Destrehan native battling aggressive cancer

James Kemp with granddaughters.

Following a routine trip to the doctor’s office, James Kemp learned there seemed to be something off about his blood work.

More tests were scheduled, and ultimately revealed Kemp, 55, had prostate cancer. Sadly, that was only the beginning of a surge of bad and very frightening news.

A biopsy during treatment of the prostate cancer showed that there was a spot on his bladder that, again, was found to be cancerous. He would have to get a tumor cut out and undergo chemotherapy to eliminate anything potentially left.

But again, Kemp received another difficult blow: doctors had now found a spot on his lungs. Again, it was cancer.

For Kemp, who worked at Valero St. Charles and was a longtime Destrehan resident prior to relocating as result of Hurricane Ida, this information proved the worst news yet. A cat scan of his lungs revealed the cancer had already spread, and he was diagnosed with aggressive small cell lung cancer. His battle began in January, and he’s been fighting hard since.

“He was perfectly fine, working like always, and nothing seemed wrong,” said Kemp’s daughter Ashlie. “He just went in for routine blood work, and it came back as cancer.

“He’s a very hardworking man … he loves his family. His grandchildren, those girls love him so much. He fully believes he’ll get through this … he believes in God and that God will heal him.”

Kemp has 40 radiation treatments ahead of him, while he’s currently in the midst of chemotherapy. Combining the two at once was not an option because Kemp’s white blood cell count dropped very low. That has also made his immune system vulnerable, and Ashlie said he cannot really be around others much.

When he does visit with family and friends, there can be other difficulties as well.

“His throat sometimes closes on him … we were having lunch during a break in his treatment, and he couldn’t breathe because his throat closed. We had to leave,” Ashlie said. “It can be scary.”

A friend of the Kemp family since her childhood, Heather Berteau made a GoFundMe page (titled Help James Kemp and family”) to help Kemp during his battle. Kemp has been unable to work for some time, though he attempted to at first.

“He said ‘I’m gonna work through this chemo and this radiation,’ because he felt like he had to or he’d lose everything,” Ashlie said.

Berteau, who is close friends with Ashlie, said she’s known Kemp “since I was in diapers” and that she just wanted to find a way to help.

“They have rent to pay,” Berteau said. “I thought, you know, maybe I’ll do a GoFundMe if that could help. He’s a hardworking man, but he just can’t right now.

“We just want this cancer to be gone. They’re family to me, even if we’re not blood related.”


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