• Charlene Stevens Jenkins

Did you read October's Blog, Facts & Faith? I'm a breast cancer survivor and facts and faith are vital to me. In last month's blog I shared some of the facts from the American Cancer Society and facts from my family, which can lead to fear. Faith, on the other hand, can overshadow and overcome fear despite the facts. I am so grateful and I want to tell you why.

It was the week of Thanksgiving nine years ago that my biopsy showed Stage 1 breast cancer. I had to undergo surgeries and treatments over the course of time until I could celebrate being cancer-free. To my surprise, last month my routine mammogram was concerning--to the doctor and to me. Here we go again. I was scheduled for another biopsy earlier this month, as I told you. I also told you about the pity party I had to break up. By the way, I never went back to the pity party. I will not live in fear and become paralyzed by the facts and history of cancer in my family.

Here's the update: When the doctor’s office called, I was at my desk preparing for a counseling session, just like I was the last time. Great news! It was such a relief to hear that the spot was benign and I’m STILL cancer free! I was estatic about God's grace in my life. Though I was still at work, I had just a few minutes to share this amazing news with my loved ones and prayer partners. I’m so grateful for all who made time to pray. I was already mentally prepared to trust God to bring me through no matter what the doctor said, but I am grateful I didn't have to go through it again.

It’s Thanksgiving and I can’t stop thinking about songs and scriptures that remind me of gratitude and thankfulness. This past Monday at Celebrate Recovery, one of our leaders did an awesome job teaching Lesson 22 - Gratitude. So many people take the little things for granted.

I AM SO GRATEFUL!!! I’m alive and I have my health. I am doing well emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Every time I wake up, I have new mercies from the Father. Each new day gives me an opportunity to share my testimony and talk about His goodness. As long as I have breath, I have a reason to give God praise. Its another chance to serve Him with all that I have. I can’t completely verbalize how grateful I am, so I welcome every opportunity to do so.

Thank you all for sharing my link from last month. Over 1,850 people liked it and I’m going to ask you to help me share this one.

Finally, if you’re battling breast cancer or any other sickness, please remember that the Great Physician is always in charge. Try your best every day to walk in faith and not by what you see and feel. I'm here for you. Call or DM me. Let’s communicate. I’m praying for you!

Check out all of my blogs and get my book WHEN I WAS 40: Overcame Some Challenges, Still Learning and Growing. Visit www.charlenestevensjenkins.com.

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  • Charlene Stevens Jenkins

I look forward to speaking somewhere during Breast Cancer Awareness Month each year. This past Sunday, I was one of two survivors who spoke at the Fellowship of Love Worship Center in Hinesville, GA. I chose the topic “Facts and Faith” and started with some general facts provided by the American Cancer Society. According to the Society, unfortunately about 43,250 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S. this year. About 2,140 men are diagnosed per year in the U.S., and 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. Every couple of minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and there are nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

I continued with facts within my own family. My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer before I was born. Her sister died of breast cancer about 25 years ago. A paternal aunt had a mastectomy in 2009. Another maternal aunt died of breast cancer in 2012. Not long after I was diagnosed in 2013, I learned of a paternal first cousin who had completed radiation in that previous year. Another paternal aunt and a maternal aunt both had mastectomies during the summer of 2014. Within the last few years, another maternal aunt had a lumpectomy and completed chemotherapy. A maternal cousin also had surgery and is a survivor. On my dad’s side, three of us in my age group were diagnosed and are survivors, and I’m the youngest. In the last 21 years, other cancers claimed the lives of one of my dad’s brothers, my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandmother, one of my dad’s sisters, and one of my mom’s sisters.

Now a few facts about me. My first marriage ended in divorce in 2009 after 20 years. I was single for several years before I married Benjamin Jenkins on Valentine’s Day 2013. Who knew that a routine mammogram a few months later in April would upend our lives? The mammogram called for a follow-up. Several months went by as I searched for a new provider whom I was satisfied with. The medical staff in the new practice used 3D mammography and discovered a spot, which turned out to be Stage 1 breast cancer. I found this out during the week of Thanksgiving. Was I scared? Of course, I was determined to keep trusting in God. No matter what, try your best to keep a positive attitude. I did that by speaking healing scriptures every single day. My faith carried me through, along with my wonderful husband, and a small circle of praying family (parents, siblings, and friends). It is vital for us to surround ourselves with people who will encourage us on our best and worst days.

We made it through the holidays and in January 2014, I had two surgeries to remove all of the cancer cells. Ben and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, and three days later I started six weeks of radiation. Finally, I was cancer free but had to take an oral chemotherapy pill, Tamoxifen, for five years. (Read more about that in my first blog, October 2019).

While all of this was going on with me, when I asked Ben about going to the doctor for himself, he said, “I’m taking care of you.” He took care of me so well, and I was able to take care of him after his heart surgery in November of that year. He seemed to recover well from the heart valve replacement but died of a heart attack just ten days before Christmas. We had only been married for one year, ten months, and one day.

