For Jenna Scott, Chadwick Boseman’s passing was personal, although she didn’t know the actor personally. As a Stage IV colon cancer survivor since 2017, Scott, 34, contemplated how she would tell her four-year-old son that his mom is fighting the same disease his superhero favorite “Black Panther” fought. Chadwick Boseman played “Black Panther” in the Marvel Comics movie of the same name, which was the first film to receive a Best Picture nomination at the 91stAcademy Awards and the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time.
Diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer 12 months after giving birth to a healthy baby boy in June of 2017, Scott looked back and realized that something was off in her body. While pregnant, she experienced excruciating abdominal pains, severe fatigue, vomiting and bleeding. She was told by her obstetrician that her symptoms were pregnancy-related. Without having the accurate diagnosis, Scott carried on with her life with her college sweetheart and husband, Derrick Scott. The couple met while attending respective Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs), Spelman College, where Jenna was a cheerleader and quite active on campus, and Morehouse College, where Derrick was a popular football player. As athletes, the couple maintained fit bodies throughout college – being as health-conscious as possible. They continued their fitness regimen after graduating from college, and looked forward to becoming parents after marrying in 2015.
After Scott persisted in letting her obstetrician know that the same symptoms she was experiencing while pregnant were still bothering her a year after giving birth to her son, and getting no clear answers, she found a primary care physician. The physician then referred her to a gastrointestinal specialist.
When the gastroenterologist ordered a colonoscopy for Scott, it seemed like a normal procedure for anyone experiencing the symptoms she described to him and the traditional screening that detects cancer for someone 50, the recommended age to get a colonoscopy (now it has changed to 45). Scott was quite young, at just 31. The last thing she imagined was that her colonoscopy screening would reveal something that would change her life.
After the colonoscopy was complete and Scott was fully awake, her husband, the doctor who performed the colonoscopy, along with four nurses surrounded her as the doctor shared, “We found cancer.” With a little unbelief looming in her head, Jenna recalls giggling a bit – thinking his words were a joke. But the diagnosis was more severe than she ever imagined. After seeing the images from the colonoscopy, it was evident that cancer had been living in her body, and spreading rapidly while she was pregnant. “Who knew that pregnancy would trigger something in my body that would put a ticking timer on this life I love so much,” Jenna recalled. After the doctor revealed the unthinkable, that Scott would need to visit an oncologist as soon as possible, Scott and her husband cried in each other’s arms.
“Knowing that life is ten percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it, I was determined to turn lemons into lemonade,” Jenna said. But her positive outlook took another blow when the oncologist told her that the cancer was Stage IV, three weeks after her colonoscopy. Scott began to feel like her dreams and her life were spiraling in a direction she might not be able to control. She leaned on her husband and her mother for support, but she revealed her diagnosis to family and friends, as well as her employer – engulfing the prayers of hope from her close circle. Scott also began chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, which consisted of twelve rounds, to shrink the tumors.
The cancer had progressed, spreading to Scott’s liver in two places, so in November of 2017, Jenna had triple surgery. Her gallbladder was also removed. “The pain was the worst pain I had felt in my life,” Scott revealed. “To make matters worse I could not walk upright, I could only drink two ounces of fluid at a time without vomiting, and I experienced acute pain and swelling in my body.”
Again, Scott called her doctor, but when the pain got too intense to bear, she told her husband to take her to the emergency room. It was their second visit there – after being sent home the first time. The ER visit proved that her instincts about the severe pain and swelling after her chemotherapy and surgeries were right – and that she should always listen to her instincts. She was admitted into the hospital for a week due to fluids accumulating in her chest, abdomen and back, which resulted in another surgery to remove 600ml of infected fluid. All the while, Scott thought about healing and sometimes questioned why she was going through such inner and outward pain. But she wasn’t about to give up or give in to the pain. She thought about her one-year-old son, who she had missed the opportunity to bond with fully, because she couldn’t even pick him up in her arms due to her weakness.
“I cried every day whenever I was alone,” Scott revealed. “At the same time, I would pray the same prayer again and again, asking God to allow me to see my one and only child grow up and to let me grow old with my husband. I had a lot of dark days, but knowing I had a son to take care of was all the motivation I needed to keep going,” Scott determined
Stable for about nine months after finishing chemotherapy treatments and working remotely for the same Fortune 500 company she had been with for 10 years, the cancer resurfaced not only in Scott’s liver, but it spread to her lungs. The diagnosis would put Scott back in surgery, back to chemotherapy and back to a place of fighting harder in 2019. While fighting, Scott has kept the faith that she has a purpose and discovered a newfound purpose after deciding to leave her corporate job to serve in a different capacity in 2019 – as a managing director for a non-profit organization. Giving back to others was the key element of her life that gave her a boost mentally and spiritually. It also gave her more purpose. At present, Scott works as a project manager and community manager for her second non-profit organization.
“Finding a new career while battling cancer helped me to feel less stressed and concentrate more on my health. But it has also allowed me to have a direct impact on the lives of others,” Scott said.
Through Scott’s surgeries, chemotherapies, a new, fulfilling career, and celebrating her five-year anniversary with her husband, not to mention a closer bond with her active four-year-old son, who she is able to lift now, Scott has remained an advocate for colorectal cancer. She has walked and run in various cancer walks and is a spokesperson for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance who chose her, along with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, for a national commercial which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/aXwnXyqdt8k. Scott was also a featured guest on Dr. Phil McGraw’s show, “Dr. Phil,” which aired September 3. You can view that interview here: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.drphil.com/videos/what-you-need-to-know-about-colorectal-cancer/%3famp.
During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Scott was even more determined to get the message out about colorectal cancer. “Colorectal cancer survivors, like myself, are among those most vulnerable for getting COVID-19,” she stated. “It is during this difficult time, that the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s support programs are needed most.”
When Scott heard about the shocking death of actor Chadwick Boseman, after his four-year battle with colon cancer, she was saddened. But knowing that she has a voice to help fight colorectal cancer and a purpose to spread her knowledge about the disease gives her more hope than she’s ever had before.
“I believe our trials can work in our favor,” Scott said. “Even when we don’t see all that is happening, we have to keep believing. We have to keep persevering and going the distance – just like a superhero does. We never know whose life we might affect in a positive way, or even what life we might help save. Because of that belief, I am fighting on.”
Link to. Jenna Scott on the “Dr. Phil” show: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.drphil.com/videos/what-you-need-to-know-about-colorectal-cancer/%3famp
Link to Jenna Scott’s Colorectal Cancer Alliance Commercial: https://youtu.be/aXwnXyqdt8k