More than Pain: Patient Stories



It takes about 15 minutes, walking under low-hanging rusty roofs and jumping over raw sewage in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, to reach Rosemary Awuor's place of work. Her dark shanty is made of rusty iron sheets, clientele sit about. It is here that she sells locally-made alcohol and runs her own business since the death of her husband. 

In October 2014, Rosemary, now 52, felt a lump in her breast. It turned out to be cancerous. She and her daughter, Victoria, went to numerous clinics in the Mathare slums and Kenyatta National Hospital until she was forced to seek treatment at a private hospital for Sh20,000 (USD $200.00) per chemotherapy session. When she went to KNH in early 2015, the earliest appointment she could get for sessions was February 2017 - the cost of a chemotherapy session at the national hospital is Sh6,000 (USD $60.00). The average annual income in Kenya is $1,160. 

Rosemary, who is in constant pain, says she was told she has stage four cancer, which is chronic and often terminal. The doctor has advised against having a mastectomy. “My right breast is swollen and very stiff,” she said. “The doctor said it cannot be cut at the moment.”

She is a mother of three and takes care of six others who are orphans. “I am a bread winner to nine children, and I educate all of them. I really need to live for this, if not anything else,” she said. Rosemary is also diabetic. 

I met Rosemary twice in August 2015. At that point, her breast had become too heavy to walk around with. Her other breast had become swollen and she was worried it could also be infected. 

Rosemary was never referred to a palliative care center or hospice. She passed away on December 3, 2015.