Many of you have been asking about the progress Jill Shreffler, the wife of Charger line coach Nate Shreffler is making in her fight against cancer. Here is a great article from last Thursday's Hillsdale Collegian. Jill is cancer-free and returning to her duties as a kindergarten teacher. Thanks to everyone who helped in our efforts to support the Shrefflers last year.
Charger football puts family first
The Shreffler family found strength in their battle with cancer
By David Lowe
Offensive line coach Nate Shreffler knows the value of teamwork. From on-field practices to film sessions, Shreffler seeks to mold his linemen into a unit capable of protecting the Charger quarterbacks. Helping his wife beat cancer required the same kind of team effort.
The day before the football team reported for training camp last season, Shreffler’s wife, Jill, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma—one of the most common infant cancers, but one rarely seen in patients beyond the age of two. Although a swollen lymph node prompted Jill Shreffler to seek medical attention, she had not suffered any previous symptoms.
“Needless to say it was kind of a shock to our system,” Nate Shreffler said.
Head coach Keith Otterbein and his staff acted quickly to assist the Shrefflers. “One of the first things Coach Otterbein said was ‘Let us know what we can do,’” Nate Shreffler said. “Coach Otterbein made it clear family always comes first.”
During Jill Shreffler’s 18 weeks of chemotherapy in Ann Arbor, the couple relied on extended family to care for their three children. Both sets of the Celina, Ohio natives’ parents traveled to Hillsdale when treatments kept the Shrefflers away from daughters Emma, 5; Sarah, 4; and Grace, 2.
Although he continued coaching, Nate Shreffler did not have to miss any of his wife’s treatments until she began daily radiation.
Otterbein said that Shreffler balanced his coaching and family responsibilities well, and the Chargers staff remained flexible when he needed to spend time with his wife and daughters.
“The only thing we really can do in the office as coaches is to understand there are times he had to be away with his family,” Otterbein said. “He handled it very well in terms of putting on his football hat when he was here.”
“[Others’ assistance] made juggling the two things easier,” Nate Shreffler said of coaching and helping his wife. “With her parents and my parents coming up it really alleviated things.”
The Hillsdale College community also provided for the family’s needs, as Kathy Peterson – wife of the Dean of Men, Aaron Peterson – arranged for people to provide meals for the family and to clean the couple’s house while Jill completed treatments.
Kathy Peterson also helped organize a benefit dinner at Savarino’s Italian Restaurant last January.
In addition, the football team’s Parent Club collected money for the Shrefflers and donated gifts such as Charger sweatshirts for the children.
A kindergarten teacher at Mauck Elementary, Jill Shreffler had planned to take a leave of absence from her half-day instructional duties. Once she began radiation, however, the educator had to leave the classroom indefinitely.
Other contributions eased the family’s day-to-day concerns.
Al and Sue Pitts, owners of Hoop Lawn & Snow lawn maintenance service, would stop by the Shrefflers’ house to mow their grass. A supply of gasoline cards helped defray the cost of two-and-a-half-hour round-trips to Ann Arbor.
“Everything we had to deal with was just involved with getting her better,” the line coach said of his wife. “All the support we had allowed her to take care of herself. She knew the kids were taken care of when she wasn’t feeling well.”
Now, little more than a year after her diagnosis, Jill Shreffler has received two MRI’s indicating that she is cancer-free. She will continue to receive quarterly MRI checkups for the next five to six years. With regained energy, she has resumed teaching her kindergarten classes.
“You don’t take anything for granted,” she said. “I definitely feel very lucky: number one that I’m here and number two all the people that helped.”
Her husband admits he sometimes struggled to concentrate on football as he helped Jill recover over the past year.
“One of the things Coach Otterbein always tells us is life is a series of ups and downs,” Nate Shreffler said. “Football teaches you how to get back up when you get knocked down.”
The Chargers have faced a difficult year, Otterbein noted, as the team had to respond both to the Shrefflers’ challenges and to the death of freshman player Adam Emery.
“We’ve been through some tough times,” Otterbein said. “Hopefully all our staff feels like they can take the time to spend with their families. We’re here for each other.”
Nate Shreffler said their experience left him with an even stronger sense of the teamwork that he tries to instill in athletes.
“It’s a good lesson not just for our family, but for our team to see what [helping others] is all about. It definitely strengthened our faith in God—and in people.”
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