In 2019, Alice Jenkyn, 17, of Suffolk, was studying for her General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) biology exam when she reportedly had trouble remembering where the lymph nodes were located on the body. Her dad, Jonathan, 43, stepped in to help and started pointing them out on his neck. That was when the pair came across the lump, he said.
“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,” he said. “I often help my kids with their revision [British term for studying] 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.”
Jonathan said he initially thought his lymph node was simply inflamed but agreed to get it checked. Weeks later, he was diagnosed with metastatic oropharyngeal carcinoma — a type of cancer that originates in the tissues of the oropharynx.
In the summer of 2019, the father of five went through radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
“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,” he recalled. “I was told if I had not have spotted the lump, I wouldn’t have seen the new year.”
In January 2020, Jonathan learned that he was cancer-free. Looking back, his daughter, who eventually passed her GCSE, said she is grateful that the two noticed the lump during their study session.
“I didn’t expect my revision to have such a huge effect on our lives, and I feel guilty about not noticing the lump myself, but I’m so happy we found it,” she said. “It’s great that he’s better and back at home. It was really difficult to see him so ill, and the seriousness really hit me hard when I found myself feeding my dad — but it’s nothing he hasn’t done for me in the past.”
Jonathan has since started a fundraiser to help other patients in need.
“I suppose the biggest lesson to take from this is to always help your kids with the GCSE revision,” he joked.
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