Family organizes fundraiser for cancer victim

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Lenny Santos with his wife, Barbara Brodeur Santos, in 2010. Lenny Santos has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, and his family is holding a fundraiser Saturday at the Polish American Club for medical and transportation expenses. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Barbara Brodeur Santos knew something was wrong one day in July when her husband didn’t send his daily instant message from work that always said, “Good morning beautiful.”

Lenny Santos, a 43-year-old toolmaker at Eyelet Design Inc. in Waterbury, could only write, “What are you talking about?” repeatedly as his wife attempted a conversation about a tree branch that had fallen in their Deering Lane yard.

When she called him, he was uncharacteristically curt, giving one-word answers.

Barbara Santos remembered her father behaving the same way during a stroke, and insisted on taking her husband to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.

Doctors initially believed nothing was wrong, but after Lenny Santos could not remember his address, they scheduled a biopsy and determined he had aggressive brain cancer.

Barbara Santos said the news was devastating to her and their daughters, 16-year-old Lisa Marie and 13-year-old Lexi, but her husband has been more worried about others than himself.

“When they try to tell him anything about how serious it is, he just looks at me,” Barbara Santos said. “His concern is whether I’m upset.”

Barbara’s father, fire commissioner Armand Brodeur, and other family and friends are organizing a benefit dinner Saturday at the Polish American Club for medical and transportation expenses related to Lenny Santos’ treatment.

Lenny Santos had surgery last month and is now undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at Yale-New Haven Hospital for glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer that has created tumors throughout his brain.

He has taken a pay cut to go on disability leave from his job, his wife said, and the family is spending hundreds of dollars every month on gas to take him to and from the hospital.

The co-pays for his treatments have already cost thousands of dollars, said Barbara Santos, a part-time dental hygienist who also teaches dance at St. Francis-St. Hedwig School.

The Polish American Club donated the venue for Saturday’s benefit, and Rolando’s Restaurant in Oxford is providing the food, said Brodeur, who is also planning a car wash fundraiser Oct. 13 at Variety Detail on Cherry Street. The car wash will be pushed to Oct. 20 if it rains, Brodeur said.

Family members said they are trying to remain optimistic, calling Lenny “a fighter.”

“He could get five or 10 years or 20 years,” Brodeur said. “Every day they come up with new technology, so you never know.”

Lenny Santos is a lifelong borough resident, where he formerly worked at Fabricated Metal Products. He is active in parents’ events at St. Francis-St. Hedwig School, and coached his daughter Lisa Marie’s softball team in the Peter J. Foley Little League.

“He’s all around just a strong person,” Lisa Marie said.

The benefit dinner will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Polish-American Club, 199 Bridge St. Tickets are $20 each and the family is also accepting additional donations. Tickets are available at the bar of the club or by calling Frank Gould, (203) 721-5112, Nardy Chandler, (203) 285-5227, Albert and Katie Fleck, (203) 723-1513, or Armand Brodeur, (203) 729-9313.