I’m still trying to define what You Night meant for me, often I can come close, but more than not, I’m at a loss for the word...
For me, the biggest challenge prior to being part of You Night is that I was my diagnosis. “Oh....I’m so sorry... I had no idea.” Almost like they had already decided it was a death sentence. With You Night, you are human, people see you and not cancer, I was among sisters who understood, no words necessary. If I said I felt broken when I came to YouNight, I think that would be pretty close. The doctors heal your physical body,
You Night heals the spiritual part, where no doctor can reach. They create a family, where, for all intensive purposes, you are normal! These ladies have been there, and walked the walk (to include the catwalk, they are strong and fireproof, powerful, commanding...and approachable and understand.
I know I have a lot more growing and healing to do, but what you see in me today, I know would not be without this program. For me, Cancer was and is confusing....I realize, I don’t need answers....and that’s ok.
Pam Fields, New Orleans Class of 2018
During my first walk down the runway on You Night, I got the feeling like I was on a drug "high." That feeling lasted for about 2 weeks before it gradually diminished. This was an emotional experience that caused a feeling of overwhelming joy. By the time I got to the end of the runway, I had tears of joy in my eyes, It was a very powerful feeling that I wanted to never end.
I invited my caregivers to the show. They reassured me every step of the way and let me know that my progress was good. My recovery was going the way it should. I know that some of the attended. I don't know if that was because of my specific invitation or if this was for some other reason, but I am very glad they attended. They were instrumental in my treatment, and I believe it was important for them to see that their work was a success. My relationship with my boyfriend grew stronger. I don't know if this was because of the cancer / treatments / You Night / or anything else. I appreciate his support in my battle more than I can put into words. Our relationship started just before my diagnosis so I am not sure how much my treatment was a contributing factor in our growth but I am very happy to have had such a supportive partner in this journey. I could not have asked for anyone better at my side.
I knew there were cancer support groups "out there" available to help people cope with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I just did not realize how many there were. I'm very happy that I found You Night. I think that a support group based on a 12 Step model would not have heen very effective for me. I do belong to a 12 Step group and so I went right to acceptance of my diagnosis. I did shed a few tears because it was a hard thing to accept, but did not wallow in self pity or in denial. I now see myself as a woman who got back in touch with her more social / wild side. I was able to let go of my reserve. I was with my "tribe" -- fellow survivors. We were going to have a powerful, life affirming, enriching, shared experience. As an introvert, I spend so much time alone and do so much alone that I almost forget there are other people on the same journey. You Night put me in touch with these supportive others.
Louise Poche You Night New Orleans Class of 2019
In life, people are quick to judge – accessing strengths and weaknesses, and looking down on imperfections. As a result, people are often more versed in their flaws than in their merits. My You Night experience has been the opposite; here everyone is completely accepting of each other, and the program celebrates each individual while providing them with an opportunity to grow and bloom.
You Night not only gave me the camaraderie I had been looking for, but it also showed me how amazing a sisterhood is. I have never had a sister, but now I have been gifted with 21 of the most remarkable sisters anyone could ever ask for – along with the sister groups from other classes. I have always been one who felt alone, on the outside looking into groups; but now I genuinely feel like an accepted and valuable part of my You Night Sisters! What a fantastic feeling! It has been 24 years since I have felt deserving of things to make me feel better about myself. As a mom, all money and time has been focused on the kids, and as the mom of 2 boys, there are no mother-daughter manicures, shopping excursions, etc. You Night has taught me to have fun with clothes and frivolities again; to embrace being a woman. Since the Candle Lighting Ceremony I have started wearing high heels and painting my toe nails, have bought more shoes than I usually do in 5 years (including metallic ones and ones with fringe!), I outfitted myself as a Greek goddess and a warrior (and learned to have fun with it), I started looking for tops to show off my figure (instead of trying to hide my weight gain), and I actually bought a silver glitter purse! I’ve seen the saying before that “some people are born with glitter in their blood” and have always thought this was meant for young girls, but I now rejoice that I have found that part of myself. The alums always talk about how life-changing the runway is for them. I had no expectations of any kind of metamorphosis. On the day of the event, I hadn’t lost any weight like I had hoped to, but the dress fit so I was grateful; I thought my hair was too puffy, but my sisters said it looked great. Julie and I went out on the runway, focusing on doing what we had practiced. And at some point on that runway, I realized that I am beautiful, strong and worthwhile! What a revolutionary concept for me – a super power that I never had before now! You Night has made me a better version of myself, while surrounding me with love.
Heidi McGrath, St Tammany Class of 2018
You Night gave me new friends who have supported me as I am now going through my 2 years of monitoring before I am deemed "in remission". I feel so much stronger because I have met others who have battled cancer and they have taught me how to embrace life and not let cancer take up my thoughts and control my life. I learned that cancer is scary no matter what type or what stage. I met a lot of women who were facing this without partners or partners who "checked out". This group became our "significant other". I now look back and see how I was a WARRIOR in this fight. I continue to feel stronger as a woman. The experience has strengthened my faith. I have learned to "Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understandings." I didn't understand why my path included cancer. But I now believe that the Lord was guiding me to this wonderful group.
Kristen van Leusden, St Tammany Class of 2018