Shelly Rybinski is surrounded by the Minneota football team prior to last week's final regular season game. Shelly Rybinski, left, shares a laugh with her son Anthony.


Grid team shows support for Rybinski during cancer fight

Shelly Rybinski was so overwhelmed at being the football team's focal point before Wednesday night's game that she wasn't even sure who to thank.
"I didn't know if I should thank the coaches, the players, the football boosters or someone else," laughed Rybinski, who has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed in late April. "I just thanked everyone."
Prior to the final regular season football game at K.P. Kompelien Field, Shelly and her husband Joe were waiting in their vehicle in the parking lot as a steady drizzle fell.
Vikings' head coach Chad Johnston then came up to Joe and Shelly and handed them two shirts to wear at the game.
"I tossed them in the seat and didn't look at them right away," Shelly admitted, figuring they were t-shirts to wear for Senior Night. "Chad never said anything about what the shirts were for."
As the Rybinskis got out of their vehicle, Shelly grabbed the t-shirts from the seat. As she looked at them, tears began to well up in her eyes before streaming down her face.
The gray t-shirts were embossed on the front in uppercase white lettering "TEAM SHELLY” with the letters inside a large blue ribbon. On the back, were the words "In this family, no one fights alone" with a football in the background. "We put them on over our coats and sweatshirts," she said.
Walking to the field, Shelly was soon met by the entire football team. They all huddled around her in a show of support during her cancer battle. Among the players were her sons, Anthony, a junior, and Lucas, a freshman.
Prior to every game, the Minneota football team huddles and jumps up and down in rapid succession while chanting to get fired up. This time, they urged Shelly to join them in the middle of the large huddle.
"I was jumping up and down with them, although I didn't know what they were chanting," she said in an emotional voice. "It was such a beautiful thing. I will never forget it."
After the game in which Minneota defeated Dawson-Boyd 29-6 on Senior Night, the players all removed their jerseys and pads to reveal they were all donning the gray TEAM SHELLY t-shirts.
"All the coaches were wearing the shirts, too," Shelly said. "It was just so overwhelming that I just lost it. Another thing that really touched me was that all the volleyball players were wearing the t-shirts, too."
Shelly, who does medical coding for the radiology department at Avera in Marshall, turned 50 last year and was set to have a colonoscopy. That screening, however, was delayed due to the COVID pandemic.
When she began to have some issues in early 2021, she eventually went to see her doctor. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer and had surgery in September. She followed that with chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation.
"The tumor shrank to almost nothing," Shelly said.
Although the prognosis was positive news, Shelly will have four more months of IV chemo to "mop up anything left behind".
"One doctor told me that once I am done with all this, my life expectancy should be what it normally would be," she said. "Another doctor did tell me, however, that if the cancer comes back, it usually does within the first two years."
Shelly has come to realize that she is not in this fight alone.
"All this support is so emotional for me and my family who is going through this journey with me," Shelly said. "I urge everyone to keep up with their screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies."
Joe and Shelly live 17 miles from Minneota between Hendricks and Ivanhoe. They have four children, Emily, 20; Joseph, 18; Anthony, 17; and Lucas, 14.
Note: Because of the high demand by people wanting to purchase a shirt and support the Rybinski family, they can be ordered through Borch's Sporting Goods by the link below. The proceeds will be donated to the Rybinski family to defray medical and travel costs.

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