When non-smoker Bonnie Winters, 65, discovered she had lung cancer the first time in 2001, she was shocked. But with determination, family and the power of prayer, she overcame it.
Eleven years later, after a trip to the gynecologist led to surgery for what was believed to be an ovarian tumor, Winters was completely stunned to learn that she had lung cancer again—and that it had spread to her pelvis and abdomen.
"During my annual exam, my physician felt something that wasn’t quite normal, and a blood test showed cancer, which was assumed to be ovarian cancer,” she says. "They scheduled a surgery, which was supposed to be simple, but it ended up lasting between six and seven hours. My surgeon removed as much as he could, but knew there was more to it and collected tissue samples for testing. Results confirmed that I had a lung cancer recurrence and that it had metastasized.”
Winters was referred to Nagla Karim, MD, PhD, faculty member within the Division of Hematology Oncology at the UC College of Medicine and lung cancer expert at the UC Cancer Institute.
"After conducting tests, they informed me that I had stage-4 lung cancer which had spread. This was obviously a very serious diagnosis; life expectancy for this stage of lung cancer is only three to five years, but Dr. Karim told me that she’d do everything she could to help me,” Winters says.
After healing from her surgery, Winters began chemotherapy in February 2012 and has been receiving treatment ever since—but the good news is that it’s working.
"The cancer in my abdomen and pelvis is completely gone, and the cancer in my lung is stabilized,” she says. "It’s inspiring. Dr. Karim and the entire staff at the Barrett Cancer Center are Godsends. The Barrett is a wonderful facility with wonderful people—from the people at the check-in desk to the staff in the infusion suite. I just adore Louis (Stoffel, head of the infusion suite.) I’ve never had a bad day there.
"I love Dr. Karim; she’s become more than my doctor. She’s my friend.”
With these promising results, Winters’ family is celebrating her outcomes and spreading the word about lung cancer risks.
"In November, my grandson, Willie, who is 13, saw that it was Lung Cancer Awareness Month and wanted to do something to raise awareness for the illness that has impacted our family so much,” she says. "He created a T-shirt that he and my other three grandchildren wore during the week of Thanksgiving. It said, ‘I Wear a Ribbon for My Grandma: Support Lung Cancer Awareness.’ I was so touched because Willie came up with the idea on his own; it brought tears to my eyes.
"I hope that my story does help to bring awareness to the fact that lung cancer can happen to anyone, and it can happen without a history of smoking. There’s so much that is still unknown about its development. I’m just glad that so far my story is turning out to be a happy one.”