Cancer is a disease that not affects the patient physically, but causes a great deal emotional distress to the person affected and the family members as well. At such a time of great distress, one need emotional support, empathy and listening ear.
Understanding this very need, in 2014, Rahul Yadav started a community-based group called Yoddhas with the purpose to serve as a platform for people fighting cancer.
“It was the August of 2013. At the age of 28, we had just tied the knot and had moved into a new house in Bengaluru. We were just getting started and everything was going on fine, until one day he fell ill. What started off with a minor cold and cough was suspected to be dengue but it was later diagnosed to be multiple myeloma, a rare form of blood cancer,” recollects Rashi Mandla, wife of Rahul.
The couple's life came to a standstill when Rahul could not work anymore because of his illness. They then relocated to Delhi for his treatment. During these hardships, despite having tremendous support from his wife and parents, Rahul realised that the one thing that he craved the most was empathy. He looked for people’s support during these harsh times. And that was how Yoddhas was born.
Rahul started Yoddhas, a community-based group, in 2014 to provide to other cancer patients the kind of help and support that he himself felt he needed during his battle against cancer. He named the platform as 'Yoddhas,' which is the Hindi word for warriors, since he perceived himself a warrior against cancer and not a victim of the condition.
Yoddhas, which is based out of Delhi, is now an online support network for patients with the main objective to connect patients, caregivers, and doctors with one another. The platform is now an organisation that is currently supporting around 14,000 patients/family members. It is striving to provide support for cancer patients in the form of advice on treatment regimes, hospitals, diet plan, alternative treatment and, more importantly, provide emotional support to patients and their loved ones.
“We often get calls on our helpline from the family members of people affected by cancer, telling us about what they are going through and asking us how to cope with the situation. We have doctors and experts in place who give them appropriate advice,” says Rashi, Co-founder of Yoddhas.
Yoddhas has now become a platform where people share their experiences, stories, and solutions with other people affected by cancer. The platform is not just patients but also for the loved ones to find the support that they need in fighting alongside their family members. Yoddhas is also working on promoting awareness on stem cell donorship, which in many cases could have come to the rescue of patients suffering, says Rashi.
“Apart from our core team members of about 30 people, we have volunteers from various parts of the country, helping us out and spreading awareness about cancer and its impact. We have youngsters organising awareness drives during events such as Pinkathon and Raahgiri day,” says Rashi.
Recognising the impact of the initiative, Yoddhas was awarded the People's Choice Award under the Best Project's Category and a second prize in the Best Project category of the UNESCO Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition in the year 2014, in Berlin.
Yoddhas is a self-funded organization, which was financed by Rahul’s personal savings. However, the team has organized various crowdfunding campaigns over the years towards scaling up operations and provide financial support to the patients reaching out to them.
“As an online support network helping anyone fighting against cancer, we intend to take this support to one lakh patients by next year. We have, so far, reached out to around 32 lakh people in the last five months digitally,” says Rahul.
The platform is currently supporting around 14000 patients and family members across the country.
Rahul has relapsed for the third time now. He started with the regular cycles of chemotherapy since August 2016, but unfortunately it had no effect on him.
“He has been in the isolation since December last year. His blood platelets are still very low because of which he has become very weak. We are limited with our chemotherapy options and now are exploring foreign drugs. The estimated cost for these imported drugs is approximately 18-20 lakh per cycle, and multiple cycles are required for Rahul to get well,” says Rashi.
The first Yoddha, who has stood strong with other patients, is now in need of help and support. Rahul is very optimistic that he will get through the toughest phase of his life.Rashi is running a crowdfunding campaign to fund for Rahul's treatment.