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Young parents both fighting cancer

LOWELL, Mich. (WZZM) -- Friday night, members of a West Michigan community are rallying support for a husband and wife who are both fighting cancer. Ben and Shelby Offrink grew up in Lowell but their brave battle is touching the hearts of people all over.

"It feels really unfair to have all of this happen," said Jay Tomczak, Shelby's older brother.

This family has dealt with an unbelievable turn of events. But despite the pain, the Offrinks are determined to persevere. The couple has two small daughters, 3-year-old Maeve and Hazel who turned 1 in December.

Shortly after giving birth to Hazel prematurely, doctors discovered Shelby has a rare and incurable form of cancer on her spine. They diagnosed her with Stage IV glioblastoma.

This has been the most challenging year of their lives," Jay said.

"It's just shocking, you know? At first it just seemed like a terrible dream," said Luke, Jay and Shelby's younger brother.

They are among the many family and friends who have helped Ben care for the girls while Shelby undergoes extensive treatment to extend her life.

In the midst of it all Ben learned his own cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma had returned for a third time.

"I feel a lot of their pain," said Jay, while sighing heavily. "As a brother it has been a very difficult thing to absorb. I think one of the things that has made it possible for them to get through is the love and support from the family and all the friends.

Ben says his parents and in-laws have helped to support the couple; they are constantly at Shelby's bedside and helping to watch Maeve and Hazel. Shelby's longtime friends have also been there to offer emotional and financial support through various fundraisers.

"There is support all around her so we feed off of that," said Luke.

"She has an intelligent, witty sense of humor and I'm really happy she has been able to maintain that throughout all of this," said Jay. "Shelby has always been the strongest person that I've known."

And she needs every bit of that strength now. Last month the family was dealt another devastating blow. After months of radiation and chemo, doctors found three new tumors on Shelby's brain.

"If she is having a rough day, we try to keep them up with Ben and the girls," said Luke.

Shelby will continue to fight her cancer with chemo and radiation. Ben has also had some setbacks: his first round of chemo was not effective. He will need to go through another round to eradicate the cancer before receiving a necessary bone marrow transplant.

Jay says, "seeing him get weaker has been a really hard thing.We love him like a brother and we are there to support him as much as we can."

"We are hoping and praying for him to have that go well this time around," said Luke.

Before cancer invaded the Offrink's lives, Shelby worked as an engineer and Ben was a stay-at-home dad. Now neither are working and the medical bills are piling up.

On Friday, Feb. 6, which happens to be Shelby's 31st birthday, family and friends are holding a "Hoops for Hope" spaghetti dinner and basketball game fundraiser. It will be at Lowell High School between 5 and 7:30 p.m. The cost is $5. The family is also accepting donations on the website YouCaring.com.