“My illness made me change my vision of the world”19 April 2016
Nikola Kopilovic lives in Belgrade, Serbia. At 18, at the beginning of the 4th year of high school, he discovered a serious illness. “Love those you encounter and always be grateful for all you have” is its delivery to his friends, in a letter written a few months later.
“I love swimming and automobiles; the minute I recover I will get my license. I have a sister whom I love and my elder brother is my model. I listen to almost all types of music, especially techno. I’d love to have a dog… I never used to read but now I find it very interesting, also because it makes time go faster in the hospital .”
One evening at the cinema with his sister, he felt pain in a tooth. He would never have imagined that it was the first symptom of something serious. In the following days his left cheek got swollen and he could hardly open his mouth. «It hurt a lot, but instead of going to the dentist, I tried to treat it myself with packs and cream. Nothing helped and it got worse. In the end I went to the dentist who was shocked and immediately sent me to a surgeon who had me hospitalised. I was surprised but did not worry too much, thinking that I could go home in a few days.» The analyses, however, showed that something was wrong in his blood. He was transferred to another ward, and then to another clinic. In the end the diagnosis was severe: leukemia.
“I didn’t know anything about this disease,” Nikola recounted, “I could not imagine that I had to undergo chemotherapy and that the treatment would be long. I started the first chemo sessions and I felt as if I was losing my mind. My brain was full of the darkest thoughts. I started to doubt the existence of God and asked myself why this was happening to me. What had I done wrong, or perhaps He had abandoned me? I sought the answer and understood that this illness is a message of God for me. I experienced His presence in a stronger way, He was always by my side and I felt that he wanted something from me, and wondered what it could be. All sorts of things came to mind. Perhaps I had to give myself totally to the others? The disease roused me from an empty life that was moving before my eyes, it made me change my vision of the world and now I see things in a more serene way. One of the things I did was to stop smoking, and I am really proud of this! Here in the hospital I met really nice people and a pair of good friends. One sunny day I opened the window and saw a girl walk by. I looked at her and she smiled at me warmly. Later I discovered that she was a nurse. I understood then that happiness lies in the small signs of care, like this. A boy told me: all that is mine is yours. No one has ever said such a thing to me. I felt a great joy.”
“I was lucky, because I was found to be compatible with my brothers for the stem cell transplant. This shortens the treatment time and the probability of a relapse. I am so grateful for all the prayers and messages coming from all over the world through Facebook. In the hospital we keep one another company, and when we are with a group of young people, time flies. Then I have a good brother who left me his PC! So I can watch films, surf the internet… I spent a lot of time in prayer. The conditions we are living in are not easy, but we will get used to it…”.
When asked what he would like to say to his peers, Nikola answered: “I would say: learn from the past, go ahead and plan for the future, but most of all, live the present moment. This is what I have learned. Be aware that true happiness can be reached with small signs of attention and do not worry for tomorrow, because when you learn to do this, you will feel much better. When you get negative thoughts, substitute them with positive ones. Do this every time and with time they will disappear. Love those you encounter and always be grateful for all you have.”