'I would do anything to save you from this. I would do anything to trade places. I would do anything to have you back just one more day...'
I've said these words a thousand different ways, a thousand different times for the past two years, and I can only assume that many of you have also shared in these thoughts. But the reality is that cancer took Shelby's life. Two girls lost their mother, a husband lost his wife, a mother lost her daughter, and friends lost their irreplaceable friend. Shelby would have done anything to help any one of us if we had been in her shoes, especially if it meant we could help in saving a life.
Right now, there are so many more people battling cancer just as Ben and Shelby did. We all know someone, right? A mother, brother, wife, friend, son, coworker- we ALL know someone. During chemotherapy and treatment, these patients need blood and platelet transfusions. Multiple times they are relying on these products to be available to aid in saving their life. And some of these people may even need a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant like Ben did. He found a perfect match from a stranger in Poland who had signed up on the Be the Match registry.
On March 26th, during the Lowell Community Expo, a blood drive through Michigan Blood Center will be held in honor of Shelby. We've all said, 'I would do anything'... so now, let's go do it! We are asking that you help others in a very big way. Please sign up to donate blood. You can also sign up to be on Be the Match registry. Saving lives matter, so put away any excuses you have to not donate and make time in your schedule. You know Shelby would do it for you!
When: March 26th from 8am-4pm
Where: Lowell High School
11700 Vergennes St, SE
Appointments recommended. Call 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5664) or online at https://donate.miblood.org/portal
Enter Sponsor code: Shelby and Click Go
Michigan Blood is being awesome and for every person that attempts to donate, money will be donated to the Shelby's Scholarship Fund!
it's that easy! Please help us out in making this a huge success. Thanks in advance!
Yesterday, February 6th, was Shelby's 32nd birthday. As the day approached, we made it a personal mission to not dwell on all the sadness of surrounding the fact that Shelby isn't here, but rather remember all of the things we loved about her. She always made her birthday a celebration, so we felt the need to carry out the tradition. Ben joined us for the evening, and it was nice to laugh together and think Shelby was rocking it out in heaven. Speaking of Ben, let's talk about a reason to celebrate....
So Ben is about 100 days post his bone marrow transplant. In the transplant world, that is a huge milestone. He recently had a bone marrow aspiration and PET scan which confirmed that he is still cancer free! Still in REMISSION!! He is also 100% donor cells. This means his donor cells are present, not Ben's cells (which is exactly what is needed). This is amazing news, and we could not be happier. It's crazy to think Ben was in a trial drug and told there's not many options left over the summer, and now he is cancer free. There have been a few complications with graft vs host disease, and he is still being monitored closely, but right now, we are pausing to celebrate this milestone.
Thank you to everyone who has kept Ben, Maeve, Hazel and their extended families in your prayers over these past few months. We know God, along with Shelby, has had hand in his recovery.
In honor of Shelby's birthday, we are re-releasing the top ten Shine like Shelby list in new fonts and colors inspired by Shelby's style. Please print a copy and hang in your home. (check out photos)
And one last thing, we are having a Blood Drive in Shelby's honor on March 26th through Michigan Blood Center. This will be at the Lowell High School during the Expo. For every person that donates, Michigan Blood will make a donation towards the Shelby Tomzcak Offrink Scholarship. More details to follow, but mark your calendars now to donate!!
Tis the season!
We hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. It's been a minute since our last update, and we appreciate the thoughts and kind words for both Ben and the girls over the past few months. The girls enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving with Ben and Shelby's families. Maeve and Hazel have gotten so big, grown so much! They are adorable as ever, and both have the best features of Shelby in different ways. Tomorrow Hazel turns 2!! Happy Birthday Hazey! We love you!
In the fall, Ben's repeat scans showed that he was in remission! That's right, you heard me, REMISSION! Wahoo! This was a miracle in itself. The next step was to go to transplant, and that is exactly what he did. On Ben and Shelby's wedding anniversary, Ben underwent a bone marrow transplant. (Tell me Shelby wasn't playing a part in this crazy story, right?) A perfect stranger donated marrow to Ben and literally saved his life. What a hero! Overall, Ben is stable and doing ok, but he will be monitored extremely closely for several months.
This time of year can be hard. It's busy, there is so much to do. But like for Ben and family, many of you could be celebrating your first Christmas without a loved one. That's difficult to think about. That life can just move on without someone so important. But throughout Shelby's story, she remained positive and had a greater perspective on life. She told us, I am bigger than this. She was more than a diagnosis, more than cancer. She was the best friend, the best mother and wife, the best daughter and sister. Now that she has given us this platform, we ask that Shelby and Ben's story inspire you this Christmas season. Find some way to do good, bring happiness to someone who needs it. Do something bigger than yourself. Make the most of the life you have and shine like Shelby every single day. (refer to top 10 ways to #shinelikeshelby ??) Last year Shelby said, I just want this Christmas to be good because you never know what will happen. And that's true for all of us. We don't know what will happen tomorrow, but we can make today good. With all the stress the holidays can bring, please remember Shelby's words. Her deeper message was, enjoy this time, it's not promised to always be here.
