“She’s saved my life three times — so far.”
Audrey Kaslow said the words with deep, palpable gratitude. Kaslow is under the treatment of gerontologic oncologist Arti Hurria, M.D., at City of Hope for breast cancer, and at age 87, Kaslow considers herself fortunate to have found her.
“Dr. Hurria goes the extra mile,” Kaslow said. “I would not be here if not for her.”
|Arti Hurria (Photo by Markie Ramirez)|
Hurria directs City of Hope’s Cancer and Aging Research Program, uniting expertise in both oncology and gerontology. She and a small but growing number of such specialists around the country seek to push for research that improves care for older patients.
Kaslow appreciates it. A retired U.S. parole commissioner and Fontana, Calif., resident, she was born during the Great Depression and made it through difficult times, but she is not ready to give up yet. She knows Hurria is not giving up on her, either.
In 2007, Kaslow felt a lump in her breast. She soon was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and sought treatment at City of Hope.
That is when she met Hurria, who agreed to partner with her to tackle the cancer together. “When I found out she was a gerontologist and a cancer specialist, I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” Kaslow said. “I know that older patients can have a lot of complications, but she is trained to work with us.”
Kaslow was especially grateful for her doctor’s determination to keep trying treatment options while maintaining her quality of life.
“Dr. Hurria makes me feel like I’m part of a team,” Kaslow said. “I can talk to her pretty frankly. She listens to your body and really customizes your care to your needs.”
On one occasion, while staying at a nearby convalescent home, she underwent routine tests. Hurria checked her results and was worried: Kaslow appeared to have the beginnings of pneumonia. Hurria had her whisked back to City of Hope immediately.
“She met me in the parking lot,” Kaslow said. “She wheeled me back in herself and put me on antibiotics. She saved my life.”
Kaslow cares as much about other patients her age as she does for her own welfare and believes that gerontologic oncologists like Hurria will be desperately needed in the years ahead. “With the Baby Boom coming into older age, this is an area that’s going to grow,” she said. “People shouldn’t be ignored because they’re old, and patients in older age have special needs that require special expertise.”
Her physicians are more than just care providers. They have become a sort of family and support network. Hurria oversees several gerontologic oncology researchers, and they have bonded with Kaslow. “They come in and make me laugh,” Kaslow said. “We’ve become friends and they’re part of the team.”
Kaslow is grateful for the young physicians who want to help older patients and praises Hurria for mentoring them.
“This work with seniors is so important,” she said, “and she has the courage to do it.”