… there were 22 Cancer survivors who had faced battle after battle, staring death in the face. Much like soldiers who bravely stand up to the challenge of war, choosing to defend their country, coming back with scars (if returning at all), these survivors (among millions of others all over the globe) have endured similar battles, although they never signed up for the fight. Similarly, both sets of warriors (soldiers and cancer survivors alike) may receive the honor of being gifted with life again after the fight. However, the fight never quite seems finished. The battle feels forever branded in their bodies through their scars, their aches, their memories, the side effects and random triggers left behind from what they had to endure to make it through their war. During that war, it may have seen like a “no brainer” to fight, to endure, to put their game face on, to look to those pictures of their families to come home to, and to cling to their FAITH for support. For their impressive attitude and COURAGE under fire, these soldiers and survivors are embraced and called “inspirations” and “heroes”. That, they are. They are to their families. They are to each other.
However, if you ask them… most don’t know how to respond to such names.
They don’t know how to react when the battle’s over and the word “HERO” is slapped on there with a “good job” and pat on the back.
Although their endless gratitude for the support, love and prayers for them lives on forever and the genuine love for those who they fought for is ever present in their hearts…
One day, the joy and gratitude is all that they can think about. Underneath, however, if you really ask them…
it doesn’t feel over. The battle lives on.
A warrior never forgets.
In this epic tale, a chosen group of strong, but scarred survivors had been chosen to be honored for their feats in the most unique way, told here as in a very unlikely fairy tale.
Many of these “heroes” became a part of this story willingly, and some were written into it whether they liked it or not. However, from beginning to end, the process was necessary for each character. For each of them, their back story was unique, their journey throughout was different, yet the outcome became powerful for all.
This fairytale began with 20 Women and 2 Men who’d faced the ugliness of cancer and were one day plucked up by a team of Magical Fairy Godmothers for 6 months of transformation and healing from the inside-out until they ended up on … THE RUNWAY!!!
BIBBIDI …. BOBBIDI … BOO!!!
I was blessed to be a part of this magical “fairy tale” program called YouNight Empowering Events. I was enthusiastic about the program, as I’d gone to their 2nd event in October 2014 during one of my chemo rounds through the coaxing of both my long time friend, Angelle Albright – of Chemobeanies, and incredible oncologist, Dr. Jay Saux. (In fact, like it or not, they’d already signed me up as the first model for 2015!) As I sat in awe of all of the women of that 2014 group rockin’ that runway, knowing they had once been in my shoes, bald as I was in that audience, sick as I was during each break of the show, but looking like a million bucks not only in their outfits, but in their eyes. They had a look in their eyes that shined brighter than any of the sequins or beading on any of those gowns. They felt amazing and we all knew it. You could see in the way they walked out there that they actually felt… ALIVE!
I wanted that. BAD.
When I left the show that night, I had no doubt in my mind that I was doing this thing. It was just one more goal to kick this whole “cancer thing”!
Although I’m mostly a barefoot kinda gal, I couldn’t wait to get up there one day and strut my stuff with other “role models” (as they’ve so honorably named them). To make it to that runway one day and twirl around in a pair of stilettos didn’t mean I was playing some kind of “look at me” center-of -attention game; rather, it would mean that I’d made it. I’d stared death in the face and showed cancer who’s boss. It would give my family and friends (who’d seen me slumped in an infusion chair, or sick on the bathroom floor, or asleep AGAIN when my kids came home from school, bald and patchy as my hair fell out or grew back, or too weak to pick up my toddler because I was post op from so many surgeries)… the chance to see me on a RUNWAY in a pair of STILETTOS, looking HEALTHIER than they’d seen me in a LOOOOOONG LOOOOONG time. We ALL needed that. I needed to feel it and THEY needed to see it. Those 3 and 4 inch heels (Yes, that’s how high my shoes were, no exaggeration. Just check out my pics) had a whole lot of meaning. It may sound ridiculous to some, but to us, that’s enough to make a grown man cry. Just ask my husband, my brothers, …. and my DAD!