One easy way to make a difference is to donate blood. Seriously, it saves lives. Both Ben and Shelby have received many transfusions during treatment. Or you could join the 'Be the Match' registry. You could be someone's perfect match for the cure they need. If that doesn't work for you, host the most fun party for your friends, bring a meal to a neighbor, or call up your family to chat. Do something to make a difference this season. It's what Shelby would want!
Merry Christmas everyone!
To join the registry and find out more information, please visit bethematch.org
It only takes a cheek swab to join!
'for the rest of my life, I will search for moments full of you.' unknown.
As we enter into fall and leave summer behind, I think we would all be lying if we said things haven't been tough. It seems impossible to have all aspects of life continue to move forward, except for one huge, irreplaceable part of it. We all continue to adjust and learn how to cope with Shelby no longer here on Earth with us. The transition hasn't been easy, but the one thing that has made it a little better is that so many of you continue to keep Shelby's fighting spirit alive. Sharing her memories of how she inspired you in some way has been amazing to hear. It was challenged to us to shine like Shelby each and every day in the ways that she did. We said she would not be forgotten, and that has remained true bc of all of you. Please continue to #shinelikeshelby and share your stories.
Many have asked how Ben and the girls are doing. There are good days and then there are hard days. As far as Ben's treatment for his cancer, he did receive some good news. The PET scan he had a few weeks ago showed that the chemo he has been getting over the summer has been working! That's right, its been working!! The goal is still to get the cancer gone completely, so that Ben can have the unrelated bone marrow transplant. But he is making progress in the right direction and will be discussing treatment plans with his doctors in the next month.
This past weekend, the 2nd annual Shine Like Shelby Golf Outing was held at Arrowhead Golf Course. What a huge success! It was perfect weather, and so great for so many of us to be together and hang out. Thank you to all those that helped organize, participate or came out to enjoy dinner!
Feel free to bring a meal over to Ben and the girls if you would like. There is no doubt that his hands are full these days chasing around Maeve and Hazel!
As always, thank you for praying for this family and keeping them in your hearts.
Many of you continue to ask about how Ben and the girls are doing. Ben has been receiving a trial chemotherapy every other week at U of M for some time now. Since starting it, his complete blood count has improved. He has gone from never having platelets over 10,000 or a hemoglobin over 8 to being much more stable. This means that overall he needs less blood and platelet transfusions which also means less time spent at the hospital. We are taking this as a good sign for his cancer cells. In the next week or two, Ben will have another PET scan and possible bone marrow to evaluate his disease status. Obviously, the hope is that the cancer is gone, or at least going away. Please join us in praying for him. He needs a cure. His girls need a cure for him too.
Ben, Maeve and Hazel (and the rest of us) continue to adjust with life without Shelby here on Earth. It is an understatement that we all miss her. Things just aren’t the same. But we continue to remember her daily and strive to shine like Shelby. She changed lives. Her story will go on to touch people’s lives, and she will always be remembered.
On September 26th, the second annual Offrink Golf Outing will be held, this year titled: Shine like Shelby. Last year’s event was so fun and successful. We would like to do even better this year, so put it on your calendar. Details to follow!
Also, a video made by one of our friends, Liz, has been uploaded in the gallery if you would like to watch. (Thanks Liz!)
As always, thank you all for the extended support.
Where to go from here... It's been a tough few weeks for everyone. Shelby's passing, no matter how expected or unexpected it was, has been hard to deal with. It will never feel real, and there will always be a piece missing from our hearts. But last week, was a great tribute to her and her extraordinary life. Everything from the packed visitation to her closest family and friends gathering at an old time spot was a great way to remember our Shelbs. As it's been said, she will never ever ever be forgotten. Her legacy will live on. Many people have asked for the 'top ten' that was talked about at her funeral to be posted. For those who could not make it to the funeral, these were ten things Shelby did on a daily basis that made her such a great friend, sister, mother, wife and daughter. It was challenged to everyone present to shine like Shelby, to carry out some of these until it became natural to incorporate into your daily life. So here goes....
Shelby's passing has left us heartbroken. We don’t know what to do without her in our lives. At times, we don’t feel it’s right for us to smile or have fun, but sitting still doesn’t seem right either. Shelby’s legacy is not one that should leave us motionless; it should inspire us and drive us to action. Many people have said they have learned from her battle with cancer and her death, but there is so much more to learn from how she lived. Someone wrote on Facebook that the world would be a better place if we were all a little more like Shelby. We couldn’t agree more. Shelby excelled at life; she was a shining star. We’d like to share the top ten things we can pledge to improve upon so we can all shine a little more like Shelby.
