BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Prom. For many teens, it’s a special night where lasting memories are made with friends and classmates.
But the memories made Friday evening inside the Hotel Lafayette’s Courtyard Room will be extra-special, because of what the teens attending the event share in common. They are all either current cancer patients, or survivors.
There was 15-year-old Shahadah Johnson, a sophomore at Buffalo’s Emerson High School who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a bone tumor – in 2012. She’s had surgery to remove her tibia bone, and now is working through physical therapy to be able to bend her leg.
“I’m really excited,” Johnson said. “I want to dance with my friends and just forget about stupid cancer, and have a blast!”
“I’ve gone through a lot of chemo and various surgeries,” said Stephanie Wolski, from West Seneca. “The past year, I’ve been sick a lot. I didn’t really do much, because I was sick or I had to be careful of infections. So it’s really nice to be able to get out here tonight, and be able to just do normal things. Be carefree.”
The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and Teens Living with Cancer teamed up to give the teens a night to remember.
“I’m a little bit on the older end of the spectrum for the TLC kids, so I had my prom and stuff,” said Nicole DeGregorio, whose Hodgkins lymphoma is now in complete remission. “But I met so many kids going through the… treatment process, and I think it’s absolutely wonderful that they put on such a great event for kids who might not be well enough to go to their own school’s prom. And being able to co-mingle with other kids who’ve gone through this.”
There were no awkward questions, no stares, no uncertainty. Just a chance for kids who’ve already been through difficult diagnoses, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries to simply be kids, together.
“It means a lot to me, because they understand everything that I was going through, and I know that they won’t judge me,” Johnson said.
“These girls, and guys have gone through so much. We’ve gone through stuff that other people don’t even understand. So I think that’s what makes it a little more special,” Wolski said.
The resilience of these teens is nothing short of astonishing. They’re not too shy to talk about their experiences with cancer, they’re full of hope for themselves and their peers.
“You think, ‘Wow. This is awful. I don’t want to do this. Why is this happening to me?’ But it really does get better,” Wolski said.
“It’s gonna be hard, but it’s just gonna be so much better in the end. It’s gonna change your life completely. It’s gonna make you look at life in a whole different aspect. You might feel like it’s just never going to get better, but it really does. And it’s great when it does,” DeGregorio exclaimed. “I haven’t felt this good in years!”