Dru Lovato lives on the Santo Domingo Pueblo. Today she is 48 years young. Back in 2010, she knew something wasn’t right. Quite a few of her family members have had cancer, yet she was reluctant to go to the doctor. Her sister convinced her to go to Indian Health Services who referred Dru to Southwest Gynecologic Oncology Associates right away.
“I didn’t know Dr. Finkelstein, but the doctors at Indian Health Services hospital said they’ve referred to her before. I went down to Albuquerque to see Dr. Finkelstein, and she’s a really nice doctor. She’s really good,” according to Dru.
Under Dr. Finkelstein’s care, Dru was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Her BRAC genetic test proved negative. “That was good news for my daughter.” Dru said. “Everyone at SWGynOnc was very welcoming, very supportive of me, and of all the patients in their office. After my surgery, Dr. Finkelstein was very aggressive with her treatments, and I’m very grateful and thankful for that.”
“Throughout the process of weekly chemotherapy sessions, my sister was with me and she got to know the doctors. The nurses are funny. They are really nice. They took great care of me. Each time I visit the doctor’s office, we’re like our own little family. One of my nurses came down with her husband to celebrate our Santo Domingo Feast Day and they ate with my family. When I was done with chemo, I was happy I was done,” Dru recalls. “I was also kind of sad too because I had to leave all the nurses and missed the camaraderie.”
“Now I’m part of a case study for diet and exercise after chemo. It is kind of hard being a Native American and trying to eat the right things,” she said. Dru participates in two clinical trials recommended by Dr. Finkelstein, who is a Governing Board Member of the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance tasked with coordinating clinical trials for cancer patients in New Mexico.
“I didn’t know anything about the clinical trials or what it was going to be like,” Dru noted. “Dr. Finkelstein encouraged me to participate because I’m the youngest Native American in New Mexico to be diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. Participating in the clinical trials enables me to help out any other young women who might face this kind of cancer. I don’t want anyone else going through what I am going through. The clinical trials are teaching me how to keep my weight down through diet and exercise and how to keep myself healthy after chemo.”
Dru’s older sister, Eldra remembers “She didn’t want to go to the doctor. I made her go. That’s when they found the tumor. They told her it was cancerous. Our hospital doctor highly recommended Dr. Finkelstein. When we went to Albuquerque to meet Dr. Finkelstein, she was very open and really positive about everything. She welcomed us. We’ve never really had anybody else take that kind of care about us,” according to Eldra.
“SWGynOnc has a really welcoming environment. When they set Dru up for her surgery, Dr. Finkelstein was great! She was fabulous! She set up all the appointments for Dru’s chemotherapy sessions. My sister and I developed a strong relationship with the nurses and with Dr. Finkelstein as well – we even bought the doctor a gift when she had her baby. The nurses go above and beyond for all the ladies. They bond with all their patients. It is their commitment to their patients that really make the care givers at SWGynOnc stand out.”