Stand By Me
Shabnam Singh, mother of cricketer Yuvraj Singh, on life as a single parent and being there for her son through the most difficult year of his life
Last year started on all the right notes for 30- year- old cricketer Yuvraj Singh. Not only did India win the World Cup after 28 years but he was also declared man of the tournament. Just when everyone thought things couldn’t get better for him professionally, there came the shocking news that he was battling lung cancer. “He was coughing and vomiting all through the tournament. But we thought it was just the stress, and his desire to excel on the biggest stage... so we ignored it,” says his mother Shabnam Singh. Once the tournament was over and all the excitement subsided, Yuvraj finally went to see a doctor. “To our horror, we found a golf ball- sized lump over his left lung,” says Singh. “I was stunned and in denial for a long time because of conflicting medical reports. I kept thinking to myself that this couldn’t be happening to my son.”
But the reality finally seeped in after months of tests confirmed the same thing. It was cancer and it needed immediate attention. “We were all worried. But he would keep telling us that he’s a brave boy and will come out of this,’” says Singh, her voice choking with emotion. A single parent, Singh divorced her
husband, former cricketer Yograj Singh, when Yuvraj was still a teenager, and makes no qualms about the fact that her life revolves around her children. So when Yuvraj decided to move to the US for treatment, it was only natural that she followed him there. “Initially I was a little apprehensive about going there, but once I reached and saw the levels of medical proficiency, I was very happy.” She says the fact the people were friendly and the doctors supportive, helped her get along with life when Yuvraj was in the hospital.
I was stunned and in denial for a long time because of conflicting medical reports. I kept thinking to myself that this couldn’t be happening to my son.”
Although the cooking, cleaning and looking after her son was physically exhausting, they took a toll on her mentally too. “It’s only when I look back that I realise for the three months that I stayed there, I was going through the motions of the day just like a zombie. I didn’t want to be the least bit emotional as I wanted to be strong for Yuvi,” she says, adding, “I realised that the doctors gave me cold facts and I respect that. Also, after the first cycle, the results were really encour- aging, so that too kept me going.” It’s only when the doctors said that he would be as normal as before the illness did she stop worrying.
During his time there Yuvraj read voraciously and found strength in the story of cycling legend Lance Armstrong’s autobiography It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life. Armstrong, like Yuvraj, was diagnosed with cancer but not only did he bounce back, he also returned to his sport bigger and better than ever. Yuvraj plans to do the same, penning his experiences down in the hope that he too will write a book to inspire others one day. He also admits that his mother is his rock of Gibraltar. “I think my mother is stronger than me and she really kept me going. There were times when I would weep like a child, but she never shed a tear. She stayed strong and made me stronger,” he said in an interview recently.
Singh says that visits by his family, friends and colleagues also kept them going through the time. Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar, both visited Yuvraj during his treatment. “Kumble wanted to surprise him, but he got to know his date of arrival,” says Singh. Itching to do what he does best, play cricket, Singh says Yuvraj deliberately kept away from the game because whenever he saw a match, he would feel frustrated. “He was at home all the time, even getting up was a chore and he spent his days playing video games and watching movies,” she says. Recently Yuvraj admitted that he was so bored of staying indoors that he even learnt how to cook matar pulao. Now that her son is back in India, Singh says that there is nothing more she is looking forward to than nursing him back to health. “We are staying positive and I am confident about Yuvraj coming back with a bang,” she says. Her next big struggle is trying to be there for both her children, “As a single parent it becomes extremely difficult for me to cope as Yuvraj wants to be in Mumbai most of the time and my 19- year- old Zoravar loves Chandigarh,” she signs off.