Prom is supposed to be a special time for a high school student. The chance to dress up and dance the night away with their friends and their dates is practically a rite of passage in our society.

But for Catherine Malatesta, prom turned out to be truly bittersweet.

16-year-old Catherine Malatesta looked gorgeous for her junior prom in her beautiful dark blue dress and braided updo. Yet the fact that she was able to attend the prom at all was something of a miracle.

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You would never be able to tell from Catherine’s lovely smile, but just a few months before the junior prom, Catherine started her treatment for stage 4 cancer. She had just been released from the hospital the night before, and said that it was the first time in a long time that she felt beautiful.

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Before her diagnosis, Catherine was highly active in sports, and she initially thought that that the pain in her shoulder was due to injury. But she was soon diagnosed with epithelioid sarcoma, a form of cancer that affects about one in ten million people. By then, it had already spread to her spine and lungs.

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Catherine kept a positive, upbeat attitude throughout her chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy treatment, and went to school as much as she could. She even ran for student council president, winning the election after recording her speech from the hospital room.

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Sadly, just two months after the prom, Catherine passed away. But her grieving friends found a special way to memorialize her. After finding Catherine’s blue embroidered gown in her bedroom, they decided to wear the dress to their own proms to honor their lost friend. In a reference to the popular book The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Catherine’s mom named the idea “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Prom Dress.”

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The first friend to wear the dress was Jillian Danton, who played ice hockey and field hockey with Catherine. Jillian was a year behind Catherine in school, and said that Catherine was like a big sister to her.

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Catherine’s mother said that she is able to take comfort in the touching gesture of her late daughter’s friends.

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Three of Catherine’s friends will wear the dress in the near future, with a tailor helping fit each girl into the dress.

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Since their story first broke, even more of Catherine’s friends have requested to wear the dress next year. What an amazing way to honor their friend.

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