Imran Khan was personally affected by cancer. Today, the cricket legend is also the founding chairman of the Imran Khan Cancer Appeal and the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. This is the story of how his loss changed the lives of thousands.
Hailing from a family of proficient cricketers, and one Sufi Warrior Poet for an ancestor, Shaukat Khanum was a woman who was proud of her heritage. Hers was a pride she instilled in her five children, along with dignity and an iron resolve. In February 1985, Shaukat Khanum’s family lost her to cancer. She was 63 years old. Imran Khan was her only son.
For Imran, the devastation of his mother’s death was secondary to watching her suffer through her struggle with cancer. The ordeal revealed a jarring reality: Pakistan had a dearth of medical resources when it came to treating cancer and this was costing lives. During the time spent with his mother in cancer wards, Imran also witnessed the distress of other patients. He was especially troubled by those with few means. How, he questioned, do the poor cope with a disease that is so debilitating to patients and their families? After his mother passed, Imran Khan decided that irrespective of their background, everyone deserved an equal chance at life.
Cricket and the fight against Cancer
On November 10 1989, at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium, Imran Khan made his first fundraising appeal during a cricket match between India and Pakistan. It helped get the ball rolling for a series of further fundraisers that went global. The idea of a hospital providing free cancer care was laughable to most but Imran was not discouraged. Two years later, Pakistan’s win under his captaincy at the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Melbourne gave the appeal that boost it needed. The response was phenomenal, with £1.5 million collected in just six weeks. Imran Khan donated the entire sum of his own prize money to the project and continued to campaign until construction for the hospital was underway.
A new hope
In 1994, following five years of fundraising, the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital was established in Lahore and Pakistan’s biggest cancer charity was born. As a comprehensive care facility dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, it was a first in Pakistan.