10. Call people – Don’t just text or send a message on Facebook. It can be so easy to get lost in the busyness of the day and send a quick message but the thing that connected Shelby to others was that she reached out and had a real conversation. That’s how she stayed so close to so many and judging by how many amazing friends she has, she must have been on the phone 24/7.
9. Remember important information about people – When you talk to those people on the phone, pay attention to the details they give. Vacations, home projects, job promotions. Remember what they say so you can follow up later. This is what Shelby did and it let people know that she cared enough to remember the events in their life.
8. Do things for others – After you talk to someone on the phone and remember the information they shared, follow up by doing something for others. Your friend got a promotion? Send a congratulations card. Visiting a friend near their child’s birthday? Bring a gift for said child. Your coworker’s son is just starting to play basketball? Drive over and teach him how to do a lay-up. Friends in from out of town? Make sure they are taken care of for the weekend, they know where to stay, and they know where to go to eat. Know your mom is particularly stressed? Treat her to a pedicure. It’s no doubt Shelby was blessed for much of her life, but she never took that for granted and always worked to pay it forward.
7. Say yes to opportunities – Shelby never said no to an opportunity. A friend getting married in another country? Travel there. Invited to a wine party an hour away when you have to work the next morning? Attend anyway! Job offer that means lots of travel or moving away from friends and family? Don’t turn it down, regardless if it seems scary. Asked to join a soccer league when you have never played before? Grab those shin guards!
6. Do something active – It doesn’t matter if you’ve torn your ACL or just had a baby, don’t make excuses for not getting out and doing something. Shelby’s goal after her back surgery was to have a dance party. If you want to shine like Shelby, then get out and do something. Go for a hike, run a half marathon, play flag football, take your kids for a bike ride, go ice skating. Every step forward is a step closer to being like Shelby. Even if you are wheelchair bound, turn your chair into a bike and go for a ride.
5. Make a new friend – Shelby never met a stranger. Even another passenger on a flight home quickly became a friend. She made such a positive impact on everyone she met. She never had the attitude that she had enough friends. She was always open to meeting new people and welcoming them into her life.
4. Throw a party – Shelby was always looking for an excuse to have a party. Birthdays, pool parties, Offrink Extravaganzas, holidays, and chili cook offs were a definite, but she also celebrated the little every day events. Making homemade pizza turns into a pepperoni celebration. One of the very last things Shelby wanted was to have a 4th of July party and for her mom to have fun. Up to the end, she was in party planning mode for her dad’s 60th birthday with the specific details of colors of balloons and streamers. Shelby and Ben celebrated their last wedding anniversary with sushi and flameless candles at Spectrum Health. Pneumonia and a hospital gown weren’t going to stop her. No matter the circumstances, Shelby found a reason to celebrate every single day.
3. Laugh every day –Shelby was known for her humor and wit. She kept the crowds entertained and was the center of attention. One of the surest ways to be like Shelby is to keep laughing. For some of us, hilarity is not a natural gift, but we owe it to Shelby to try anyway.
2. Remember where you came from, remember your old friends – Despite making tons of friends, being incredibly successful in her career, Shelby never forgot her hometown and where she came from and her hometown definitely did not forget her in her time of need. She also never forgot her old friends and made it a point to spend time with them and stay connected. This means there are times when you leave work early because one of your oldest friends just broke up with her boyfriend and needs support. This also means she was quite busy at social events because there were so many people for her to touch base with, but she would never have had it any other way.
1. Say I love you – Long before Shelby had cancer and knew her time was limited, she always made sure to tell those she loved what they meant to her. She might have said it at the end of a phone conversation or perhaps in a random text, but all interactions ended with Shelby saying “Love you!” Until her last breath, Shelby was telling her girls she loved them. This seems to be a particularly special gift of hers as so many others take for granted what they have. Shelby didn’t take one moment for granted and would never miss an opportunity to make sure you knew you were cared for.
In Shelby’s honor, we challenge you to pick two things and focus on those for the next month. Once you start doing them more frequently, pick another, then another. This is how we will carry out Shelby’s legacy. She lived an incredible 31 years and left us all with big shoes to fill. The world will never be the same without her. We will miss her and be hurting forever, but by slowing incorporating these Shelby characteristics into our lives, we might be able to slightly ease the heartache of losing her and become a little more like her. We might be a little closer to shining like Shelby.
Thank you to everyone who helped out last week or came out to support Shelby's family and friends. She truly was loved by many and we know she loved each of you back. We would like to continue to pay it forward in Shelby style. The family has established the Shelby Tomczak Offrink Scholarship Fund at any Mercantile Bank. You can make donations at any local branch. In the spirit of the community support bestowed upon Shelby and her family, they have set up a scholarship in her name for a Lowell graduate. Let's keep her spirit going strong by continuing to help out others.
