The cough just would not go away, but a diagnosis of lung cancer was the last thing she expected.
“When my cough didn’t improve, my doctor ordered x-rays and then a CT scan,” recalls Christine Hilton of Grimsby. “In July 2015, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It didn’t make any sense to me because I never smoked a day in my life, I wasn’t even fifty years old and I was in the prime of my life. I soon learned from my doctors that anyone can get lung cancer, even non-smokers.”
Despite feeling devastated, Christine made a conscious effort to stay optimistic.
“I was determined to do whatever it took to keep moving forward and get through this. The best medicine for me was laughter. I needed to stay positive and hopeful.”
The cancer was too advanced for surgery as it had spread to Christine’s liver, spine and sternum. Targeted cancer therapy in St. Catharines was initially effective, reducing the primary tumour by half, but she grew resistant to the therapy within nine months and the cancer began to grow again. Christine was then sent to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre for radiation treatment.
“When I was at the hospital, I suddenly lost function on one side of my body and I couldn’t talk properly. A CT scan and MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to my brain, so I underwent whole-brain radiation treatment and lost my hair.”
Christine joined a clinical trial at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre under the care of Dr. Rosalyn Juergens. The trial involved a unique combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy medications that complement one another.
“We began to see great results during my regular CT scans,” Christine says. “The cancer in my bone and spine are gone and several spots in my liver are gone. The brain tumour is virtually gone and my primary lung tumour seems to be under control.”
The most challenging side effects of Christine’s treatment have been the loss of hearing in the upper frequencies and loss of balance.
“They were side effects of the chemotherapy, but it was necessary and I’m just grateful to be alive. I have two hearing aids now and I don’t see the hearing loss as a hindrance to my life. I’m also seeing ongoing improvements in my balance.”
Christine is currently in the “maintenance” phase of the clinical trial. She will continue this treatment until either there is a further change in the cancer or she is no longer able to tolerate the medication.
As an advocate of lung cancer awareness and education, Christine is proud to be a peer supporter of others who are battling the disease.
“I’m extremely hopeful about my future and I want people to realize that it is possible to beat lung cancer. I encourage people to support the Foundation and help more patients like myself because we need to spread hope for more people with lung cancer.”