Our first kick off event began while I was still in the hospital from one of my surgeries, and for a few of us, our training started while we still had other surgeries and/or infusions continuing. Yet, when we began to get together more and get to know one another, we started to let our guards down and notice how much this whole experience meant … These meetings were becoming just as important as all of our other medical appointments.
YouNight was our treatment after treatment.
It was just what the doctor ordered. During each phase of our major treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries), we have nurses, techs, doctors, therapists, and nutritionists walking us through every leg of our medical needs. They explain what to expect before beginning each new medicine or procedure and talk us through any new side effects we might experience that we didn’t expect. However, when we walk out of that cancer center or surgical center for the last time (other than your next 3 or 6 month follow up), you feel much like you’re on your own now. Any new emotions, effects in your body, etc., are muddled into what could be just “you” or possibly what’s to be expected “after cancer”. You’re just not sure. Thankfully, I’ve got some amazing docs that I trust enough to talk to and give a shout out. Yet, ya just never quite know what to ask and when. No one wants to be “that patient” that just won’t go away with the questions, like some kind of annoying ex-girlfriend! ( Oy vey! )
Being in the room with all of these (good lookin’, I might add) guys and gals who totally “GOT IT” was such a relief! Whew! Our Wednesday night “rehearsals” became so much more than “practice”. We got to know each other. We heard each others’ stories. We were there for one another. We formed real friendships. We goofed off! (Allow me to tip my hat. 😉 Imagine that!) With our team of THE MOST CREATIVE photographers on the planet (Candra and Dylan… WOW… just wow!) , absolutely gorgeous (and oh so hot and slinky) modeling coaches/choreographers(Celeste and her team, Can I just be like you when I ever decide to grow up? #PeterPanSyndrome), the generous and fun loving boutiques and stylists that understood this experience to be so much more than just getting dressed up – but a true metamorphosis from inside out (Shout out to my personal ladies at #TheVilla, #Hemline, #TheMix, Rhonda Cavaretta & Felicia Cary at #ParisParker… Nothin’ but love!!!), our loving and personable ministers (their prayers and words were without fail- always on point!) , selfless volunteer team members (Couldn’t do this without you ladies, really!), the selfless and sleepless Eloise Early, and two of the most innovative-creative-fun loving-absolutely beautiful inside and out founders EVER (Susan Bopp and Lisa McKenzie)… we were bound for greatness. This team, mind you, make up our…
FAIRY GOD MOTHERS!
With the wave of their wand, and A LOT of rehearsing, they took us from a motley crew of some shy, some goofy, some indifferent, and most spewing with what was wrong with us and what would need to be “fixed” for pictures. However, by the time our Fairy Godmothers at Creating U Modeling had only just begun to teach us how to “pose” we couldn’t believe our eyes when Candra George of My Creative Reality showed us a beauty that she saw with her camera lens, that we (on our own) could no longer see… especially after cancer had taken its toll on us. She saw something different. She saw something strong and beautiful in each of us. These magical women made us feel like we could do this.
And we did.
The rest of the fairy tale I will tell in pictures. They speak for themselves. On October 22nd, 2015, the 4th class of YouNight (“THE FIGHT CLUB”) hit the longest runway of this program yet (over 70 feet in length! And we gave it a knock out punch! 20 Cinderellas and 2 Prince Charmings in flashy clothes and boxing robes (literally) took the Mandeville Castine Center by storm in one very magical evening that we will never forget. Our story isn’t over, I cannot tell you our ending because it isn’t finished. “Happily ever after…” wouldn’t be appropriate here because that’s not what we expect, hope, or guarantee for survivors. However, “Grateful and empowered forever more” may be a better fitting “slipper” for our “class” and hopefully for the many, many, MANY classes of YouNight to come!
**For info on how YOU or a friend can sign up or how you can SUPPORT You Night, click on the hyperlink above! Be a fairy godmother and keep the magic alive!**
Without further adieu… the CLASS OF 2015 “FIGHT CLUB”:
**PLEASE, I beg of you all to click on the links below to see FAR BETTER pictures, and videos of ALL of the MODELS, SPONSORS, VOLUNTEERS, TEAM, and GUESTS, that attended this amazing event! It was a truly EPIC event!**