No Pancreas, No Problem | NC Deputy Embraces Life, K-9 Friend After Cancer Battle

WINSTON-SALEM (WFMY) – At 55, missing a vital organ isn’t slowing down one North Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy and his thirst for life. He has a Triad medical center, and a furry friend, to thank for that.

Randy Jenkins is a Coast Guard veteran, a Haywood County Sheriff’s Deputy and K-9 handler to “Lenny” in his professional life. Off the clock, he’s an avid hunter and fisherman.

You’d never think that in 2013, half of Jenkins’ pancreas was removed after he was diagnosed with a malignant pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. In 2014, the rest of the pancreas was removed, making him an insulin-dependent diabetic.

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“Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer longs for hope,” said Jenkins. “And there is always hope for people who have this illness – I’m a living testament to that. The sun’s coming up tomorrow, the clock will keep ticking and I am forever thankful to be here and living this life.”

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Jenkins also lives without a spleen and an adrenal gland.

“Not only is it extremely rare for someone to be living without a pancreas, it’s even more rare for someone who doesn’t have a pancreas to be living the active lifestyle Randy is living,” said Jenkins surgeon, Clancy Clark, M.D., assistant professor of surgical oncology at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “In my career, I’ve seen nothing like it.”

The pancreas helps with digestion and regulate blood sugar. Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which survival has not improved substantially in the past 40 years, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Randy Jenkins and his K9, Lenny, are best buds on and off the job! (Photo submitted by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

Shortly after Jenkins had his first surgery, he was assigned Lenny, his German Shepherd K-9. Jenkins and Lenny are together four nights a week for 12-hour shifts. But Lenny just doesn’t serve as a coworker. He’s a kindred spirit when they’re not on the job.

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“Lenny isn’t a therapy dog, but in many ways, he serves as one to me,” said Jenkins. “Over the last five years he’s been there for me through everything and he’s been on this journey with me.”

Wake Forest Baptist is only one of two facilities in North Carolina to be a designated Pancreatic Cancer Center by the National Pancreas Foundation. Dr. Clark says Randy is extremely lucky to continue to

“In Randy’s case, due to where his cancer was located, we were able to fully remove his pancreas four years ago and he has been able to continue on with a great quality of life,” said Clark. “His treatment has been a team approach that’s included many physicians and specialists across our Comprehensive Cancer Center.”

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