Snezhana Serafimoska was already dealing with the potential of never playing basketball again following the latest in a series of hip injuries, but one month later, the news became all the more difficult when doctors told her she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Serafimoska went for a routine checkup and throughout the process had been told that what had been discovered could have been multiple things, before they answered the lingering questions with the ovarian cancer diagnosis.
As doctors were providing information, Serafimoska went to Google and immediately feared the worst, but once more details were given, the outcome went from trepidation to determination.
“I was alone in there, so I just started Googling stuff and I was like ‘okay, I’m dead,” she recalled. “When they told me more about it and that if I get surgery, do chemo or whatever else was needed, that I should be fine and I could beat it, everything switched. It went from ‘I’m dying’ to ‘I’ll be back’.”
Serafimoska officially posted a video of her ringing a bell on May 20 and also shortly after received a clean bill of health, become a success, while also fulfilling a promise that she released on Mar. 13, stating “I’m winning this one”.
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That decision to go public, was one Serafimoska made in part because of how active she is on Instagram and TikTok. She did not want to disappear and figured that followers would find out one way or another, so it was important to hear it from her first while also knowing her headspace was both clear and determined.
Social media proved to be a double-edged sword. While Serafimoska received plenty of support and assistance from friends, followers and their family members, others simply asked if she would make it or if she had to shave her hair, which became emotional. She decided from that point forward to focus on the positivity which was surrounding her.
Following her initial routine checkup appointment, it took four months to discover ovarian cancer and the wait was both a hard and frustrating one.
Upon discovering her situation, Serafimoska did not tell many people, leaving athletic trainer Katherine Wieckowski to do that because the forward was not in the proper headspace for interaction.
When Duquesne coach Dan Burt thinks about Serafimoska’s 100 days of undergoing chemotherapy, he recalls her strength of seeing one bad day which is a testament to her character.
“Snezhe has had a lot of injuries that have prevented her from getting on the floor as much as any of us would like,” Burt said. “For me, I’ve looked at it as one more thing she would have to overcome. I always had complete faith in Snezhe because she is a very goal-oriented human being and she’s a winner.”
Though Serafimoska admitted the process was not easy to get through, she maintained that faith and support from family and friends were what got her through, in addition to looking forward to the things she would do after beating cancer.
Serafimoska described herself as numb after receiving the diagnosis and did what she could to make the most of it. She has come to the realization that there would always be ups and downs, but through it all she learned who had her back and was there for her.
Among the support was her father Krste who took time off his job in Macedonia and made the 5000-plus mile trip into Pittsburgh and stay by her bedside every day. Though, the team offered him transportation, Krste would insist on riding his bicycle between her apartment and the hospital.
“Both of my parents have been a huge support for me in helping me realize that no matter what happens, there’s always a way,” said Serafimoska. “There’s always a solution to everything. My father dropping everything back home and coming here for me was huge. He was always here for anything I needed and just knowing that, made it easier for me.”
Perspective is a powerful that Serafimoska was able to apply throughout this ordeal and as Burt states, “she does not take a day for granted”.
She realized that not everyone who has cancer will be able to ring the bell, but now with the understanding of how fortunate she is, feels she can go back to living a normal life and enjoy the freedom she previously experienced.
“Everything was all a big lesson,” Serafimoska said. “It just made me realize how grateful I need to be and that I am for everything. Even though there were all of these negative things that happened, in the end I still won.”
Serafimoska has a full-time job this summer and is working towards her MBA after earning her 21 credits to graduate during this battle.
Currently, Serafimoska’s hip troubles have placed her basketball career in serious jeopardy. She originally had hip surgery in her freshman year, missing a year of basketball then and she is now processing that she will not be playing this season.
Physically, Serafimoska is unable to run, jog or jump though Duquesne very much intends on having her part of the team this season, albeit not in a playing capacity.
According to Burt, Serafimoska is transitioning to a support staff role with the program, where she will be heavily involved in recruiting, social media and fundraising.
Serafimoska hopes that she will be able to speak about her experiences with the potential to assist someone. She realizes that had she never made the decision to randomly do that first checkup that it may potentially have been too late.
“I would love to encourage girls to go for their yearly checkup and do what they are supposed to or speak to people going through similar things like this and help them keep their head up,” she said. “If you have someone going through something like this, make sure you let them know you are there for them, but don’t treat them any differently than you did before. If you or someone in your family is going through something similar, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@snezhe_s).”
Photo/video credits: Snezhe Serafimoska