Kid Who Beat Cancer Carries Baskets full of Hope
As a kid he was a patient at the Oncology Ward at the Children's Clinic, nine years later he is a student at the Faculty of Comptuter Science - Bojan Ristovski from Skopje is a kid who won the battle with cancer, and is helping nowadays young patients and their parents in facing the hardest diagnosis that a person can hear in one's lifetime.
Bojan is 21 years old now. When he was 11, vacationing with his parents, they accidentally noticed a tiny ball on his right thigh. After series of examinations, analyses, biopsy, the horrible diagnosis was confirmed - Bojan had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer. He underwent a surgery, and chemotherapy right after that. The healing nailed him to the hospital bed for nine months.
"I didn't even know how ill I was at the time. Only a few years ago did I find out what this disease really is. It seemed to me that the explanation on "Google" is much scarier than I remember it to be. Now, when I see the parents of children with cancer, I realise how hard it was for my parents as well", says he.
He went through therapy just like all other young patients - sometimes well, sometimes badly. He would throw up, and he lost his hair, too. There were other consequences as well - diabetes, kidney stone... But, even in the hardest of days, Bojan would always find strength to speak. That is actually how the nurses remember him - a kid who had always something to say, about everything.
He has that bright spirit today, as well - direct, communicative, with many plans, with full breasts of life. He tells parents of children with cancer to keep fighting and to never lose hope.
"When the parents hear the diagnosis, they immediately fall in despair, and think only of the worst. There is no need for depression, nor for the "why has this happened to me" question. We have to face the illness, and gather strength so that we could go through it. Yes, the outcome is uncertain, but one has to stay positive and have hope. That is my recipe", says Bojan.
He passed the five critical years, when the illness can appear again. He goes for medical checks once a year now.
Despite the battle with the disease after his recovery he has other battles - those with the environment. How the child will return to his school, how will his friends see him, how much will the effects of the therapies will affect his family formation. These are issues that concerned parents are asking him and when everyone on February 15 (International Day for children with cancer) with his mother brings baskets of sweets and gives them to the children treated at the Children's Clinic.
"Children should be explained that the environment can be avoiding them that their peers or teachers may not have an understanding for them. It will be hard for them. But patience is the key to such moments. Over time, everything is falling into place", Bojan shares his experience.
After all, psychological support after the recovery is very important for children and their parents. Unlike here, where there are no organized activities, in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia spend a lot of work on public awareness of the needs of these families. The visits of the camps in which children who were receiving cancer treatment go to socialize helped Bojan to easily socialize.
While in Macedonia still there are parents who are ashamed to say that their children were suffering from cancer, in countries in the region funds for financial aid and support are formed.
"For what I am today there are three key moments. Thanks to sister Zaklina, I participated in a camp in Zlatibor in Serbia. I spent time with young people who survived the same thing. It gave me an incentive to look at life from the bright side. The second point is the convention that gathered young people from all over the Balkans, aged 16 to 30 years. We talked about the consequences of the disease, and there were very contents and it was nice. Then I met the Romanian association that holds the Foundation "Youth Cancer Europe". I have met many people there who have changed my life. I think that if the barrier of fear and shame is broken in Macedonia many young people who have survived cancer and are wondering how to proceed will gather. The return to normal may be difficult, but I can say that my life started after the illness and made me the man I am today", Bojan concluded.
Annually, 30-40 children are treated at hematho-oncologist department of Pediatric Clinic. Among them there are infants. The most common tumors in children are leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and tumors of the central nervous system.