Help Momma Dos Fight Cancer!

For: Oraida Maria
Organizer: Pedro and Julio dos Santos
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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 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

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 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

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 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

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:



Posted on July 22, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos


It’s been a while since the last update. These past weeks have been busy with exams, battling insurance companies, and getting organized for Oraida to stay on her own in Brasilia. Oraida has finished three chemotherapy cycles and the results have made the oncologist (and us) really happy. The “cancer markers” are almost all below the expected levels, and the only one still above has fallen to very close to normal levels (after being over 25 times the normal level). All of her blood work is great, and I have been saying that aside of the cancer, she is super healthy!

The next step for Oraida is debulking surgery. The oncologist had hoped for a July surgery, but doctors’ vacations and health insurance woes have pushed the most likely date for the surgery to mid to late August. This last Friday Oraida did the necessary image exams (after a little pushing from us for the health insurance provider to approve the exams, they initially denied two of the exams) and this coming week she will be doing all other necessary exams to then meet with the (now back from vacation) oncologic surgeon to see what is the plan of attack. So it all looks like she will be having surgery sooner rather than later, which is a good thing.

This weekend I returned to the United States. Oraida will be staying in Brasilia by herself, but with the support of friends and family in the area. She is doing much better now than four months ago (much better than even a month ago!) when all this started. She is keeping herself busy by going to work almost everyday, driving around town, and trying to live as much of a normal life as one can during this period. Her spirits are up, and while she is a little anxious about the surgery she wants to move on in this battle and she knows surgery is one of the many steps in this fight.

Medical bills are still pilling up and the insurance company is becoming even more difficult to work with as we progress in this process. Oraida still needs some help financially, and that is why we will have another raffle starting this week. This time the prize is pretty awesome: am autographed Esperanza Spalding CD! 

I will post raffle details pretty soon.  Thank you all for the support given, and keep Oraida in your thoughts and prayers!



Posted on June 28, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos
Quick Update

Hello all. It has been a while since I posted something here. Oraida is doing fine. In fact, today was the last day of chemotherapy scheduled at least for the time being. She went there this morning, took the medicine, and is doing great. The oncologist is really happy with the results so far.

On Monday we go to the surgeon to discuss the next step. The oncologist is sure we will do surgery in less than a month the return to chemotherapy with the same drugs plus one more that is supposed to target only the cancer. I will post another update Monday night to talk about what the surgeon has to say.

All in all things are going well. Oraida goes to work twice a week before chemo, trying to keep herself busy and on top of things. She has lost some weight, but nothing that has worried the doctors or the nutricionist. 

Thank you all for the support so far. I will try to send an update next week.



Posted on June 13, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

Start of Third Round         

Today Oraida started her third cycle of chemo. So far so good. This first week of the cycles is always a little rougher because they give her two different chemo drugs. The other two weeks of the cycle she only gets one type of chemo drug. Nevertheless, the start of this third cycle has been good. The blood work showed awesome improvement on the “cancer markers” (proteins in the blood that can direct doctors towards the cancer diagnosis and the type of cancer). Of the two who were high, one is now “normal” (below the limit established for the presence of such protein) and the other one has a concentration 80% smaller than when the treatment started. The oncologist was very optimistic about this new development and is excited about the prospects of a much safer surgery.

After this next cycle, which will end June 27, we will meet with a surgeon to discuss the debulking surgery. The hope is that the surgery will happen sometime in July. Two more rounds of chemo for Oraida and she gets a longer break from these drugs, which has to feel great.


Thank you all who donated and participated in the raffle. I had two lucky winners drawn today (I used Random Picker as the website to pick the raffle winner). I will contact the winner today and let them know they should choose between two of the most Brazilian gifts of all time (booze or fake stuff).  I am talking to some friends about new raffle ideas and I am super excited about the possibilities. Hopefully I will have another raffle up for you all within this next week.

The money coming in is helping to buy the medicine she is taking at home now (that is not covered by insurance and it gets expensive) and the other medical related expenses we are having that are also not covered by insurance (nutritionists, counselor, and others). Once again, I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you helping. Every little bit of money has helped a lot in this struggle. Thank you all who check up on us too, this is a tough time for the whole family and sometimes it is hard to see the big picture, and the big picture is that we have awesome friends who will help us when needed.

I will keep you all updated, and stay tuned for new raffles coming up.



Posted on May 29, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

Update and Raffle!

Tomorrow Oraida will start her last session of the second round of chemo. This round has been good, and after this coming week-long break we will meet with the surgeon to discuss the possibility of debulking surgery. We are optimistic about the prospects and are very grateful of all the help we got so far, but the costs are rising and we have not been able to keep up with it with what we have. Therefore, we decided to add some fun to the already joyous activity called donating. We are adding a raffle to it! 

This is how it is going to work. Once in a while I will post one or two items to be raffled during this donation drive. When you donate (either via the "Donate" tab or by mailing us a check), for every $5 bucks you donate I will enter your name once in the raffle (so, for example, if you donate $20 I will put your name on the raffle four times). I will let people know a week before the raffle is over the last day to donate and put your name on the raffle. At the end of the raffle I will pick the winner by using the website and let everyone know here on my Tumblr page (that I started using for this, here is the link: and on the website.

So here are the first two items we have. The two winners will be able to choose which prize they prefer. Both prizes will be delivered in late July/Early August when either Julio or I fly back from Brazil to the US. If you live in the KC area or the "Metropolitan Decorah" area you will receive your prize from the hands of a tall Brazilian! So here are the two prize options: one is for our friends/supporters who like to party, the other is for the soccer fans out there:

1. Caipirinha Startup Kit: Caipirinha is Brazil's national drink. If you know me I have probably made you one. Some of you have called my drink a "Brazilian," and that is not accurate! :) Anyways, caipirinha is made with cachaça, or sugar cane rum, and it tastes pretty delicious. If you don’t know what a caipirinha looks like, Google it (yep, that’s a verb) or click on my Tumblr site.

