It’s hard to find people who think the pandemic was a breeze. However, 2020 was a cakewalk for Christine Lee compared to the battle she faced in 2018.
“That’s probably true,” she sighed as she stood in the lobby of her Limitless Dance Complex in Pacific Beach.
Lee and her family opened the dance studio just months before the coronavirus pandemic shut it down.
“It was very interesting,” she allowed.
Closing the studio may have been a mere annoyance at that point. After all, doctors said Christine Lee was months away from death.
“She was diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma,” said Aaron Goodman, MD. “It’s a cancer of your white blood cells. So, your immune system, which we all need to fight COVID and infections, can actually get cancers in itself.”
The UC San Diego Health specialist said none of the traditional treatments knocked out her stage IV cancer.
“The subsequent chemotherapy I gave her, her lymphoma just blew through it, just kind of laughed at it, and continued to progress,” Goodman said.
Lee said she never batted an eye.
“I tell people that I’m probably the most prepared person to have cancer. Isn’t that like the weirdest thing?” she said.
Goodman proposed a newer therapy as a last-ditch effort. He said Lee had months to live and had nothing to lose.
“You can’t even imagine what they have to go through, the emotional toll, the therapeutic toll,” he said.
The new treatment was called CAR T-Cell Therapy.
“It’s almost a science fiction-like therapy. It’s quite amazing,” Goodman smiled.
He said they took the healthy white blood cells from Lee and sent them to a laboratory where the cells were engineered to fight cancer better. Then the cells were reintroduced into Lee’s body.
It worked. Christine Lee’s cancer is gone.
“I’m like, ‘Oh! It’s gone. I’m good!’” laughed Lee.
She immediately put her attention back into Limitless Dance Complex and keeping it afloat during the pandemic.
"I was amazed,” Goodman said. “She’s doing great.”
Since 2018, more than 40 people have undergone the same CAR T-Cell treatment with UC San Diego Health, which expanded its offerings of the therapy and is now the first certified medical center in San Diego County to offer it for multiple myeloma outside of a clinical trial.
Goodman said he can’t wait to see what they discover next.
“As a standard of care, I can’t imagine what the next 15, 30 years we’ll see.”