This Homeless Man’s Cancer Battle is Giving Him New Opportunities

According to an article from, a homeless man’s fight with cancer may actually improve his dire circumstances. Alan Brooks, a homeless man who was down on his luck, had every reason to believe that cancer would claim his life. His sister had died of brain cancer and his grandfather had been killed by cancer also. Brooks lived in a small canyon, with a tent as his only shelter and a bike as his only transport. He had no family nearby and no steady income.

Brooks first checked in with a doctor after pain in his neck became impossible to bear any longer. His poor hearing made it difficult to communicate with doctors, but he soon learned that he had cancer in his throat and head. Brooks assumed that the lump in his throat was just an abscessed tooth. However, the diagnosis was much more serious– he had throat cancer. To read more about throat cancer, click here.

The cancer had already reach stage four. The cause of the cancer can probably be tied to Brooks’ smoking and drinking habit, or the fact that he used to chew tobacco, which is frequently implicated in mouth and throat cancers.

Initially, Brooks was hesitant about treating the cancer, but the memory of his sister, who was taken by cancer four years earlier, motivated him to make a fight of it. At the St. Luke’s Mountain Valley Tumor Institute, where Brooks was sent for further evaluation, patients are permitted to have a social worker at no charge to help them weigh their options. Melissa Osen, who was assigned to help Mr. Brooks, realized that his living situation would make things complicated.

Brooks was assigned a seven week bout of radiation and chemotherapy and had to have his remaining teeth removed beforehand; radiation is painful for throat cancer because the mouth produced very little saliva, which makes eating and swallowing an agonizing ordeal. Osen helped Brooks secure a modest apartment and benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid using the Institute’s emergency fund. Other community groups helped him get furniture and pay his security deposit.

Despite his suboptimal health, the treatment was a success for Brooks. By the end of the seven weeks he was eating well. The assistance from the Osen and the Institute helped get Brooks back on his feet; he hopes to acquire a set of dentures and a vehicle. He also wants to quit smoking so that his cancer will not relapse.

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