So here is what we are offering. The winner of the raffle who chooses this prize will receive two bottles of premium cachaça, the hand-written secret recipe (written in Portuguese by Oraida and in English by Pedro) of the Dos Santos family for caipirinha,* and muddler and "caipirinha mixing cup." All authentic Brazilian products (well the cachaça will for sure be Brazilian, all other products may or may not be Made in China)!

*Truth is, there is no real secret recipe: it is really just cachaça, sugar, and limes. But hey, you will still get a hand-written note, and those are hard to find these days!

2. Two authentic Brazilian National Team Soccer Jerseys:

People love authentic Nike Brazil jerseys. What we are offering is not that. We are offering two authentic Brazilian jerseys, meaning they will be fake jerseys. But there is nothing more Brazilian than owning a fake soccer jersey. So we are offering you the real Brazilian soccer experience! The winner who chooses this prize will let us know which jersey sizes they want, and they will receive them just in time to start the year long preparation for the World Cup!

So don't miss this opportunity to help Oraida and us on her battle against cancer and win some high quality products (well, the jerseys are "medium" quality). Just donate money and your name will be entered in the raffle.

Every $5 bucks of donation money will give you one entry in the raffle. You can donate either by clicking on the “Donate” button on this site or by mailing a check (payable to Pedro dos Santos) to:

Pedro dos Santos

942 Hilltop Dr.
Lawrence, KS 66046

Thank you and good luck!


Posted on May 20, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

Quick Update

The second cycle of chemotherapy started last week.  Oraida said the side effects have been a little harsher this time, but still manageable. The blood tests that came in after the first cycle showed some positive results, with the “cancer markers” being cut in half (they are still very high, but it is very encouraging that they were cut in half).

I would once again like to thank everyone helping us. I have not been able to send an individualized email to each of you yet, but rest assured that we are very appreciative of everyone’s help. Medical bills keep pilling up and right now any amount can help.

Thanks again for all the thoughts, prayers, and support. I will try to keep you all posted.



Posted on May 14, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

Back to Chemo

In two days Oraida goes back for the start of the second cycle of chemotherapy. The “week off” she got was full of highs and lows. On the plus side, it has been established that her cooking ability is not impaired. When she feels well (not tired) she likes to cook, and I (Pedro) like to eat her food, so it is a match made in heaven! This past week she cooked three home-cooked meals of variations of what she used to make when Julio and I were smaller (not too small, but smaller than we are now). There are some changes to the recipes since fried foods are a no-no now.

Speaking of that, last week we also went to a nutritionist that changed her eating schedule so as to help during this period. It was an interesting meeting since the nutritionist “outlawed” a lot of stuff that we thought would be good for her right now such as granola and other foods rich in fiber. But turns out the nutritionist knows what she is talking about and her stomach is working much better now, which is great since this has been a major worry since before the start of chemotherapy.

She also started going a spiritual healer called Dr. Valentim (If you Google “Valentim Gama” you see some videos and other stuff, maybe some stuff in English). It may be hard to explain to non-Brazilians, but basically this guy channels doctors (such as one Italian doctor who died in WWI) and conducts “spiritual surgeries.” It is free (you donate as much as you want/can), it is ecumenical (people from all religions go there), and it is complimentary (him and the real doctors who assists him in his sessions emphasize every day that people must also follow their regular treatment), so really there is nothing to lose. So we are going there three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) when we can to have this healing session. It is unbelievable the amount of people who go to see this man, and the amount of people who claim to have been cured by him. On Saturday I would guess there were over 800 people in his house. It is very interesting stuff. I think this is great for Oraida because I can see her energy levels going back up after these sessions.

So this was a busy “off” week, and the only bad thing that happened is that Oraida’s hair started falling. She (understandably) was pretty upset about it, and we are now in the process of buying wigs (I had no idea they were so expensive!) and nice head wraps. Oraida is not a big fan of head wraps, but she managed to do some nice wraps with some lenços she has here (pictures to come soon, when she is feeling a little better about it).

But all in all, this “off” week was a good week. We got to spend Mother’s Day outside, going to eat lunch at one her favorite restaurants (that thankfully was not packed) and then going for a long drive around Brasilia. Now she is getting ready for Round 2 of chemo, with or without hair!

Thank you all for the support, prayers, and thoughts. Everything counts right now. Julio and I are overjoyed by the support we are getting from so many of our friends and family members. Let’s keep Momma Dos in your thoughts and prayers. She will keep fighting this pesky cancer over here.



Posted on May 5, 2013 by Pedro and Julio dos Santos

End of First Cycle

This week marked the end of the first cycle of chemotherapy. Each cycle consists of chemotherapy treatments once a week for three weeks, followed by one week “off.” So each cycle will last roughly a month.

The doctor is really happy with the chemotherapy, and the positive results are clear. Her ascites (water in stomach) is under control and some areas that were hard are starting to soften. So that’s good news!

The side effects of chemo have also been positive (if that is possible). Oraida is having very few side effects and none of those dreadful ones. Mainly she gets tired after chemo sessions and feel a little nausea, that’s it. So that’s also good news!

This week her cousin from Rio also came down to visit. We were able to take a drive around town and get Oraida to walk a little more. She is in good spirits and had a good time when we were out. You can see a couple of pictures from her outing with her cousin on the website.

Thanks again for all the support. I have not been able to personally thank all the people helping us with donations, but I hope to be able to that soon.



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