where I had just quit HCL Technologies to join Society Generale – A French Investment Bank in Bangalore. I had also just tied the knot with my childhood sweetheart. We had moved into a new house and were setting it up.
“At that time I was keen to buy my first car and also was making big plans to go to Andamans with my wife and parents before my father would retire from the Army. I was just getting started.”
“But then I just fell sick one fine day. It started with a minor cough and cold. Health got worse and I was then suspected and treated for dengue and eventually diagnosed with Cancer. On 23rd of August 2013 I was told that I have Multiple Myeloma, a rare form of Blood Cancer.” He didn’t even know what ‘Multiple Myeloma‘ meant as he heard this term for the first time in his life.
And The Hardships Began:
His life just turned upside down in just one day. His daily schedule changed completely. The attitude of people towards him changed. Instead of rushing to office for work everyday, regular visits to hospitals became his daily routine. He says,
“It was all so sudden. I didn’t even get a chance to realize what was happening. Suddenly I was on a wheelchair. It was like I was being led by others, they would tell me that now I have to take this treatment, now do this surgery, etc. and I would just do that.”
He had to eventually quit his job and both the husband-wife moved back to New Delhi where his treatment began. He felt as if Cancer was an unwanted guest at his house who doesn’t want to leave real soon. Rahul says that this annoying guest didn’t only stay, but changed his life completely.
He recalls, “It started with a Big bang – the diagnosis. It was like being hit by a 300 km / hour train. Then what followed was even worse. Endless waits at the hospitals. It became my home for the next 1 year. I have had 15 cycles of chemotherapies and numerous surgeries including removal of my Gall Bladder and tooth etc., all because of the strong chemo’s that the body could not handle and not to forget countless side effects and running to the Emergency Room in the middle of the nights. After all this, finally a ‘Bone Marrow Transplant.”
Rahul still doesn’t understand what caused him Cancer. He says he was a healthy person who never smoked and drank only occasionally. He used to cycle to office, was a badminton fanatic and used to play for hours post work. “The kind of cancer I had was very rare for a person of my age. I was so depressed.”, he says.
And A Warrior Was Born:
When Life Gives You Lemons,
Make A Lemonade Instead.
And this is exactly what Rahul Yadav did. He did not let his illness make him weak. Instead, he chose to become stronger. He thought that why it was so hard to deal with this disease, and realised that he didn’t have anyone to share the issues with. “Of course, family is there, but they don’t know exactly what you are going through,” he says.
And this is when a Warrior was born. He thought of starting a patient-to-patient support group where all cancer patients can come together and discuss about the issues they face and find solutions to them.
So he started Yoddhas- Indians Fighting Against Cancer. Yoddhas is a Hindi Word which means Warriors/Fighters In English.
Yoddhas is an online based NGO which provides a platform to cancer patients and survivors to talk about their condition, to share their experiences and to discuss about what worked or did not work for them.
What Makes Yoddhas Different?
“Although there are many NGOs who are working in this field, their work is mostly on the ground like organizing marathons, events, etc. I found that there was no such group in India where patients could talk to each other openly,” Rahul says.
He started this NGO because he realised that the people who are undergoing through the same phase would understand each others’ problems in a much better way.
How Does It Work?
Rahul says, “We are basically a patient to patient support group. We have various mediums of connecting with each other. For example, various social networking sites like Facebook, Whatapp groups and Website Support forums and even local chapters where people meet in person. These are a few ways we connect with each other. People post their fears, questions and progress on fighting the disease. This way we support each other emotionally and share personal experiences and information.”
He further explains, “We are a dynamic group where we constantly collect information that a patient provides and give it back to the group in a structured manner. For instance, which are the best hospitals for treating cancer and then help a new patient make the right choice using this information. But I would like to mention that we do not have any commercial tie ups with any hospitals or pharmaceutical companies and the patient data and privacy is always maintained that way. Also, in case a person cannot afford a costly treatment, someone in the group might suggest to him an alternative solution for it because people from different places are part of this group.“
The team of Yoddhas often organise campaigns in colleges and on social media to create awareness about cancer among people and make them know about its causes and impact. They have also chosen some onsight platforms like The Mumbai Marathon, Rahagiri (Delhi) to create awareness.
