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Smiling in the face of cancer: One student’s journey during a pandemicApril 15, 2020

It was no ordinary Zoom chat. On April 5, Julia Aprile, a second year civil engineering student at McMaster, shaved her head in front of over 20 friends and family members who cheered her on from her laptop.

Aprile is battling Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and after deciding to go public on Instagram by posting her story, a photo of her new buzzcut, and a video of her clipping her locks, she has received hundreds of positive messages in response.

“People I’ve never met before responded to my posts and just gave me this great feeling and told me how strong and inspirational I was,” says Aprile. “It's like these total strangers knew me – that was really cool.”

Aprile has been social distancing longer than most people. She left school immediately after receiving her diagnosis this past January and started isolating herself at home.  

“With my treatment, I can’t fight anything. If I have a fever, I have to go to the hospital,” she says.

Despite the challenges of dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy and leaving her friends and education behind, Aprile has managed to maintain a positive outlook.

“Since I've been home I've been painting a lot, I cook with my mom and play piano,” says Aprile.

She admits the worst part about her diagnosis was leaving McMaster. But now that courses have moved online in the wake of a pandemic, she looks forward to making the slow transition back to school and is taking a couple of online courses in May.

“By the end of first year, I found buildings and bridges and different structures really appealing so picking civil as my major was easy. I love the program,” she says.

Aprile has gained some wisdom since starting her cancer journey and has advice for those struggling with social distancing.  

“Take really good breaks and schedule things that you actually want to do, whether it's going for a walk or painting. Yeah, I'd say that's really important for sure,” Aprile says.

You can learn more about Aprile and her cancer journey by watching her Instagram takeover on the @mcmastereng account on April 16, 2020.