“Even in his last few days when he was admitted in the ICU, Rahul questioned us about an upcoming event of the Yoddhas. His passion for educating people was way bigger than any of the needles, wires or medicines,” shares Rashi, talking about her husband’s dedication for the platform he had created for people living with cancer—a deadly disease to which he sadly succumbed on 13 June 2017.
That day a son, a husband, a brother and a comrade of hundreds of cancer patients died.
Devastated though she was, Rashi Yadav knew she had to pull herself together to honour the legacy of her husband.
Founded by Rahul to bring together people living with cancer so that they can share their daily ordeals, the Yoddhas is an organisation helping cancer patients across India.
The Yoddhas family is 15,000-strong, with volunteers from Delhi University, raising aid through crowdfunding to help cancer-patients financially. “Rahul raised funds for his treatment. Crowdfunding is a great platform to lessen the financial burden on families of cancer patients.”
For Rahul Yadav, a resident of Delhi living in Bengaluru, it had started with a mild stomach ache, cough and cold which did not subside despite taking medications.
It was during the same time when dengue made a comeback in Bengaluru. Thinking the symptoms might be of dengue, Rahul went to Manipal Hospital and got tests done in August 2013. All results were negative. However, the doctors had their suspicions and conducted a few more tests. When the results came, they had the unfortunate task of breaking the heart breaking news to Rahul’s wife, father and mother.
He had Plasma cell leukaemia (PCL).
PCL, a rare form of aggressive cancer is where high levels of abnormal plasma cells circulate in the blood. The healthy plasma cells fight infection, but in a PCL patient, instead of antibodies, the body produces paraproteins that cannot fight infections.
The most common treatment options for PCL are chemotherapy and stem cell transplant. However, the survival rates of a PCL patient is shorter than a patient with myeloma.
Once they heard the terrible news, Rashi’s parents flew down from Delhi and helped shift Rahul to undergo treatment at the Army Hospital Research And Referral, Delhi and later, at BLK Hospital.
The husband-wife duo, both hailing from army families, stayed positive through the 15 painful chemotherapy sessions and surgeries including gallbladder removal and two Bone Marrow Transplants. Rahul, always social and ready to make friends, forged several friendships at the hospital.
They would often exchange ideas, solutions and ways that could make chemotherapy less exhausting, mentally and physically. These talks not only proved helpful but also motivating for cancer patients. Rahul made a Whatsapp group and even started a Facebook group to scale up his mission, Rashi tells The Better India (TBI).
He named the group ‘Yoddhas’ which means fighters. “For every cancer patient, it is nothing less than a battle. They fight the disease irrespective of the outcomes,” she adds.
Within a couple of months, 300 cancer patients from across India had become part of the group.
Despite his deteriorating health, Rahul accepted invitations from schools, clubs, groups to talk about PCL and continued with the work of Yoddhas. He wanted this platform to become a worldwide phenomenon, and in pursuit of this goal, Rahul applied for ‘Youth Entrepreneurship Competition 2014’, a competition for young entrepreneurs. ‘Yoddhas’ won the People’s Choice Award and also received the 2nd prize under ‘Best Project’ category. The happy couple flew to Berlin to receive the award.
Back home, the group started receiving several calls from people who spoke about their experiences openly, “Many people do not share about their cancer out of embarrassment or sympathies they get. Rahul’s journey motivated hundreds of people to accept their condition and talk about the same freely,” says Rashi.
When Rahul died in 2017, the condolences poured in from everywhere and the support shown by the Yoddhas made the family more resolute to honour Rahul’s legacy.
Even now, Yoddhas religiously conducts support group meetings where cancer survivors are also invited to speak about their victorious battles.
Rahul used to say I am fighting a battle I didn’t choose, the rules of engagement are not under my control. But how I react to the circumstances is my choice, and no one can take that from me. If I can help others feel even a bit of how Rahul felt, it would be a great honour for me, shares Rashi.
Rahul’s parents Major General (Dr). S N Yadav (Retd.) and Krishna Yadav devoted themselves to take Rahul’s dream forward. “My late father-in-law stood like a rock and encouraged me to keep his vision alive and continue helping others.”
Unfortunately, he passed away in a car accident in April 2019.
From educating students and corporate houses about life and health insurances, helping patients connect with doctors, caregivers, visiting bone marrow registries to raising money, the organisation started by Rahul is touching several lives each day.
Worldwide, one million people are diagnosed with (PCL) every year. If you wish to help Yoddhas and Rahul’s family fight against cancer, you can click here. You can also make donations to the following bank account:
Yoddhas Indians Fighting Against Cancer
Account no.- 164605000026
Account type – Current
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)