I have now walked as a You Night Alumni in 3 events. It's really hard to believe what people say sometimes, until you experience it yourself. Walking the runway as an Alumni is as great, if not better, than walking for the first time. I pick my own outfit, make my own hair and makeup appointments, I don't really get training but I'm not nervous. Ok, maybe a little nervous but compared to my first walk it’s more excitement than nerves. And everyone is still cheering for ME as I walk the runway! As an Alum it's not about me but I still get to show my friends and family that "I am not only a Survivor. I am a Thriver" in the words of Elise Charbonnet Angelette, one of my You Night Sisters.
|Some of "My Girls" at their first You Night event as Alums|
I was asked to be a Big Sister to the then, upcoming New Orleans Class of 2016. I had no idea what this meant as I'm not figuratively a big sister to anyone and literally do not have any younger siblings but I said Yes. I say Yes to everything I'm asked to do related to You Night. Ruth and I met as participants in the New Orleans Class of 2015 and while we were friends, we didn't become close until we got to be the Big Sisters for the NOLA 2016 class. We attended the practices, photo shoots and fittings. We texted, emailed, facebooked and called our new sisters with words of encouragement and love. We even convinced a few to stay with the program. We answered questions, provided support, wrangled the group to focus instead of gab during practices, shared our stories and experiences. And through this, Ruth and I discovered we were not only filling a spot in the lives of our new sisters (whom I call "My Girls") we were filling a spot in each others lives that we didn't now was empty. Ruth and I became so close you'd think we'd been friends our entire lives. I was truely honored to be picked as a Big Sister and am so thankful for the opportunities it's given me. The sense of pride I felt when “My Girls” walked on stage was incredible. Thinking about it now, 10 months after their show, I am getting chills and tears ( I get chills EVERY TIME I talk about You Night. Every Singe Time). I love these ladies so much.
Ruth and I are now the Big Sister Coordinators for the You Night Program. I know we have to pick the next big sisters for the NOLA Class of 2017 and it's going to be hard because everyone would do an awesome job but it's more that I don't want to let this go! I want to be The Big Sister For Every Class. I'm telling myself all the reasons why I can't be The Big Sister For Every Class, reasons like eventually You Night will be 20 years old and I'll be like the mom or Grandma than a sister. Or that we need to include other women and give them the opportunity to be blessed like we've been. So, Ruth and I have a plan to keep us involved yet share the opportunity with others.
You Night has taught me to be selfless. You Night has given me confidence - I want to share this feeling with everyone. You Night has taught me that going to the North Shore for events isn't all that bad and that if I go, I know I will leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, happy, blessed, loved and grateful that I am a part of You Night. You Night has taught me to cry tears of joy and sadness and to not be ashamed of these tears. You Night has given me friends that I didn't know I needed (I say this often) who know things and have experienced things no one should have to know or experience but because we have, we have a bond that can't be explained. It can only be experienced.
We recently lost one of our beautiful sisters to breast cancer that metastasized. I posted on our You Night Facebook page that my house was open if anyone wanted to get together to cry/hug/laugh and a few came over. We were able to be together to support each other while our friend, and You Night Sister, was in the process of losing her life. We visited her in hospice and were lucky to have already been together, making the visit a little less scary. We were able to show our love and support to and for her family. A group of us attended the Celebration of Life for Jamie and as we were leaving I planned another party to celebrate life. Why do we wait until it's too late to celebrate our lives? I want to celebrate life every day.
|Celebration of Life for Jamie|
|Jamie, celebrating life|
|Supporting each other with smiles in between tears|
|Ruth and me celebrating Halloween|
I hate cancer and what it does to people. But I wouldn’t give up what it has given me for anything.