Help Momma Dos Fight Cancer!

For: Oraida Maria
Organizer: Pedro and Julio dos Santos
Help Momma Dos Fight Cancer! (Oraida Maria )
of $10,000 goal
67% Complete
Raised by 103 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

Sometime mid-March Oraida Maria (the mother of Julio and Pedro, known to some as Momma Dos) went to the doctor after feeling something she thought was side-effects from the new diabetes drugs she was taking. The doctors asked her right away to stay in the hospital and do some exams to determine exactly what was causing her pain and suffering. After a few exams the doctors were certain it was some kind of aggressive cancer and that it had spread to some other organs. The doctors have since decided on the diagnosis of Stage IV ovarian cancer (***UPDATE*** in December 2013 the doctors were able to confirm that it is indeed Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer).

In Brazil, things are complicated. Health care is free, but it takes for ever. Heath plans cover some stuff, but that also takes a long time to get approved. We have had to pay out-of-pocket to speed up number of exams, to bring certain specialists, and to cover drugs she has needed already to start fighting this good fight. Needless to say, the cost of all this is pilling up very fast.

Most of you know our mother because of just that: the fact that she is the mother of two giants. But I think it is important to say a little bit about her life in Brazil. Our mother is a workaholic, and every job that she ever had was a job that helped other people. Her first job was as a teacher in one of Rio's favelas (slums). She then started working on the public health system in Brazil, where she worked until retirement. After retirement she started her political career, which included managing a public-run Psychiatric ER, volunteering in a number of projects directed to helping the poor, and working with at-risk teens helping them build skills and confidence for a life that did not involve drugs and crime. For the last eight years she has been working at the federal government in different positions, but always dealing with the issue of racial equality and dissemination of Afro-Brazilian culture. Now, after fighting for equal rights and helping people all her life, she is the one who needs our help.

We ask you to help us cover these medical expenses as well as prepare for the road to come. It is all very new, we are all in shock, but we are ready to provide what is best for Momma Dos. If you can help in any way we will greatly appreciate it.


No começo do mês de abril a Oraida foi diagnosticada com câncer. Nós, os filhos dela (Julio e Pedro) fizemos esta página para pedir apoio aos nossos amigos nos Estados Unidos nessa nova batalha que nossa mãe está enfrentando. Mas sabemos que os amigos e família da Oraida no Brasil também querem ajudar e querem ficar informados sobre os passos que ela toma rumo à recuperação.

Pedimos de todos vocês ajuda nesse momento, seja ela uma oração ou pensamento positivo, ou uma ajuda financeira pelo site, ou uma ajuda moral para aqueles que vivem em Brasília e Goiania. Agradecemos desde já a ajuda.

Um abraço,

Julio César A. G. dos Santos
Pedro de Abreu G. dos Santos

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on December 17, 2013

Posted on December 17, 2013

No So Good News

Two weeks after the surgery we received the new biopsy that was done on all the material extracted during the debulking. The news was not good. The new biopsy concluded without a doubt that instead of the primary being ovarian cancer (the origin of the cancer), Oraida's cancer was indeed pancreatic. If you don't know the difference between pancreatic and ovarian cancer, just know that the treatment options for pancreatic cancer are much more limited, and the prognosis tends to be less optimistic.

The combination of recovering from surgery and the aggressiveness of the cancer that continues to spread has left Oraida weak in the last weeks. That, combined with the fact that the treatment for pancreatic cancer is more likely to cause strong side-effects, has led doctors to strongly encourage Oraida to be close to relatives and friends who can support and help her during this difficult time. Since I (Pedro) have to return to the United States in two weeks and Julio has been back to the US for a couple of weeks now, we had to make some quick and drastic decisions regarding Oraida’s well-being and future treatment.

So she can be closer to family we decided it would be best to move Oraida back to Goiânia, where Oraida lived for close to 20 years before moving to Brasília in 2003. There she will have the support of a number of cousins and close friends who have offered help. Since I (Pedro) am leaving in two weeks, I want to make sure that all possible logistical issues related to a sudden move like this are taken care of before I go. However, dealing with all this is complicated for a number of reasons, one being that Oraida starts her new round of chemo—on a brand new drug that we don’t know how her body will react—in two days. She will have the first set of this new round of chemo here in Brasília and the hope is that after she feels better (we are hoping 3 to 4 days after the chemo) we will move to a cousin’s apartment in Goiânia (about 120 miles from Brasília). There she will continue treatment with a “new” doctor who is also a former colleague of Oraida’s from the days she ran the psychiatric ER in Goiânia.

