A double diagnosis — cancer while poor

Something was very wrong. Marie Cajuste couldn’t ignore it any more. She had noticed a hard lump in her left breast about a year before but kept the discovery to herself. She literally could not afford to be sick.
Marie Cajuste lay on a gurney during a PET-CT scan in the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging department at Boston Medical Center in Boston. The scan would help determine whether the past six weeks of radiation treatment and prior chemotherapy infusions had killed all the cancer cells in her body. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste rode a city bus from her boarding house in Dorchester to her job in West Roxbury. She moved to the boarding house after losing her apartment because she was unable to pay the rent while being treated for cancer. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
After her cancer diagnoses, Cajuste’s life unraveled. She was unable to work during the most intense part of her treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste adjusted her wig after radiation treatment at Boston Medical Center. She stood in front of a linear accelerator, used to deliver targeted radiation. She said, “Someone told me that radiation is easier than chemo but I don’t think so. All of them are hard.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
When Cajuste had to move out of her apartment, one of the items she and her family had time to move was her black lacquer framed bed. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste hurried across Washington Street while shopping in Codman Square. She said she tries not to worry about crime in the neighborhood, despite a recent shooting in front of her boarding house. “I do my thing and come home. If something happens in the neighborhood, it’s not me.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
In July, Cajuste rested during a treatment. She was at the hospital six hours that day. She was supposed to work from 3 to 11 p.m., and had to call in saying she’d be late for work. “I should have taken the day off, I didn’t realize it would take so long today,” she said. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
After moving to the rooming house in Dorchester, Cajuste has had to take four city buses to work each day. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
In October, Cajuste was part of a cancer center fund-raiser -- the so-called catwalk that features cancer patients, doctors, and professional models wearing designer clothing. “I was a little nervous, but I put in my head, ‘I can do this.’ Afterwards I thought, ‘Did I really do that?’ “ she said. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste modeled a dress designed by Nubia Williams during the fund-raiser. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness. Really? Me?’ I felt so good about it, yes I did,” she said. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste shopped at America’s Food Basket in Codman Square. She had stopped cooking during the most intense part of her cancer treatment because she was exhausted but recently returned to the kitchen. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Cajuste paused on her way to get an infusion of a radioactive material needed for her PET-CT scan in the Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging department at Boston Medical Center in Boston. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
Dr. Naomi Ko walked with Cajuste in October after giving her the good news that a scan had shown her cancer free. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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