Dancing for Stephanie
WORTHINGTON -- As she faces a recurrence of cancer, day-to-day life is filled with uncertainties for Stephanie Romero, 16, a junior at Worthington High School. But her spirits have been buoyed by the overwhelming support she's received from friends and family, students and staff.
Her classmates at WHS set a goal to raise $1,000 to help with expenses in her cancer fight and ended up raising $3,400. As a "reward" to the student body for raising the money, WHS Principal Paul Karelis shaved off the mustache he's been sporting for 25 years. Additionally, people donated to Stephanie's support fund during WHS's recent homecoming football game.
"I got emotional at the homecoming game," Stephanie said. "I thought they did enough with the benefit at school, and then they added to it at the homecoming game."
And now, one more fundraiser is in the works --a Zumbathon and meal on Friday at Worthington High School.
Stephanie was first diagnosed with cancer about two years ago. A lump in her hand, later determined to be a carcinoma, was found during a bout of sibling roughhousing. The pinky finger on her left hand was amputated, and the hope was the cancer had been eradicated from her body.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Tumors were found in both of her lungs recently during a checkup at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
"It was such a shock," said Stephanie, the daughter of Enrique and Heidi Romero of Worthington. "We didn't think it was going to come back. But after the first cancer on my hand, I was trying to get back into basketball, so I went to practice, but I was always tired and I got sick at practice. I just thought I was out of shape ... it will get better. Then I went back for my first five-month checkup, and that's when it showed up."
At the moment, the course of treatment is uncertain, as the form of cancer she has is rare and difficult to treat. She will return to the Mayo Clinic in October for a CT scan to determine if the tumors are growing and see if she is eligible to participate in clinical trials.
"There are some clinical trials in Maryland," Stephanie explained. "That's all they can do, if anything. There's just one medicine in the entire world that works for this type of cancer."
Organizers of Friday's Zumbathon hope to raise enough money to offset some of the expenses for the travel and treatment. Local Zumba instructor America Vergara works with Enrique Romero at Real Estate Retrievers in Worthington.
"When he gave us the news, we were all devastated," Vergara said. "So the idea was to put something together. We want the whole community of Worthington to be part of this for her."
Zumba is a popular Latin-inspired dance-fitness program. Registration for the Zumbathon will begin at 6 p.m., and the dancing starts at 7 p.m. People with all levels of Zumba experience are welcome to participate. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and athletic shoes.
But people who don't want to dance are also welcome, Vergara stressed.
A supper of pulled pork sandwiches, chips, bars and beverage will be served beginning at 6 p.m. Local businesses have donated all the fixings for the meal, so all the proceeds will go directly into Stephanie's treatment fund. A raffle is also planned, featuring many donated items, and T-shirts will be sold.
"I didn't think it was going to be so big," Vergara said, "but everybody's putting things together and helping with it."
Stephanie isn't sure if she'll feel like dancing, but she plans to attend Friday's benefit. Her biggest complaint is tiredness, but she still attends school daily and continues to work part-time at Prairie House, although not as many hours.
"I'm tired and out of breath," she admitted. "My locker at school is upstairs, so I have to walk up there between classes, and that wears me out.
"But just coming to school, even though I don't always like my classes, it's still fun to go to school," she continued. "Students that I don't even know say 'hi' to me in the halls, and I know everyone is there to support me."