Meet project’s ambassador Andrijana and discover how family and music became the pillars of support during her cancer treatment. Learn how setting boundaries, cherishing small joys, and advocating for childhood cancer patients became her guiding principles.
What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name is Andrijana Serafimovska. I am 26 years old and I am from Skopje, Macedonia.
What’s your diagnosis?
At 12 years old I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?
When I turned 12 years old, I started having intense knee pain. In a couple of weeks, I got an X-ray and I was sent immediately to an orthopedic at the state clinic. In a matter of days, I had a biopsy which showed I had osteosarcoma and in August 2009 I started my chemotherapy treatment. My father, together with my mother, sat beside my bed in the hospital after the biopsy surgery and told me the diagnosis and the treatment.
What has the journey through cancer taught you?
This journey taught me that I am more resilient than I believe and that miracles do happen. I learned that I am far more privileged to have had the support system I had from my family and the opportunities to have successful treatment and surgeries from experts from my country and Sweden, which gave me a better quality of life than I expected.
What helped you the most during the treatment process?
Family and music. I used to listen to music all day and sing out aloud. I was known as the “singer” of the oncology department and sometimes the doctors would see me through the door and would not come in to visit to not interrupt my singing. It was the “singing during the day to keep the doctor away” type of situation I had going on 😀 (it worked some of the time, also I can’t sing).
What has changed in your life since your cancer diagnosis?
I feel like I grew up overnight, I lost my childhood innocence and I never fully felt like I fit in with my friends. Over the years my survival mode was triggered in a lot of situations, so sometimes life feels more like surviving than living. But, I also learned how to set boundaries and stand up for what I believe and want. I am more aware of the little things that make me happy and I tend to enjoy and feel life a lot more because I am so grateful to have been given another chance in life.
If you were to meet yourself the day you heard a diagnosis, what would you say to your younger self?
Actually, my younger self did everything she was supposed to. My parents did an amazing job creating a safe space and building the support system I needed, so immediately I believed I was going to be okay, never doubted myself, fought harder than I could, and trusted the process. Along the way, I feel like I lost those qualities. I wish my younger self would remind my older self of how strong I was and remember that everything is going to be okay.
What are your achievements to date (formal or informal, education or hobby)?
One of my greatest achievements is the work I do for the childhood cancer patients in my country. I have been volunteering, managing projects, doing awareness raising campaigns since 2018. Along the way, I learned that the thing that makes me the happiest is when I visit the hemato-oncology department and spend time with the children who are battling cancer. I know that I have made a difference when the children, who are now healthy, call me or text me to tell me about their daily lives after the cancer treatment. This work was recognized by the city of Skopje, and I, together with 4 other volunteers, was given the “13th November” award in the humanitarian field for helping children who are battling cancer, an award which is one of the highest awards in my country.
What is on your bucket list?
Right now, there are three things on my bucket list. Travel the world, do a master’s program and paragliding.
What are some of your personal rules?
Never again do something you don’t want.
Family comes first.
No one can tell me what my limits are. But I can tell you my boundaries when it comes to my life.
What keeps you going every day?
That I haven’t done my best achievement yet. I have so much more to learn, people to meet, to feel, to overcome, and to achieve in life. And music, friends, and family.
What personal goal would you like to achieve next?
Find my purpose in life and unlock my best self.
What lesson was hardest for you to learn?
The thing I learned the hard way was not to keep my emotions bottled up. They will come out years later when you least expect it and in a form that you can’t even imagine. It is okay not to feel okay and you do not need anyone to validate your feelings. And, one more thing I still have trouble learning is that I am enough.