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Julia Wilson

Facing adversity with an unwavering spirit

June 1, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Julia Wilson appears to have it all. She’s young, attractive, an accomplished athlete and scholar—but also modest, soft-spoken and concerned about others.               

Wilson graduates from SFU in June with a BA in communication, an excellent cumulative grade point average and a record-setting legacy with the Clan women’s basketball team as one of the finest athletes the university has ever produced.

But there is a note of quiet determination in her voice that hints of a life not without hardship. And she has indeed had her share.

While leading the Clan to five consecutive Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) championship tournaments and two national titles, Wilson has suffered stress fractures in both feet, shin splints, a serious back injury, a broken hand and joint abnormalities in her back and hips. She has endured tendonitis in her Achilles and quadriceps and IT-band friction syndrome, a severe thigh-muscle inflammation.

Worse still, the all-time career CIS leader in blocked shots (221) was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in January. The chronic, progressive disease affects the brain and spinal-cord cells that transmit information, generate thought and perception, and enable the brain to control the body.

Yet despite numbness in both her hands and feet, Wilson remained an integral part of the team, finishing first in rebounding and blocks while playing more than 24 minutes per game.

"Julia has displayed unbelievable grit, determination and courage to fight her way through her injuries and disease," says head coach Bruce Langford. "She sets an example for all athletes with her ability to deal with adverse situations and confront them with a positive attitude."

Wilson responds to her situation with characteristic resilience: "I’ve gone through a lot of adversity in the past and I just see that as getting me ready for what I’m facing today," she says.

"Anything that’s negative can be turned into a positive if we learn from it, and it’s kind of made me stronger."

Her competitive basketball days are over, and Wilson is now focussed on her academic career. This fall, she begins a master’s degree in public health communications at SFU. Her thesis will be based on an analysis of existing research on intravenous drug use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

"People facing adversity, whatever kind it is, should look at it as a positive," says Wilson, who recently received the national collegiate Tracy MacLeod Trophy for determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit. "It’s an opportunity to improve yourself as a person so you can help other people with their challenges as well."

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