Since I am leaving in two weeks (the 30th to be exact), my main goal is to move Oraida to our cousin’s apartment, move her stuff from this apartment in Brasília to a storage unit in Goiânia, and fix the Brasília apartment to give it back to the landlord. All this costs money, and that is not including her medicine that is now running upwards R$ 1000 (about U$450) a month. Needless to say our cash reserves are dwindling fast, and we hope that through this site we can get some support to offset the costs of moving (suddenly) and medicine.

Thank you all for all the support we have received so far. We are very grateful to have such great friends and family who have been willing to help us. We hate to have to keep asking, but life keeps sending us curveballs.

I wish you all Happy Holidays.

Pedro dos Santos

Posted on November 28, 2013

Posted on November 28, 2013

It has been a while since the last update. There were no major developments between September and this past week as Oraida continued her chemotherapy treatment (totaling seven rounds of chemo). Then on Sunday, November 10, we received an email from the surgeon that her debulking surgery was scheduled for Friday, November 15.

Julio scrambled to get a ticket for that Wednesday to make sure he was in Brazil for the surgery. Pedro had to wait until after the surgery to go. Either way, that week was stressful to say the least (and for a number of reasons).

On Friday, November 15, Oraida had her debulking surgery. This surgery basically means that the oncologic surgeon opens up Oraida’s abdomen and try to remove as much cancer tissue as possible. It was a long surgery (over six hours long) but without any major complications, given the circumstances. The doctor was able to remove some cancer tissue but he said he was not able to remove all. This is called suboptimal debulking. This was not the result we were hoping for but the doctor believes this could improve quality of life.

Oraida stayed on ICU for only three days, and within five days she was already “barking orders” at everyone J. She stayed in the hospital for a total of nine days and is now back at home. The doctors took some tissue sample to perform another biopsy, in hopes that now with more material they can give a more concrete diagnosis. They have been treating it as ovarian cancer, but there is a possibility it is something else (intestinal or pancreatic) and they need to know for sure to plan the next course of action.

Julio and Pedro will stay in Brasilia helping Oraida for the next few weeks. Next week the biopsy result will be available and they will meet both Oraida’s oncologist and the surgeon to decide the course of action. Either way Oraida needs a lot of help around the house now and the process of recovering from debulking surgery can take a while.

In the meantime she has to take a larger amount of medicine (not covered by insurance), eat very specific things, and continue to treat some of the problems that arise from debulking surgery. All of this costs money (a lot of it) and we are hoping some of you can help us offset these costs. Any and all help is appreciated.

Brazilians do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but cousin Lili decided to help Oraida, Julio, and Pedro and throw an “almost authentic” Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow (on Friday). We can be thankful for being together right now in this difficult time, and we just hope that Julio’s family (Becca, J.J., and Bella) and Pedro’s wife (Cara) could be here too to help us celebrate the gift that is family. Either way, even in these dark times there is a lot to be thankful for and we hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving!   

Posted on August 8, 2013

Posted on August 8, 2013

Today Oraida started her fourth chemotherapy cycle. The goal was to have a debulking surgery sometime soon, but the surgeon wants more certainty that the primary site of the cancer is the ovary. Chemo treatment is working and it is being treated as ovarian cancer, but the indicators and biopsy are not conclusive enough for the surgeon to do a fairly invasive surgery without the certainty that it will have a positive effect on Oraida's quality of life.

To make sure that it is ovarian, or to figure the primary source, the surgeon asked for more exams, including a PET-scan that was denied by the insurance company before. We are trying it again, but if that doesn't work we may have to pay for it out of pocket. The doctor also asked for other exams that are being done as we speak, so hopefully by the end of this cycle (in three weeks) we will have a more definitive answer about the surgery.

This is pretty frustrating, but I appreciate that the doctors are being careful before operating my mom. Since the chemo has worked so well all doctors agreed that the best course of action for now was to get back to it. Oraida was not thrilled about not knowing what is going on, but is okay with coming back to do more chemo since it is clear it is working. She finally started gaining some weight, and her appetite is almost back to normal (interestingly, she has lost her appetite for things too sweet). The nutritionist sees this as good news since it means the body is trying to get back to its "normal" cycle. So this is a good thing.

So please keep Oraida in your thoughts, and if you like good music check out the raffle we are doing to raise funds for her battle:



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