When you're a 16-year-old, you typically worry about things like the seemingly endless pile of homework assignments, that unsightly blemish on your face, or what college you want to get into next year. Teenagers at this stage of their lives have a lot to worry about, but also a lot of things to look forward to. Not yet knowing the burdens of adult responsibilities, kids at this age can focus on the good stuff when dreaming about their futures.
But, even before the big graduation day, there is the ever-so-important prom. This be-all and end-all of every teenager's high school career is anticipated many months before the day even arrives. Hundreds of dollars can go into the dress. Extravagant, intricately thought-out "promposals" are put into action after months of planning. The list goes on. For four young girls, however, their proms will hold particularly special meaning to them for a truly inspiring reason.
To understand the story of these four special girls, you must first know about their friend, Catherine Malatesta. This beautiful 16-year-old attended her prom in this stunning, blue prom dress and an elegant braided updo. She was simply breathtaking.
When you look at her beaming face in her prom photos, you would never guess that Catherine was battling stage IV cancer and had been in the hospital up until the night before her prom. But for just one day, she wanted to feel like a normal teenager again. "She turned to me and said, 'Mom, for the first time in a long time, I actually feel beautiful,'" her mother, Jennifer Goodwin, told Today. "It was such a lovely moment and I was so happy that she felt like that for one day. It was a special, special night for all of us."
Up until her diagnosis, Catherine had been a vibrant, energetic student who led an active life. She was a part of multiple sports teams. In December 2014, she began complaining about a shoulder pain, which she had presumed to be a sports injury.
Upon seeing a medical professional, however, she was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. It is an extremely rare type of cancer that plagues one in ten million people. By the time of the diagnosis, Catherine's cancer had already spread to her lungs and spine.
Catherine maintained a positive attitude throughout her treatments, which included chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. Despite the exhausting regimen, the lively teen attended school whenever she could and even ran for student council president - which she won.
Unfortunately, she was admitted back into the hospital a few days after her prom. Two short months later, she passed away. It had been less than a year since her initial diagnosis.
Now, four of Catherine's friends have decided to honor her in a very special and meaningful way. The idea came to them when Catherine's mom, Jennifer, invited her friends to take some of Catherine's possessions after she had passed. The girls came upon her beautiful prom dress and decided that they would all wear the same dress to each of their individual proms. Catherine's mom has dubbed this kind gesture "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prom Dress" - after the famous best-seller, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Jillian Danton's prom was the first to come up. She and Catherine were childhood friends, and they shared a love for field hockey and ice hockey. Catherine is a year older than Jillian, who always looked up to Catherine like a big sister. True to her word, Jillian donned her friend's gorgeous gown for her own prom. "I definitely felt her with me the whole time and it was an experience I wouldn't trade for anything in the world," she told Today. "It's an extra memory of her that I have to hold on to."
"It was clearly bittersweet, but it just was lovely to see her in it," Catherine's mother said of the meaningful moment. "I felt like for a second I was seeing Catherine."
The three other friends who are waiting to wear the special blue dress are Emma Schambers, Lauren Hourican, and Carly Blau. They each attend different high schools, and thankfully, their prom dates do not coincide.
For Catherine's mother and her close friends, Catherine's spirit will forever live on through this special dress. "For a parent who has lost a child, the hardest part is you think people are going to forget about them," Jennifer said. "It's important for the parent to keep that spirit alive. The fact that this group of girls wants to do this on their own just helps me to grieve and helps me to move forward."
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prom Dress has inspired Catherine’s other friends who want to honor her and wear her dress to their own proms as well. The spirit of this sweet, beautiful, vibrant teen will definitely continue to live on for a long, long time.
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