Yoddhas is also focusing on engaging the youth in their awareness programmes. They often organize various events, and street plays. For this, Yoddhas has partnered with students of various colleges across the country.
The Enthusiastic Team Of Yoddhas:
Yoddhas has a dedicated group of enthusiastic young volunteers from across the country who work at various levels. The NGO has a team of 30 plus supporters working online from various parts of the country. Rahul Says,”Our National Coordinator Shivani Naik and Delhi coordinator Hitesh Mandla really run the show at the ground level. Some other core members being – Pranay, Palak, Aditi. We also have a lot of voluntary supporters who work pro-bono for us.”
His Constant Support:
Rahul is very thankful for his family who stood by him in the worst phase of his life. He realises that the fight would have been impossible if he didn’t have them by his side. He says, “My wife and parents and my family and friends were very supportive and calm. They helped me process the diagnosis and gave me the space I needed to accept what was happening. I was comforted by their warmth and support. My wife always had a smile on her face and that kept me going.“
What Kept Him Going:
While talking about his strengths and what really kept him going through this not-so-easy journey, he says,“Receiving so much support and positivity gave me strength and inspiration to fight my own battle harder. When I see all these people battling their cancers, in turn I feel great about being able to give other people the same support and inspiration.”
Yoddhas was recognised among 800 Social Start-ups globally and won the overall 2nd Prize. It also grabbed the ‘Most Popular Choice Award’.
Yoddhas also has an international tie up with IMF(International Myelome Foundation). He says, “I believe it was a simple gap that we have filled. People have been very supportive towards us. One major milestone would certainly have to be the recognition we received from UNESCO. Perhaps Yoddhas would not be where it is today had we not received that extra boost from the UNESCO win.” Rahul and his wife were invited in Berlin, Germany for the recognition.
Last Year, He was invited to the Arnab Goswami’s Prime Time Show of Times Now to advocate for reduced pricing for cancer drugs. He was also featured in Hindustan Times where he talked about how to raise funds for cancer treatment.
Yoddha also won an award at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, 2014 because of its excellent working model and impact on cancer patients.“I want to bring out real life heroes through these groups. When we talk about cancer we see how celebrities like Yuvraj Singh and Lisa Ray have come out of it successfully. They are undoubtedly an inspiration but I cannot relate to them. We need people like us who have succeeded to restore our faith that we can be fine too,” he says.
“I want to make fighting cancer cool,” says Rahul Yadav.
And Miles To Go Before I Sleep:
Well, the journey doesn’t ends here. There is a long way to go. He recalls about the Bone Marrow transplant he underwent and that an umbilical cord of a pregnant woman is required in the process. Because the donors should be young, he wants to spread awareness among the youth so that they can come forward and extend help to those who need. India has less than 1 lakh registered donors and a lot of people are losing their lives because they are not able to find a matching donor. Therefore, he wants to work on the bone marrow registry and spread more awareness about it.
Rahul says, “We also intend to be able to make the rehabilitation of the patients easier. Both from getting a job to even finding a life partner.”
His health keeps shaking him down every now and then, but he is not willing to give up. He has been admitted in hospital from last few months, as he has been looking cancer in the eye for the third time. They started with the regular chemotherapy in August but, unfortunately, it’s not working this time. He is currently under the imported chemotheraphy. He is not able to walk due to severe neuropathy and have other issues and side effects.
Even though he has got the spirit and the willpower to fight the disease, but he needs funds too in order to get foreign drugs. His wife, Rashi has started an online Fundraiser Campaign to raise funds for his medical expenses. They require a total of INR 80 lakhs, and have successfully managed to raise about INR 35.5 Lakhs. However, the gap needs to be filled urgenly for future cycles. Visit the link, and help this warrior to win this fight.