Johanna Yorro, 33, got on a subway from Ozone Park, Queens, after radiation treatment to see the pope in Central Park. Yorro has been cancer-free since June and said winning a lottery to see the pontiff was “a sign.”
“I cried, I laughed, I couldn’t believe it,” Yorro said. “It’s a sign of a second chance in life.”
Since January, Yorro battled stage-three cancer with countless chemotherapy treatments, and underwent a double mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. She's also endured 20 radiation sessions — that have left their mark on her body — and has seven more to go. She found out she first had cancer when her son was just 13 months old. He's now 2.
“(The pope) is coming here now, I just finished battling cancer, and what a beautiful day it is today,” Yorro said.
Yorro joined tens of thousands of spectators who relished the clear skies in Central Park with hopes to see the pope in New York City. Over 80,000 tickets were made available for the papal lottery and each winner was given two tickets to bring a family member or friend.
People waving tiny Vatican flags and wearing pope-themed shirts waited hours to enter the park. Bystanders of different creeds, Catholic and non-Christian, took on what Yorro called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Yorro was brought up Catholic in the United States by her parents who are both from the Dominican Republic. She said that fact that this pope speaks Spanish is a “big thing” for her family.
Her family sent her to Catholic school her whole life and she served as an altar server. Her two kids were also baptized in a Catholic Church. Before leaving her house, Yorro’s 8-year-old daughter said, “Say hello to the pope for me!”
Yorro returned to work as a paralegal in June. She said her boss encouraged her to see the pope after her bout with breast cancer. Yorro was at work when she found out she won tickets and her boss understood how much it meant to her.
"I feel excited beyond belief— this has so much spiritual meaning," Yorro beamed. "I feel like he’s more accepting of how Catholics are changing. I feel he makes Catholics want to come to church."
Despite being tired from radiation treatment, Yorro came with her aunt to Central Park to say “thank you.”
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity after what I went through," she said. "I wanted to say thank you to God and the pope is the closest person to Him.”