At twenty-eight years, Rahul Yadhav was on the threshold of a newlywed life and a blooming career when what seemed like a minor pain in 2013, took him to the hospital. Further tests revealed he had a form of blood cancer. To someone who had no history of cancer in his family, led a healthy lifestyle and even cycled to work every day, this came as a tremendous shock.
Accepting the elephant in the room
As the enormity of the situation sunk in, Rahul struggled to come to terms with his condition. Denial, he believes, is one of the first stages of acceptance. He recalls feeling helpless and locking himself in his room for days, after doctors broke the news to him. But as we learn time and again, life goes on. Fear, denial and anger were slowly replaced by acceptance, and the need to learn more about the condition. This is when Rahul began his extensive research on the subject.
Overcoming the odds
Rahul was surprised that not everything on the internet seemed reliable. There were contrasting articles, making weak claims. At a time, when no one around him knew much about the cancer, Rahul listened keenly to everything that anyone had to say. One website, he came across, claimed that an individual with his condition had about three years to live. It’s now four years since he was diagnosed. He eventually realized, that no one really knew all the facts, and that there was no way for the right information to reach the right person because of the taboo that surrounds such subjects in our society.
Finding a support system
The lack of conversations around cancer led Rahul to create ‘Yoddhas’. He realised that many patients hesitate to even talk to their families about the disease. He found that support from fellow cancer patients can help boost morale, and is a great way to learn more about cancer. He recalls how, after his diagnosis, he wanted to talk to someone who would understand his situation. He encountered an American woman, suffering from the same form of blood cancer as him, who helped him through it. As time passed, Rahul reached out to more people, and even joined support groups in the USA and UK. He aims to provide the same kind of assistance and support to cancer patients and their families in India. The biggest challenge he faces here, is addressing the taboo that surrounds the topic in the country.
Reaching out through the internet
As an IT expert, who relied on the internet, Rahul thought that people would come out and speak of their condition, if promised anonymity. This led him to start an online support group. As more people came forth to share their struggles, the group gained popularity. There was even a filter, to ensure that members were genuine and had a legitimate case history.
A buddy system
Faced with a long-term disease that would alter his life, Rahul wanted to create a support group that provided patient to patient support. He observed that it was the patients’ family members that joined these groups before the patients themselves. The focus, he explains, is to loop in the closest family members or caregivers, as it is essential that this person is armed with important information. Understanding the disease can help a patient’s family members contribute in every way possible.
Offering accurate information online
In the age of social media, where information exchange is extremely easy, Rahul’s main concern is the myths and inaccurate facts that exist online. Through his support group ‘The Yoddhas’ Rahul and his team conduct various surveys to bust these myths and ensure the right information is made available to patients.
Health insurance to the rescue
Despite having no medical insurance of his own, Rahul considers himself lucky to get the help he did, as he was made a nominee on the medical insurance policy provided by his wife’s employers. However, he believes that one should not rely entirely on just the health insurance from employers, and must invest in individual health insurance for optimum coverage.
Yoddhas: My calling
Rahul feels privileged and proud that he could bring together cancer patients, survivors and their families, and build a community. He terms Yoddhas ‘my calling’, and is striving to ensure his efforts are continued, and that more people can provide support to each other.
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