Mother and father fight rare cancers

CALEDONIA, Mich. (MEDIA GENERAL) – “They are amazing in every sense of the word,” said Elizabeth Malartsik, long-time friend of Ben and Shelby Offrink.

The Offrinks are living a heart-wrenching tale. Both are fighting cancer with Shelby recently being hospitalized. At the same time, they are raising two beautiful young daughters, Maeve, 4, and Hazel, 18 months.

Ben, originally from Flint, Michigan, and Shelby, from Lowell, Michigan, married in October 2007. It was March 2014 when Shelby, now 31, was diagnosed. She has inoperable intramedullary glioblastoma, a form of cancer in her spine and brain.

About six months after Shelby’s diagnosis, Ben, now 35, learned he had Hodgkins lymphoma for the third time. He’d gone into remission 20 years earlier.

Shelby began writing about her journey not long after her diagnosis on a CaringBridge site. At the start of this year, her friends took over for her and created a YouCaring page to share the Offbrink’s story and collect donations.

Recently, her friends have had to share some difficult news. Shelby has been hospitalized with pneumonia and infections. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after her husband, Ben, spent a week in the hospital fighting his own illness.

“For now, we just want her to be kept comfortable and at peace. Her girls are able to be at her bedside, giving her lots of hugs and kisses,” Shelby’s friends wrote on her site.

Supporters are listed in the thousands online. Friends, some who’ve known the Offbrink’s since eighth grade, and family bring them meals and raise money for the struggling couple. The YouCaring page has generated nearly $184,000 to help the family so far.

“You don’t know me, but I came across your story and wanted to help in any way I could. I have two little boys that look to be about the same ages as your children,” wrote one contributor.

“God bless all of you. Your story has really touched me and I pray for better days ahead for all of you,” wrote another.

“Team Offrink,” as they affectionately refer to themselves, consider themselves all to be family. They simply ask everyone to keep Ben and Shelby in their thoughts.

“Ben and Shelby have been through hell, but so have their children, parents, and siblings. Their family needs support, love and prayers right now,” wrote the Offbrink’s friends.

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