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  • Jordan D. Smith

Benefit Dinner Planned for Local Medical Assistant Battling Cancer


You may not know her name, but you probably know her face. Russinda Rhodes, 34, of Ionia is a Medical Assistant at Spectrum Health Lake Odessa Family Medicine where she has worked for two years. However, Portlanders may recognize her as a long time waitress at the Wagon Wheel American Grill. She has been a waitress at the local eatery for the past five years. “She loves the Wagon Wheel waitress family and all of the people she waitresses for when working there. She loved to do her hair and show up there with a smile on her face, ready to serve the wonderful community of Portland,” says Rhode’s friend Lynette Pitts.


However, Rhode’s life took a left turn earlier this year when a trip to the emergency room led to a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After a twelve day hospital stay, she started on a six month course of chemotherapy. During that time she is unable to work. According to Pitts, “She was told she can not work [at the wagon wheel] or the doctor's office through her treatment because she cannot take breaks when she gets tired and the close contact with so many people is not a good idea, with her white blood cell count being extremely low during chemo.” Depending on the outcome of chemo, she may or may not also need a bone marrow transplant in the future.


She does get some short term disability pay but it is not enough to make ends meet. Her treatment takes her to Grand Rapids multiple times a week which also adds to her financial burden. “She is trying her best to stay strong, through this unexpected journey,” Pitts says, “Some days are hard, like when the day came that she had lost so much hair she had to shave her head completely bald, but she always comes out on top! She is a fighter and will continue to fight…”


To help out, her friends have organized a benefit dinner to raise funds to support her during her illness. The dinner is set for June 10th from 3-10PM at the Lyon’s VFW Hall at 223 E Bridge St. in Lyons. The dinner will be a taco bar with music, raffle tickets and a silent auction. The event is kid friendly. To follow the event and get updates you can check out the Facebook event page.


Pitts, who is one of the benefit organizers, says that the dinner planners are in need of donations, especially beef for the taco bar and items to be auctioned off at the dinner. Donations from individuals and businesses are greatly appreciated. To make a donation contact Lynette at 319-795-9252 or Teresa at 616-523-2598. You can also support Rhode by making a donation directly through Go Fund Me.


PHOTO: Courtesy Russinda Rhode


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