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No Tears for Hampton's Jerica Jenkins in Fight With Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Feb 27, 2011 – 4:52 PM
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Milton Kent

Milton Kent %BloggerTitle%

Jerica JenkinsWhen doctors told Hampton point guard Jerica Jenkins that she had cancer, she cried for a long time that April day.

It's an understandable reaction, even more so for a high school freshman, which she was at the time of the diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

That day ended, and, so too did Jenkins' tears, as it's coming up on seven years since that day, and she hasn't wasted any water on her cancer.

"I was shocked," said Jenkins, a 5-foot-4 junior from Lancaster, Tex. "I didn't believe it. I was 14. I was like, 'There's no way I have cancer.' I just couldn't believe it. I cried right then. Then, I realized that I had to deal with it and move on."

There were enough tears to go around that first day when Jenkins got the diagnosis two days after a biopsy. She and her mother cried and prayed, and then got after beating Hodgkin's, a lymphoma with a relatively high treatment rate, if detected early.

Jenkins underwent six rounds of chemotherapy three times a week every three weeks for a few months, until the cancer was eradicated in November 2007. And it hasn't returned since.

That's not to say there haven't been anxious moments. Jenkins admits that she does worry at times about the cancer returning, particularly in those moments when she gets a little under the weather and her lymph nodes might enlarge, say, during a throat infection.

But Jenkins said those thoughts don't stay with her long.

"I don't sweat the small stuff, like with anything in life," said Jenkins. "But if something's going on, I feel like, 'It's not a big deal. OK. Calm down. Get over it. What happened, happened. It's not going to change. It's in the past. You have to look forward to the next thing.'"

Said teammate Melanie Warner: "She just plays like what else does she have to lose? Going through something like that (cancer) was really (tough) for her. She cherishes every moment of the game. She just plays. She gives her all every game."

Having that attitude was key for Jenkins just to get noticed. Because of her height, which is actually a couple inches shorter than what's listed in the game program, few colleges were interested in Jenkins out of high school, so she sent out DVDs.

"I don't sweat the small stuff, like with anything in life. But if something's going on, I feel like, 'It's not a big deal. OK. Calm down. Get over it. What happened, happened. It's not going to change. It's in the past. You have to look forward to the next thing."
-- Jerica Jenkins
One of them landed at Hampton on the desk of previous coach Walter Mebane, who offered Jenkins a scholarship. When coach David Six, who had previously been the head of the intramural program got the job before last season, he inherited a player whom he says is "not quick, not athletic."

"But she gets it done," said Six. "She's crafty. And very headstrong. She's very confident in what she's doing. She's been able to parlay that into being a Division I player."

And a good one at that, as Jenkins is not only the Lady Pirates' leading scorer at 13 points a game, but she's third in all of women's basketball in assist-turnover ratio at 2.98:1, while her 7 assists per game are second in the NCAA behind Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot.

She's not only resourceful, but Jenkins' play inspires comparisons to a certain Peanuts character with security issues.

"People's comfort level goes up with her on the floor," said Six. "She gets you in your sweet spot. It's like having Linus' blanket around you. When we didn't have her, we turned the ball over 30 times a game."

With one regular season game left at Howard Thursday, the Lady Pirates (21-6) who have a 10-game win streak in play, have already wrapped up the MEAC regular season title. They'll almost certainly have to win the conference tournament to claim a second straight NCAA tournament bid, but non-conference wins over Florida and James Madison could get them off the No.16 line in the bracket should they get in.

But with a win over cancer in her pocket, you can bet that Jerica Jenkins won't be shedding any tears over something as easy as facing Connecticut or Baylor.
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