GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- As if one cancer diagnosis wasn't difficult enough, a husband and wife now both find themselves in the battle of their lives. Shelby and Ben Offrink are simultaneously fighting different forms of cancer while raising two young girls.
Shelby, a Lowell native, was diagnosed in February 2014 with Grade IV glioblastoma of the spine, one of the rarest forms of cancer. The condition and impending side effects include incredible pain and even paralysis at times. Only a few months later, Ben learned his Hodgkin's lymphoma had relapsed for a third time since 2002.
The couple is now going through regular chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Ben and Shelby did not feel comfortable talking on camera Thursday as they continue to go through their treatments, but did make a point to extend their thanks and appreciation to all who have helped and donated.
But friends were happy to talk. “I think they’re an inspiration for us," said Kristy Hendricks, a long-time friend of Shelby's.
"With Shelby’s positive attitude and wanting to fight from the get-go, we couldn’t help but rally and stay positive because of her."
Both Hendricks and long-time friend Abbey Mix said the support for Ben and Shelby they've seen from the community has been overwhelming, but not entirely unexpected. "We've said we're not shocked by the support but (Shelby) is. From the very beginning, as soon as the gifts, donations, prayers, and well wishes started rolling in, she couldn't believe it. She's incredibly grateful," Mix said.
In the past year, there have been several fundraisers and thousands of dollars raised to help pay the Offrink's medical expenses and bills and cover costs like daycare for their two children. Last summer, friends and supporters organized a fun run to raise money. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser is scheduled for Feb. 6 at Lowell High School.
“It’s been extraordinary to watch people come together," Hendricks said, "and people love Shelby. She draws people in, and I think people just want to do everything they can for her."
"They have great spirits and have been fighting from the get-go," Hendricks said, "and they’ve had such positive attitudes and I think that spreads amongst her friends and family.”
“They’ve had to endure more than any family should, but I’ve also said from the beginning if anyone can do this, it’s them."
A YouCaring.com account has been set up in the family's name, and donations can also be submitted at the Huntington Bank location in on E. Main Street in Lowell.
The spaghetti fundraiser dinner is scheduled for Feb. 6 at Lowell High School from 5-7 p.m. in the cafeteria. Checks can be made out to the Offrink Family Donation Fund.