It was supposed to be a simple revision but it turned out to be an event that would change the Jenkyn household in a momentous way.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 28, 2020. It has since been updated.
When 17-year-old Alice Jenkyn asked her dad for some help revising Biology before her GCSE exam, she didn't expect that she would end up saving his life.
While the young teenager was struggling to remember where the lymph nodes were on the body, her dad Jonathan began to point them out on his neck. That's when the pair noticed that there was a small lump that hadn't been there before. Knowing it was best to be on the safe side, they decided to have it checked out. It turned out that the lump was indeed cancerous and Jonathan was diagnosed with metastatic oropharyngeal carcinoma. The 43-year-old father was informed by the doctor that he had a tumor growing below his jaw.
"It was literally a luck of the draw that we picked the lymphatic system to cover that evening, and I'm extremely glad that I helped her on that day with her schoolwork," Jonathan, father-of-five, said, reported Mirror UK. "I often help my kids with their revision and homework but this was really lucky, Alice struggles with science which I did quite well in, but it was pure luck that we happened to be studying something that would lead to discovering the lump."
"I was demonstrating for her where the lymph nodes are in a body and pointing to my own to show her, as I was showing her where to find them I just felt a grape-sized lump in my neck that I hadn't noticed before. We had a brief discussion as to what it could be at the time and I explained that the lymph nodes can get inflamed for non-urgent reasons but I promised her I would get it checked out and it's lucky I did," he added.
Almost immediately, he underwent treatment for six weeks last summer and just recently, he was declared cancer-free. It truly was a miracle as the doctors told the father that if he hadn't had it diagnosed and treated when he did, he might not even have made it past the new year. Speaking exclusively to Women Working, the father said, "I was genuinely not phased by finding it. 9 times out of 10 it's nothing... so that's what I assumed it was. Going to the GP was just 'following procedure'. I honestly only started feeling concerned about 2 weeks into the radiotherapy. It was immensely painful, and I really couldn't see that the pain was worth it at the time."
As he recalled the traumatic experience, he said, "It was really scary, but I was given a fairly clear route to getting better and tried to keep out of my head as much as possible. I was told if I had not of spotted the lump I wouldn't have seen the new year, it really is quite crazy that a bit of revision with my daughter became the reason I survived an illness as serious as cancer."
As for the young Alice, she told Women Working, "I didn't expect my revision to have two (arguably) good effects on my life, but I do feel guilty about not noticing before my dad told me that there was a lump. The process was really difficult; it hurt to see someone I cared for so much in the state that he was, especially with so little help with pain management. It think it only hit me how bad the situation was when I noticed how strange it was to feed my dad, it almost felt wrong; but I was okay with it because he'd done the same thing for me as a baby. I missed him a lot while he was at the hospital, so I'm really happy to have him home, slowly enjoying meals together again, and things feeling more joyful."
The father-of-five cannot help but express his gratitude for his family who've been there with him throughout his difficult time. "I thought it was nothing, maybe just an inflamed lymph node but thought it would be best to get it checked out. I certainly wasn't expecting it to be cancer. Don't get me wrong, although I am better the whole experience has been unimaginably difficult, but my family stuck with me all the way through and I'm starting to feel normal again. I suppose the biggest lesson to take from this is to always help your kids with the GCSE revision."
Since being cleared, Jonathan has set up a fundraiser to help raise money for the radiotherapy department at Ipswich hospital, where he was treated, in order to make improvements for future patients.
Well, we're glad that his commitment to helping his kids with their homework and revisions saved his life and spared his family his loss!