A Happy Ending For A Homeless Refugee Mother Of 8 Facing Cancer

WBUR Common Health

The light from my headlamp shone down the length of the speculum, revealing Furaha’s cervix. Illuminated in the glow was a large, disfiguring mass. I held my breath for a moment while I registered the unmistakable sight of cancer. I knew how devastating this diagnosis would be to my patient. Furaha – a refugee and a single mother of eight children, all of whom were sheltered in a hotel for homeless families – already faced myriad hurdles.

Furaha fled civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lived in a refugee camp where her husband abandoned the family, and finally arrived in Massachusetts. After being granted refugee status, she and her children were initially given housing but, without a job or childcare, Furaha was unable to pay the rent. Her family became homeless.

It was in the hotel where Furaha and her family were living that my Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program team and I had set up the makeshift clinic in which she was having her first pap smear, at age 39.

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