‘Losing was not an option’: Survivor Saunteel Jenkins shares breast cancer story

1 year later, Jenkins beats most aggressive form of breast cancer

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we're sharing the story of former Detroit city council member Saunteel Jekins, who has beaten the illness.

DETROIT – A stage three, triple negative breast cancer survivor. That’s Saunteel Jenkins.

One year ago, the CEO of The Heat and Warmth Fund and former Detroit City Council president faced a shocking diagnosis: stage 3 breast cancer. Jenkins had a family history of the illness, but still missed nearly three years of mammograms and was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of the illness.

But she was determined to survive.

“I’m wonderful .. I’m cancer-free, thank God, and I feel great,” Jenkins said.

Now, one year later, Jenkins has beaten the illness -- but not without enduring the lowest of lows first.

“There were times where I just (said) ‘I can’t do this, this is hard and it’s getting harder.’ I literally only had energy to wake up and go to sleep every day,” Jenkins said. “I would cry, I would scream. I had doubts. After I got past that moment, I said, ‘OK buckle up because it’s time to fight again.’ This was that fight where losing was not an option.”

During her yearlong battle with breast cancer, Jenkins underwent four months of weekly chemotherapy, lumpectomy surgery and two months of daily radiation treatments. It took everything she had and then some -- and her loving husband Carl never left her side.

“I literally did not have the strength to tie my shoes for like six months,” Jenkins said. “Carl tied my shoes.

“The chemo was the hardest part on my body,” Jenkins said of her treatment. “Chemo made me really sick. At one point, my fingernails literally started lifting and coming off. I lost a toenail. My tongue was black.”

More: Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation increase chances of survival when treating breast cancer

Up until COVID protocols were issued at medical centers, Jenkins said her husband would help her make chemo appointments more bearable with activities like board games and watching movies. And Jenkins said so many others also stepped up to make the situation more bearable with their support and love.

“Every time I got down, there was something,” Jenkins said. “I mean, I got letters from strangers. There were so many blessings ... made the most horrible time of my life so much more bearable.”

Now that Jenkins is back to living her life and being more active again, she hopes that her story can be shared to help others.

“It had been three years. I had not had a mammogram, and I know better,” Jenkins said. “Get your mammogram, get it on time. Men: Support the women in your lives, make sure they get their mammograms on time, because early detection makes a huge difference.

“Detecting it at stage 1 would have been a huge difference,” Jenkins continued. “That chemo that wiped me out, I wouldn’t have had to go through it if I had gotten a mammogram and detected it early enough.”

Watch the full story in the video above.

Click here to see Saunteel Jenkins’ story from one year ago.

More: Here are answers to your FAQs about mammograms

About the Author:

Rhonda Walker has been helping Detroiters get motivated and ready for the day for the past 22 years. A confessed morning person, this award winning talented and versatile journalist starts her day at 2:00 am to co-anchor the weekday morning newscast at WDIV-Local 4 News. A position she’s held since 2003.