SPENCER — Stacey Shafer said that, when she was diagnosed with cancer last November, she had been doing everything right.
“I’m 32 and in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” she said. “I’d been running since February.”
Then, she said, just a week after her regular checkup, she found a lump.
Four months later, Shafer is fighting cancer. She’s had a double mastectomy and is undergoing chemotherapy.
She and husband Aaron have three children, ages 9, 7 and 18 months.
They have medical bills and stress.
But, they also have faith, and friends.
Saturday, despite occasional raindrops and cold, cloudy skies, more than 200 people turned out to raise money by walking the track at North Rowan High School.
Together, organizers said, they raised over $10,000 to help offset the Shafers’ medical bills, and a further $1,300 donation to Stacey’s Relay For Life team from T-shirt sales.
Aaron Shafer said the support was amazing.
“I mean, you see on the Facebook posts where all these people say they’re going to come, and then more show up,” he said.
When Stacey’s friends showed them the fundraising total, Stacey started to cry tears of joy.
Through it all, she said, their faith has given them strength.
“When I found out that I had cancer, you know, I just thought that same night, ‘There are so many things God put into place to prepare us for this journey,’ ” Stacey Shafer said.
“It shows how friends and family can push you over that hump,” Aaron said. “You know you’re going to get through.”
With inspirational music playing over a loudspeaker, friends, relatives, church members and perfect strangers walked the track for Stacey and family.
Several friends of Stacey organized the event.
Angela Lance said she’s known the Shafers since their children started attending preschool together at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Stephanie Kafitz, who also knows the Shafers from St. John’s Lutheran, headed up the T-shirt sale for Relay For Life.
“My mother died of cancer, I’ve had melanoma,” Kafitz said.
She’s been involved with Relay For Life for years, Kafitz said, but this year’s team is dedicated to Stacey.
Jamie Myers, of Rockwell, said she met the Shafers through her husband. “We’re like sisters,” Myers said.
“I just think it’s awesome, the love and support the community have shown her,” Myers said. “There are people here who don’t even know her, who’ve heard of her situation and have come out to show support for her and her family.”
One after another, well wishers stopped alongside the track to shake hands with Stacey and Aaron.
Others took part in a raffle drawing for a specially painted cornhole game set.
It was a chance for family to reunite, including relatives from New Jersey who surprised Stacey on Friday.
Mandi Mitchell, Stacey’s cousin, was one of those who made the drive. Originally from Spencer, she walked with Stacey’s sister, Stephanie Nelson.
Both said they were grateful for the turnout and support from the community.
“It feels so great,” Mitchell said. “I’m happy that so many people are here to support her.
“That kind of family and friend support is what gives you the strength to keep fighting,” said Edwina Ritchie, Stacey’s aunt.
Pat Nelson, Stacey’s grandmother, walked two laps around the North Rowan track.
“I’m 85 years old, so I think that’s great!” she said, smiling.
The road ahead for Stacey and family won’t be easy. She’s still facing two more rounds of chemo.
But, she said, her family, friends and faith will continue to give her strength.
“When Angela first mentioned doing the walk for us, I never imagined the turnout being this big,” Stacey said.
“There’s people here from throughout my life, people who just meant the world to me.”
On the back of the bright-green “Steppin’ for Stacey” T-shirts is the phrase, “Because no one fights alone.”
The knowledge that they aren’t fighting alone, the Shafers said, is what keeps them going.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.