Hi everyone! Thank you for visiting my CaringBridge site. My name is Christine Winterbrook. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer with the EGFR mutation and Exon 19 deletion on February 18, 2018.
Here is my story. Shortly after graduating with my Ed.D. in Gifted Education from the University of Denver, my daughter Abby and I moved to Portland, Maine from Nashville, Tennessee so that I could start a Gifted and Talented Program at a small school district in coastal Maine and Abby could pursue her master's degree in Art Education. After relocating to Maine; I began to have a persistent cough that would not go away; a few months later I ended up in Urgent Care having a Chest X-Ray done because the cough kept getting worse. After a couple of rounds of antibiotics and no success in treating my symptoms, I was sent for a CT scan where it was discovered I had a tumor in the upper lobe of my right lung. At 46 years old I never expected to be diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer and become the face of "non-smoker lung cancer" and the voice of "stopping the stigma." Lung cancer research is the lowest funded of all cancers yet takes the lives of the most people. EGFR mutant lung cancer does not have a "cure" at this time; targeted therapies are the best treatment protocol but eventually, your body builds a resistance to the targeted therapy. If the resistance mechanism can be found through research then the prognosis will change from a terminal illness to a chronic illness. I am hoping in my lifetime the resistance mechanism can be found. I started my first line of treatment, a targeted therapy called Gilotrif in April 2018. After 15 days on Gilotrif, I was hospitalized with an acute kidney injury; I was pulled off Gilotrif and began another targeted therapy, Tagrisso, as my second line of treatment. Tagrisso immediately caused my pleural effusion and lymph nodes to return to normal and the primary tumor reduced in size from 5.75 cm to 21 mm. Tagrisso worked for approximately 21 months before I built a resistance.
In 2019, my daughter Abby and I decided to move to Seattle, Washington for her to begin her career as an art educator. A few months after moving to Seattle, we found out my cancer had progressed and my primary tumor in my right lung had active cancer again. I underwent 15 sessions of radiation to my lung in May/June 2020 which was my third line of treatment. We were excited for me to get on my feet after radiation and focus on health and wellness with the hopes that I would have no evidence of disease for a long time. However, in November 2020 I began having severe pain in my spine. December 4, 2020, I went to the ER because of severe, debilitating back pain. It was at the ER we discovered my cancer had progressed again, this time metastasizing to my spine. My L4 vertebrae was completely encapsulated in cancer. I completed 10 sessions of radiation to my spine over winter break which became my fourth line of treatment. Post-radiation I continued to battle fatigue, body pain, and increased respiratory symptoms which led the doctors to discover my primary tumor in my right lung was active again.
Starting February 6, 2021, I will start chemotherapy, a combination of Carboplatin and Alimta (Pemetrexed) while continuing on my targeted therapy Tagrisso. I will complete 4 cycles (12 weeks) of the combo chemo and then after 4 cycles I will end the Carbo (the really bad stuff) and I will continue on Alimta infusions and Tagrisso indefinitely until the cancer progresses again or I can no longer handle the treatments. At the time of progression there should be other treatment options, clinical trials, or chemotherapy I can try but each progression, each line of treatment, makes this journey a little more challenging. This site will document my journey with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer for hopefully a very long time. When diagnosed I was told 70% of patients are still living at 5 years. My hope and prayer is that I defy all statistics and I live way past 5 years, especially as I am going on 3 years since I was diagnosed 2/18/18. I hope through maintaining a positive mindset, seeking out the best healthcare, focusing on integrative medicine, making health and wellness a priority, focusing on a strong spiritual connection, and following the most aggressive treatment plans available I will defy all statistics AND a cure will be found in my lifetime. Thank you for supporting Abby and me on this journey! We appreciate your love and support! ❤🤗🙏