For four young girls, their prom this season will have a special meaning.Catherine Malatesta looked absolutely stunning for her junior prom.
The 16-year-old wore a gorgeous dark blue gown and braided updo when she went with her date to the dance. Prom is a milestone event for every teenager, but a few months prior to the big event, there were doubts about if she would even be able to attend.
Catherine was being treated for stage 4 cancer.
You would never be able to tell by the way she is beaming, but Catherine was released from the hospital the night before her prom. She wanted nothing more than to feel like a normal teenager, even if it was just for one day. “She turned to me and said, ‘Mom, for the first time in a long time, I actually feel beautiful,'” her mother, Jennifer Goodwin said through tears. “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.”
Before her diagnosis, Catherine was a very active and involved student, participating in multiple sports.
She had complained about shoulder pain, thinking that it was a sports injury, but in December 2014, she was diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma. The rare cancer affects only 1 in 10 million people. It had already spread to her lungs and spine. Despite going through chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, she kept a positive attitude and attended school when she could. She even found time to run for student council president. She recorded her speech from her hospital room and won the election.
Catherine passed away just two months after the prom. A few days after the May 29 dance, she was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital. She passed away on August 2, less than a year after her diagnosis. Now, four of Catherine’s friends are honoring her memory in a special way.
They are wearing Catherine’s dark blue gown to their own proms.
After Catherine passed away, her mom invited Catherine’s friends to take what they wanted. The girls saw Catherine’s prom dress hanging in her bedroom closet and came up with the idea to wear the blue embroidered dress to their own proms.
Catherine’s mom has named the gesture “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prom Dress,” a nod to the bestselling book.
Jillian Danton was the first of the four friends to wear the dress.
Jillian and Catherine were childhood friends who played field hockey and ice hockey together. Jillian is a year younger than Catherine and said that Catherine was like a big sister to her. “l definitely felt her with me the whole time and it was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world,” Jillian told Today. “It’s an extra memory of her that I have to hold on to.” Jillian’s mother also felt her daughter’s presence. “It was clearly bittersweet but it just was lovely to see her in it,” she told TODAY. “I felt like for a second I was seeing Catherine.”
Catherine’s spirit is living on through her dress.
As a parent, Catherine’s mother says that she takes comfort in knowing that her daughter is being remembered through such an amazing gesture. “For a parent who has lost a child, the hardest part is you think people are going to forget about them,” she 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.”
Catherine’s three other friends will be wearing the dress to their proms this year. Just like the book, not all of the girls are the same body type and size. A tailor is ensuring that the dress is fitted properly to each girl before their proms while Catherine’s mom has taken over dry cleaning and delivery duties. More of Catherine’s friends have already requested to wear the dress next year so that the sisterhood will continue on after this year’s prom season.
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