The fight isn't over for Ben yet. He is still kicking cancer's butt. As of now, he is still getting the trial chemotherapy every other Tuesday. He also is getting blood work drawn every Monday, Wednesday and Friday along with multiple transfusions. Between that and the girls, he is staying busy.
When we graduated high school, Shelby wrote us all a poem. Looking at it again recently, it was eerie how, with a few revisions, it's the perfect poem to reflect how we feel now. Here is the revised poem, back to Shelby:
“Throughout the years we have had so much fun,
If it were up to us, it would never be done,
Thanks for the laughs, the memories, and smiles
We won’t ever forget, regardless of the miles,
You’re leaving for now, but we won’t forget you.
We will meet again someday and laugh again too.
Thank you Shelbs for always being there,
You truly showed how much you care.
We’ll carry you with us in future endeavors,
And remember our friendship for a million forevers . . .”
Now go shine like Shelby!
It is with completely broken hearts that we need to let you all know that Shelby passed away yesterday. She was at peace, surrounded by her closest family. Both Maeve and Hazel gave their mom a kiss and hug as Shelby took her last breath. We are grateful that she is now pain free, running around and making tons of friends in Heaven already, but we will forever miss her quick wit, humor and love for others. There is a party in Heaven, but a hole in our hearts.
Funeral information will be sent out at a later time.
We miss you, Shelby. You were the best friend we could ever have. You left this world just as you lived- with heart, love, determination, fearlessness and no regrets.
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have—life itself.” ~ Walter Anderson
Lots of people have been asking how Shelby and Ben have been since our last update. To be honest, there hasn't been much of a change. Ben received more chemo again last week. (This is the trial drug that he is getting off-trial through compassionate care.) He handled it like a champ as always and even celebrated his birthday with his family and Shelby by his side.
Shelby continues to fight like hell. She is sleepy most of the time, but seems to be very comfortable. She even cracks a joke in Shelby style every now and then. The girls are loving on her everyday, and her mom is endlessly by her side.
The amount of support that has been shown over the past 16 months is overwhelming. We wish we could thank all of you individually. Everything from kind words, meals, sharing their story, help with the girls, donations and gift cards, flowers, fundraisers and more fundraisers, yard work and house projects....it's crazy to think of all that's been done. If ever you are questioning the good in this world, please remember that this 'Team Offrink' family, this community, has carried Ben and Shelby through unimaginable times. Thank you to Curtis Cleaners for taking care of laundry. Thank you Zach's Lawn Care for plowing the snow and mowing the lawn. Thank you Discount Mattress Sale for donating the chair Shelby used when coming home from the hospital. Thank you Stryker family for treating Shelby as a part of your family, not just an employee. Thank you to the Lowell community and basketball players for organizing Hoops for Hope. Thank you to Pink Arrow, Gilda's Club, the EGR community, Great Lakes Scrip Center, Caledonia Women's group and Crystal Carpet Care for the generous donations. Thank you Rainbow Child Care Center for providing daycare and taking such good care of Maeve and Hazel. Thank you Brindle and Blonde for the organic products and haircuts. Thank you to Leonard from YouCaring for your thoughtful input and PR skills. Thank you friends and family from near and far for doing anything possible to try and make things easier for Ben and Shelby. Thank you to a very special group of guys who have not only supported their wives losing their best friend, but who have stepped in to help on daily household tasks. Thank you to all the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have cared for Ben and Shelby, answered thousands of questions, celebrated small victories and cried with us along the way.
But most of all, thank you to Ben and Shelby's parents and siblings for stepping in, putting your lives on hold and loving Ben, Shelby and the girls with all of your hearts. No one can imagine watching your daughter, son, sister or brother go through this, and we believe you are the unsung heroes throughout this horrific journey. Thank you for being brave, supportive and letting us be a part of your family. We love you.
here is a great article on Ben and Shelby on people.com!
Hey Team Offrink,
We know everyone is anxiously waiting for an update. We have been giving the family their privacy and and respecting their wishes, but we also know you all love and care for Shelby. This update is not easy to write. Please understand that this is all the family would like to share at this time.
Shelby has been battling an incurable cancer for 16 months. When she was admitted into the hospital last week, there were clear signs that her fight was becoming more of a struggle. Her pneumonia spread even while on multiple antibiotics. Infections have spread to other parts of her body. Some days are a little better than others, but it was decided as a family that the 'goals' or focus of care for Shelby needed to change. 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. That's really what Shelby needs right now. She is surrounded by her immediate family, knowing that everyone is so proud of her and love her more than any words could ever express.
Thank you to everyone who has helped in her battle. Cancer is an awful, horrible disease. Shelby has put up a fight unlike any other, and knowing her, she isn't done. Please continue to pray for her, but also respect the family's privacy during this difficult time.