PRINCETON — If there’s one place that Sue Jenkins loves to find herself, it’s surrounded by family.
“I love when they’re around,” Jenkins said.
Nothing warms her heart more than to see any of her kids or to just be around them.
Her kids are her great-nieces and newphews, family members, their friends, and others who call her “Aunt Sue.” She will sit on her spot on the couch, and they will pile up around and even on her.
But it was hard for her to see her family’s faces of sadness when they discovered she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then later lung cancer.
Jenkins said she started smoking occasionally, at age 16, and as she got older, her smoking habit was costing her up to a pack of cigarettes a day.
When she was diagnosed with asthma, she decided to cut back on cigarettes. “Sometimes, I’d smoke half a cigarette or throw it away.”
Jenkins said she went in for an X-ray and they discovered a small spot on the top left of her lung.
Jenkins said her doctor continued to watch the spot every six months. Then, last November, it got bigger and the doctor believed it was cancer. Her doctor told her he had a patient with a similar spot and they were able to cut a portion of the lung where the spot was.
“I was encouraged,” Jenkins said. She thought it could be the cure.
Jenkins said she went through a CAT scan and then a PET scan.
Her doctor said the scans showed that if they cut the spot in the middle of her chest with swollen lymphs, too many arteries and vessels, it would be too dangerous.
“He said the best option would be chemo(theraphy) and radiation, and to pray for the best,” Jenkins said. She said would have to undergo seven weeks of chemotheraphy (once a week) and radiation (five days a week).
Jenkins said she and her niece Linda Young knew, but she didn’t want the kids to know. “I didn’t want to mess up the kids’ holiday.”
“It was hard keeping it in,” Young said about hiding it from the kids. “Knowing and them not knowing was the hard part.”
Young remembers when they received the news that Jenkins had stage four lung cancer, she tried not to look scared for her.
“When you hear the word cancer, the first thing you think is the worst,” Young said.
Young said at first Jenkins didn’t want to go through the treatments again as she did when she had breast cancer.
Young told Jenkins that if she didn’t do it she could die, and Jenkins decided to go through with the treatments a week later. But Jenkins pushed everything back to January so the kids could enjoy the holidays.
Young said as a family, they were prepared to take off from work to stay with her if they needed to. “When something happens, we’re there.”
Elizabeth “Libby” Jenkins, who has known Sue for four decades when she became her sister-in-law, agreed that Sue has a great support system.
Libby and her husband would take Jenkins to most of her appointments.
Libby said they knew that Jenkins was nervous and they tried to stay calm to keep her at ease.
Libby found out she had breast cancer about four to five years after Jenkins did. Her husband called Jenkins to talk to her and all Libby could do was cry.
Libby asked Sue about the side effects of radiation, like the burns. They also talked about the pain and spasms.
After the sixth week of radiation, Jenkins had a CAT scan and everything looked good, but they wanted to do three-on, one week off, and three-on of aggressive chemotheraphy. She said they slowed down treatments to two the last week, after she had an allergic reaction.
Jenkins said after a couple weeks passed, her upper body started to hurt, and she started crying because she felt so tired.
“I was so sick,” Jenkins said.
She went to the doctor and was informed that it was part of the aggressive chemotheraphy.
Jenkins said the treatments got so bad that she couldn’t even go to church.
“I thought I was going to die with this one,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said it’s been an experience and prays she never gets sick like that again.
Jenkins said with more aggressive treatments, her family got her a mini fridge to have food upstairs so she wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs.
“I’m so blessed to have the love of my family,” Jenkins said.
Young said when they had a night to spread cancer awareness at a basketball game Jackie Young (Jenkin’s great-niece) wore pink and wrote Jenkins’ name on her shoes, while she was going through treatment.
Young said Jenkins kept herself so positive and it kept them positive. “She stayed prayed up.”
Jenkins was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2008 and cancer-free October 2008, diagnosed with lung cancer December 2016 and now she’s in remission. “I’m not accepting that, because I asked for total healing,” she said.
Young said when they found out her cancer was in remission, she thought, “It was like a miracle.”
Young said Jenkins’ scans have come back clear. “Hopefully, they’ll stay that way.”
“I’m still here, God saw fit to keep me,” Jenkins said.