It has been a difficult journey, but God has been with me EVERY SINGLE step of the way.

After been died in December 2014, as I grieved, I still had five years of semi-annual mammograms and visits to the surgeon and the radiation oncologist.

I was relieved when I “graduated” to annual mammograms, but it also caused me a little anxiety. Facts can lead to fear. I had thoughts like, “It’s going to be a LONG time before you see the doctors again. What if cancer comes back?” I would have driven myself crazy if I had not dismissed those thoughts and continued to think positively, rely on my faith, and speak life to myself. I can remember saying things like: “I shall not die but live to declare the works of the Lord. Because of the stripes of Jesus Christ, I’m healed.” I still speak these scriptures over my life and to myself daily.

I am cancer-free, and I am intentional about doing my part to keep my body healthy. Some facts from the Centers for Disease Control to help reduce risk are at the top of my list, including maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough physical activity.

Faith without works is dead. Since I know the facts, I have been taking action to lower my risks, especially with cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes prevalent on both sides of my family. I’ve been making healthier lifestyle choices and I describe those changes in great detail in Chapter 6 of my book, Visible Difference. Over the years, people tell me I looked younger at age 50 than I did at age 40. I thank God and family genes for that!

It may be the end of October, but you can still do your part to increase the chance of finding breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. Know how your breasts normally look and feel. Talk to your doctor right away if you notice any changes. Talk to your doctor if you have a higher risk, including a family history of cancer. Increase your healthy lifestyle choices. Remember, men and women can have breast cancer.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many individuals who are divorced. I’ve met other breast cancer survivors. I know some widows. I’ve never met anyone who experienced all three, and I definitely don’t know anyone who has survived breast cancer and the death of a spouse in the same year. I’d like to meet that person one day so we can just embrace. Survivors share a very special connection!

Finally, facts and faith work together. When we know the facts, we don’t have to just settle for them and accept them. We can make changes because when we know better, we should do better. I’m doing well. I wake up every day grateful to be alive. I had my routine mammogram this past week and the medical staff found a spot that was not on any of my previous mammograms. I am scheduled for a biopsy next month. Just hearing the b- word again was very disheartening. Yes, I’ve cried and I’m praying, and people are praying with me. I admit, after a couple of days, I had to leave the pity party. I will NOT live in fear and become paralyzed by the facts and the history of cancer in my family. I’m trying to be proactive in doing what I can while depending on God to do the rest. I find myself quoting the same Bible verses that carried me through before.

If you are battling breast cancer or any other sickness, please remember the Great Physician is always in charge. Pastor Israel Aaron Cowart’s message today at Live Oak Church was 'My Story, His Glory' (Genesis 29). In my next blog, I will share the outcome. I’m walking by faith! Call or DM any questions you may have. Let’s communicate. I’m here to encourage, inspire and motivate. I’m praying for you. For more information on my book, WHEN I WAS 40, or any of my previous blogs, visit www.charlenestevensjenkins.com.

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  • Charlene Stevens Jenkins

When was the last time you transitioned to a new job or position? Was it because you had no choice or because you needed a change? How did that feel? How many different jobs have you held?

I’ve worked for ten separate employers and each of them taught me something. My first job was with the Altama Delta Corporation, also known as the “shoe factory” in Darien, GA. Then, I worked for TG & Y in Hinesville. I was a shipping clerk for Ashley Manufacturing Company in Jesup, until I was laid off. I went on to Sara Lee Knit Products in Midway, making t-shirts. Maybe that’s why I love t-shirts so much and hate to throw them away! I have so many that eventually I plan to have a blanket made out of my collection!

Back to the subject of transitions; I held several positions at the DA’s Office of Child Support Unit. I've worked for both the Liberty and Long County DFCS as the office manager and with the family independence and social services departments. I’ve also practiced social work for GA Home Healthcare and Hospice, DaVita Dialysis Clinics, and a little over 12 years on Ft. Stewart. I started at the Army Substance Abuse Program and we moved into the Winn Army Community Hospital (WACH). After I fell in love with my job, God opened the door for me to start the Celebrate Recovery ministry at Live Oak Church.

Speaking of transitions, this month I ended my employment at Fort Stewart, and started working at the Veterans Administration. I’m experiencing both excitement for the new and a little nervousness. I will miss my WACH colleagues and the soldiers I served on post. I love the work that I do in serving people and I’m reminding myself that God is with me every step of the way. Life is full of transitions, voluntary and involuntary, and each gives us a fresh opportunity to trust God in the process.

Are you transitioning? Are you excited or nervous? Tell me about it. I want to hear from you. Let’s communicate. I’m here to encourage, inspire and motivate. Check out my other blogs at charlenestevensjenkins.com.

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