Gurgaon: "I am thankful to God that I got my life back," said Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh in his first media interaction after undergoing treatment for a rare germ cell cancer, conceding that it would take at least two more months before he returns to the field.
Back in the country after spending more than two months in the United States and London to recuperate from a malignant tumour between his lungs, Yuvraj addressed the media to talk about the "toughest" phase of his life.
The 30-year-old batsman, who was adjudged man of the tournament at last year's World Cup before the ailment put a stop on his playing, coughed a bit during the interaction during which his Indian doctor Nitesh Rohtagi was by his side.
"I am thankful to God that I got back my life. Everybody faces such issues. I am very happy and thankful to everyone that I am out of it," said the flamboyant left-hander, who admitted to that there were times when he broke down.
Asked when it would be possible for him to return to action, a smiling Yuvraj said not before a couple of months at least.
"All my fans want me to come back soon, I am sure you people will understand that my body will take time. I will have to take care of my health. I will try to return as soon as possible, in the next two months. I have been through a very tough time," he said.
Yuvraj said his mother, Shabnam, was his biggest support system during the last few months.
"My biggest support my mother was there. I don't think without her I would have made this journey. (Cycling legend) Lance Armstrong was very inspiring. 5-6 years back I was reading his book and left it midway for some reason. I had to complete it this way may be. He had similar cancer but his was in the last stage and mine was detected at early stage," he said.
Yuvraj said it was hard for him to come to terms with the illness when it was first diagnosed in October last year.
"It was tough for me. Six months it took to diagnose whether I had cancer. I think it was tough because I had lot of trouble breathing, I used to cough a lot. There used to be blood in my cough," he recalled.
"I didn't tell anyone, I never showed it to anyone what I was going through. I was always cheerful and kept telling myself that I will be fine but I knew there was a serious issue. I just had to come out of it somehow," he said when asked whether he shared the details of his ailment with his teammates at first.
The cricketer said despite the ordeal he has been through, he remains an optimistic person.
"Mentally, I think I have to be positive. There is lot of happiness inside me. At the moment, I am really happy. So I am very positive. I am just thinking about things and just happy to be back," he said.
Yuvraj also hinted at doing something for cancer patients given what he himself went through.
"Obviously this thing hit me very hard. Cancer is out of my system but the scar remains. In future I will definitely do something for the people," he said.
Recalling the time he spent recuperating from the ailment, Yuvraj said he would avoid watching cricket as it left him frustrated.
"I would stay away from cricket because whenever I saw a match, I used to feel frustrated. Just staying in the house, to get up and do anything was a tough job. I used to try and walk. I played video games, watched movies. My mother would cook for me. I was not able to do much. It was tough to get out of the house and move around," he said.
On the Armstrong influence on him during the treatment, Yuvraj said the cycling legend, who was given less than 40 per cent survival chance at the time of his diagnosis, was immensely inspiring.
"I can't compare much. For me Lance is a real-life hero. He is a great sportsman and his achievements in life are great. To me, just to recuperate and get back would be a big achievement," Yuvraj said.
"I don't know what I would do in future. I am going to work hard. Earlier, I I always felt that I want that India logo back on my forehead. Right now, I just want to be back, I don't know what I will do after that but I will be back very soon," he said.
Yuvraj also rejected suggestions that he erred in going for alternate therapy while he was being diagnosed.
"The diagnose for cancer was very hard. It takes time. Once I knew what I needed to do, I went straight to doing that," he clarified.
Talking about his mother, Yuvraj said he would often cry and seek comfort in her during the recovery time.
"For two months, my mother didn't shed a tear. She was always there. She would wake up at 4 to see when I would cough or throw up. I used to cry like a kid and she would comfort me. She was stronger than me," he said.
Another person who inspired Yuvraj was senior teammate Sachin Tendulkar, who even met him in London.
"I was in touch with Sachin while he was in Australia. I also wanted his 100th hundred. He has always inspired him. It was great to see him in London. I didn't want this to come out but media would have known. I was delighted to see him," he said.
"I wanted to be part of the team when Sachin got his 200 in ODIs, got his 100th hundred but unfortunately I was not there. I was there in thoughts and congratulated him.”
"It's a very big achievement. It's just amazing that he has played for so many years. I have developed a cherished friendship with him. Unfortunate that I wasn't there when he got the 100th hundred," he said.
Having been through a tough phase, Yuvraj said he has realised that it was important to get niggles checked. "I always wanted that I conduct myself in a way that the people who are battling this, get confidence from me. I was very scared myself.”
"As a sportsman, you play with niggles and don't get ourselves checked. But we should get ourselves checked. When I started coughing, I ignored it. It wasn't right but I did that because of the World Cup," he said.
"It's part and parcel of life. You fall down and get up. I am feeling better," he added.
Yuvraj is also planning to pen his experience and change of thought process during the treatment in a book.
"I am writing about it, what I went through, the people who were around me. I am writing a book which will come out someday. My thoughts have changed, because you get everything in life but the most important thing is happiness.”
"Money is important, but it's important that you are happy in life. When I started playing for India, I always wondered whether I would score runs, field well...these questions were there. But now, I am happy in life, I am content. Definitely I will play cricket but with less stress on my mind," he explained.
On why he was active on twitter even while being down physically, Yuvraj said he did that to "avoid speculation" and keep his fans updated about his condition.
Asked about his immediate goal, Yuvraj said, "Immediate goal is to feel healthy, I am happy. There is no reason why I shouldn't be back soon. Just feel better."
Watching from the sidelines as the IPL unfolds, Yuvraj said, "I miss playing the IPL, I wish (my team) Pune (Warriors) all the best."
"I just want to rest and get better. May be in May I will go and watch a few (IPL) games."
Yuvraj said from now on he would have to work on fitness a lot more but he would not change from being the fun-loving person he is perceived to be.
"I was always fun loving and I would always be like that. I won't hide myself. I know I am a good person at heart. I am not 20 anymore, I have to work harder on my fitness," he said.
"It has definitely been the toughest battle of my life. I can't compare it to the World Cup triumph but playing cricket is easier than fighting cancer.”
"Cancer has taught me a lot of things. May be it is the best thing that has happened to me, I can't say right now but may be some years down the line, I would realise. When I was taking chemotherapy, there were a lot of elderly patients, and that would inspire me. I thought, if they can be cured, why can't I be," he said.