Cancer. It’s a word that holds so much power, casting a shadow that seems to subsume every hint of light in its path. It’s also a word that we hear all too often, a diagnosis that millions of people all over the world are given, while the people who love them feel helpless as they watch the battle commence. Like war wounds, the battle scars of cancer are deep, both physically and emotionally; and for the women fighting, the toll taken is often one that leaves them stripped of their self-esteem. Their light has been cast into the shadows, with little hope of being found again.
It was the desire to give these women hope and empower them to face their struggles in a united, supportive environment that first inspired Lisa McKenzie to create You Night in 2013, organizing a runway show that brought together 25 local women diagnosed with cancer. The event was a success, giving the ladies a common goal that also created a close bond among them; but when the night was over, it was clear to McKenzie that she needed to go beyond the runway if she was really going to make a difference. “The day after the show, the women experienced a huge emotional letdown. Seeing that, we realized that the side effects of cancer last for many years after the cancer is gone and that there was a huge need for more than just a single event to help bring women through the struggles they were facing,” says McKenzie, who saw firsthand the way that cancer seemed to extinguish the bright spirit of two of her closest friends. It was those two women in her life, in fact, that gave her a new sense of purpose after she had gone through a dark time in her own life; and bringing women together to support and strengthen one another became her mission.