Surviving Homelessness and Cancer: Tony’s Story

Tony* was a successful electrician all of his life, but with the constant stress his work put on his joints. His knees wore out and he was no longer able to continue his career. Then the economy crashed. Tony was out of work and couldn’t afford knee replacements. Pounding the pavement looking for work that he could do, ended with rejection again and again.

He spent five Thanksgivings and Christmases homeless. Sometimes he would get a bed or a meal at a local shelter. But often he was unsheltered on the street.

“It was cold nights and rainy days,” he said.

One day, he was so ill and weak, that a group of Good Samaritans took him to the hospital.

The doctor’s news shocked him to the core. He had something worse than worn out knees.

He had cancer.

Tony was brought to Raleigh Rescue Mission, where he was able to recover from surgery and other treatment. He also had safe shelter, warm meals and people who cared about him.

“I was about to give up. I thought, ‘I’m getting ready to die,” recalled Tony. “But the people at the Mission said, don’t feel that way. Keep going.”

Tony recovered from cancer, and received his knee replacements after that. Though he still faces health challenges, he has been able to save up for his own apartment, and is looking forward to Christmas there.

“I’ll put a Christmas tree up and say, ‘Hey, this is mine! Thank you Lord! I can celebrate your birth,’” Tony said.

*Name changed to protect privacy.