WINDHAM — Less than two years after graduating high school, Windham resident CJay DiPrima has battled lymphoma, gone into remission and started his own business.
Now, he’s giving back to those who helped him along the way.
DiPrima, along with best friend Tom Mullin, founded Stay Positive Apparel LLC, last fall.
Life hasn’t always been easy for the two close pals, who first met in the fifth grade, but one thing’s for certain: They’ll face the future with hope in their hearts, whatever life brings their way.
After graduating from Windham High School in 2012, Mullin and DiPrima both headed off to college, where they shared a dorm room at Franklin Pierce University.
With their first semester behind them, the two young men headed home for Christmas vacation, intending to return to their newfound college lives after catching up with friends and family over the holidays.
Life, as it turned out, had other plans for DiPrima, who was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma that December.
By early 2013, the 19-year-old had undergone three biopsies and several rounds of chemotherapy. DiPrima lost 15 pounds. His hair fell out in clumps, and it soon became clear that he wouldn’t be returning to college.
But in the midst of chaos, something wonderful happened. A community came together to show its support.
Wanting to stay by his friend’s side, Mullin, too, spent a semester away from his studies. Both teens learned pretty quickly the power of positive thinking.
Now in remission, DiPrima said his attitude of simply “staying positive” carried him through a tough time.
In early November 2013, he and Mullin founded Stay Positive Apparel LLC.
It began with a visit to their former high school, when DiPrima decided to make a T-shirt with his younger sister, who is a close friend and a classmate of Mullins’ girlfriend.
Since “stay positive” was his official mantra throughout his illness, DiPrima immediately knew he’d make a T-shirt to say the same. But when he attempted to stencil lettering on his shirt, the word “positive” just seemed too, well, “wordy.”
“I ended up using a ‘plus’ sign instead,” he recalled. “When Tom and I were driving home, we started talking about it. And we decided we’d make some more T-shirts.”
And with that, Positive Apparel was born.
The company’s website was launched last Thanksgiving, and as word continues to spread, orders keep coming in.
Mullin, now studying health science at Nashua Community College, has added a couple of business courses to his schedule to help manage the company’s books.
DiPrima is studying multimedia communications at Northern Essex Community College. He said his experience in digital design helped him perfect the company logo.
Customers can order T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts with “plus” signs in different colors, symbolizing all types of cancers. For example, a pink “positive” signifies breast cancer, while a lime-colored “positive” signifies lymphoma.
“If there’s one thing I learned through this whole experience, it’s that cancer touches almost everybody in some form or another,” DiPrima said.
Body Rags, a printing company in Pelham, is working with Stay Positive to provide silk-screening services.
So far, the company has sold several hundred shirts, and keeping true to their mission, DiPrima and Mullin donated a portion of each shirt’s sale to Massachusetts General Hospital’s Pediatric Oncology Center, the same place DiPrima received his treatments.
Meanwhile, both DiPrima and Mullin continue to work part-time jobs in addition to studying and operating their business. DiPrima works at Mary Anne’s Diner in Windham; Mullin is a bank teller at TDBanknorth in Londonderry. They’re a bit busier than many young people their age, but both agreed they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I remember getting pretty down when I was going through chemotherapy and radiation,” DiPrima said. “But when you have people there to remind you about thinking positive, it really does make all the difference.”
For more information visit www.staypositiveapparel.com.