A lesbian couple says they received a homophobic message after a relative created an online fundraiser to alleviate the skyrocketing costs of their daughter’s cancer treatments.
Tiffany and Albree Shaffer of Cincinnati, were informed on New Year’s Day that their 18-month-old daughter, Callie, was diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells. A week later, the couple was informed that Callie was in stage four and in need of 18 months of chemotherapy and radiation.
“It’s been very rough on Callie,” Albree Shaffer, 26, told NBC News on Tuesday. “We’re taking it day by day.”
Shortly after the heartbreaking news was shared with their families, Tiffany Shaffer’s sister, Lorrie Teate, created the online fundraiser to help raise money for Callie’s medical bills.
“She will need 18 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she will need a bone marrow transplant, and also will need future surgery to remove the tumor once it shrinks,” Teate wrote on a GoFundMe page. “What I am asking is for you to help me take the financial burden off of these wonderful people.”
After the child’s diagnosis, Albree Shaffer said she had to stop working three jobs, so she could stay by Callie’s side at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital while Tiffany Shaffer works and takes care of their other child, Tyler, who is 7 and on the autism spectrum.
“We would’ve probably had to move without the money from the GoFundMe because of the rent, and we also have two car payments,” Albree Shaffer said. “It would have been so stressful to move right now.”
While the women received support from family, friends and strangers alike, they said not everyone responded generously to their situation. The couple said a woman who goes by the name Bren Marie sent them a homophobic Facebook message after seeing their fundraising page.
“My prayers for Callie. I was going to donate $7600.00 to her but I found out her parents are lesbian. I’ve chosen to donate to St. Jude due to that fact,” a screenshot of the message, which Tiffany Shaffer shared in a public Facebook post, stated.
Bren Marie, who appears to have changed her name on the site or deleted her Facebook account since the incident, added, “Sorry, I’ll still pray for her though but maybe it’s God’s way of getting your attention that she needs a mommy and a daddy, not 2 mommy’s.”
Albree Shaffer said she and Tiffany Shaffer were “shocked and disgusted” by the comment but did not respond to the offensive message.
“We tried not to be upset, but it was hard,” Albree Shaffer said. “I couldn’t believe she reached out to us to tell us that directly. She could have just not donated and ignored the page.”
While the comment was a reminder for the couple that homophobia still persists, they said it was also a reminder of the kindness of strangers and allies — many of whom were driven to donate after hearing about Bren Marie’s comment.
“My wife and I are donating a bit to chip away at replacing that undelivered donation,” Linda and Carol Davis-Wolther wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We two lesbians have had several children, and know the discrimination that still exists. We will also pray for Callie and her moms.”
Another donor, Duane Smith, said that Bren Marie’s comment does not reflect the beliefs of all religious individuals. “I donated because I am a Christian and I believe God loves all of us,” he wrote.
Albree Shaffer said she and Tiffany Shaffer are grateful for the love, support and prayers as Callie continues her fight.
“It’s been overwhelming in a good way. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that we’ve got to continue to advocate for our children,” Albree Shaffer said. “It’s all about Callie.”
The fundraising page created on the Shaffers' behalf had raised almost $80,000 as of Wednesday morning.