Shabnam Singh On Being A Single Mother, Yuvraj's Illness And Need For Cancer Awareness

As a parent, it was the most difficult experience for me to see him go through that pain. I was not ready to accept that my son had been diagnosed with a deadly disease. -Shabnam Singh

Shabnam Singh
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Shabnam Singh

As women, we undertake several roles in our lifetime and juggle multiple roles. It's as if we were born with multi-tasking abilities! My story is no different. From being a sportswoman, mother to now spearheading initiatives at my foundation, life has given me several unique experiences. The most satisfying was being a single mother to two teenagers and being able to stand beside my son while he was going through a horrifying experience. Life has its own way of putting you on the right path and I believe what I am doing today in my capacity for cancer awareness and treatment in India, is something that I was always destined to do.


From being a Sportswoman to being married into a Sports Family

I always had an inclination towards sports while growing up - right through school and college. I had Yuvraj, my elder son when I was about 19 or 20 years old. Becoming a mother at such an early age, was a very different experience. While I was happy to have moved onto the next phase of my life, there were several challenges that I had to overcome.

A responsible single mother

I was single-handedly responsible for my kids, their education and the well-being of the family. However difficult it was, I managed because being a mother teaches you to do things you thought you couldn’t do. I have embraced all the hardships - financial issues, striving hard to make ends meet, nurturing kids to become great human beings, striking a balance between education and sports and so much more. When I look back today, I think that my kids were my biggest motivation to keep going.

Guide to a rising star who later became one of India’s most successful and adored cricketer

Acceptance is key to a happy life and with this in mind, we started focusing on what was ahead of us. Yuvraj was inclined towards sports. Initially, he tried everything, but we always knew cricket was his calling. At this point in my life, I was a friend, philosopher and a guide apart from being a mother. I now realise God's mission for me was to not just shape my son’s career but also create hope for millions of other young, aspiring athletes and sportsmen. Yuvraj and I together went through the challenges - whether it was being called too young to play for Ranji trophy, suffering jaundice, right after he was selected for a series or being unprepared for the stardom and sudden attention. Keeping the power of ‘Mind over Matter’ in my mind, I made it a point to repeatedly tell Yuvraj to keep his focus on the goal and keep going until he has achieved it, a philosophy we still swear by.  Gradually things fell into place until life decided to throw another googly at us!


Being a support system and finding my calling

After an exhilarating high of winning the World Cup in 2011, Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer. It was almost as if the world came crashing down. As a parent, it was the most difficult experience for me to see him go through that pain. I was not ready to accept that my son had been diagnosed with a deadly disease. I questioned the possibility of this being true as he was always a fit and healthy person. I really did not have much time to ponder over what had happened. I had to transform myself into his support system, a pillar of courage who cannot let her guard down no matter how scary it is. This was also the time we realised how loved Yuvraj is. The entire country was praying for him. This love, the sense of duty towards the fans, learnings over the years and my spiritual guru’s motivating words encouraged us to keep going and fight this. It was physically and mentally exhausting and I feel deeply grateful that all that is behind us and Yuvraj is happy and healthy.

This experience taught me a lot and it helped me find my calling. It made me realise that while Yuvraj could afford the best care, not many cancer patients in India have the right kind of resources or knowledge to fight it. There is still a huge population in India that is not aware of cancer, its different forms or how to deal with it. And I strongly believe that to empower Indians to fight against cancer we first need to spread awareness. My team and I at the YouWeCan Foundation are focusing on awareness, screening, treatment support and survivor empowerment. We want to stand beside cancer patients and their families, tell them they are not alone and help them envision the bright future that lies ahead.

Life has its share of ups and downs and mine has taught me how to just keep going and make most of the present moment. And in this present moment, I want to work towards a world where people don’t fear cancer and feel empowered to fight it.

The views expressed are the author's own.

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