When Barb Sciandra, of Pittston, was diagnosed with stage III cancer in her left breast and stage II cancer in her right, she was aggressive with her treatment. Now, she’s once again gone on the offensive to up the ante for cancer research.
Sciandra, with the help of Main Street Manager Rose Randazzo, along with former mayor and now State Rep. Michael Lombardo, is planning the first-ever “Paint Pittston Pink” weekend in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The event will run Oct. 3-5 on Main Street.
Funds from the event will be donated to Dr. Brian Czerniecki, who is working on a trial vaccine currently being taken by Sciandra, and his cancer research team, which is sponsored by the Pennies in Action Fund at the University of Pennsylvania. The goal is $50,000.
“I want to stress that this is going to such a good cause,” Sciandra said. “It is cutting edge.”
Kicking off the weekend will be a Celebrity Bartending Night on Friday, Oct. 3 at The Red Mill, 340 S. Main St. The Color Me Pink 5K will be held on Saturday, Oct. 4 in conjunction with the Caped CURE-Sader Family Fun Walk over the two bridges. The 5k will be much like a color run, so participants can expect to to be painted pink, as well.
Susquehanna Brewing Company, along with Bartolai Winery, with have a beer and wine tasting event Sunday, Oct. 5 at Callahan’s and Art on Main. A silent auction will also be held at that time with some big ticket items. Pricing and more event information will be available later this week.
“Paint Pittston Pink” T-shirts are now available at a cost of $15 each, and the deadline to purchase is Aug. 5. “Paint Pittston Pink” flags will be sold to line Main Street in Pittston during the month of October. The cost per flag is $150 and the check can be made out to The Pittston Downtown Improvement District. The checks can be sent to 70 Pinewood Drive, Laflin PA 18702. The Pittston Downtown Improvement District is a registered 5013c and the check can be a charitable tax deduction.
No names will appear on the flags, but “Paint Pittston Pink” plans on running a full page ad in The Sunday Dispatch with the names of those who have purchased flags.
“The response so far has been unbelievable,” Sciandra said. “From the time I was diagnosed two years ago, the outgoing support has been unreal (from) my family, my friends and people that used to be strangers. I felt the outpouring of love and support and I’m overwhelmed.”
Sciandra started chemotherapy just one day after her eighth wedding anniversary to her husband, Sal Sciandra. They have three children - seven-year-old daughter Jameson, six-year-old son Chase and two-year-old daughter Cameron. In that same week she started chemotherapy, daughter Jameson started kindergarten, and son Chase started preschool.
But it was during her pregnancy with Cameron that she discovered a lump on her left breast. She was very persistent with ultrasounds, biopsies, mammograms and MRIs. After all that, she was told she had cancer on Aug. 17, 2012. She was 34 years old.
Sciandra qualified for a vaccine clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania, which will conclude in January of 2015. The trail is run by Czerniecki and is sponsored by the Pennies in Action Fund at the university. She currently goes for the vaccine every three months.
“It’s something that has impacted me directly,” she said. “They are manufacturing the vaccine specifically for me. It doesn’t really get more hands on than that.”
Sciandra has shown vast improvement since being diagnosed, and she believes its due to the trials. That’s why she’s convinced that this is the perfect place to donate all funds.
“I feel like the vaccine is giving me a second chance at life,” she said. “(It’s) a second chance that anyone diagnosed with cancer deserves.”
Sal and Barb Sciandra were the beneficiaries from last year’s Liberty Tax fundraising efforts under the agreement that all money raised would be going to a breast cancer research charity.
“What better research organization to support than the one that had benefited me, personally?” said Sciandra.
Recently, Czerniecki tested with great success a cancer vaccine for patients with early stage breast cancer. The study, which is ongoing, sheds new light on how vaccines can inhibit tumor growth, lessen the severity of the disease and prevent its recurrence.
Unlike traditional vaccines, which guard against infectious diseases such as influenza, cancer vaccines are intended to harness the body’s immune system against cancer cells that are already present. Because cancer cells suppress the body’s immune response, a successful cancer vaccine must be able to overcome the cancer cells and signal the immune system to attack them.
Sciandra said she is doing fantastic. This past week, she had an appointment with her local oncologist and radiation oncologist. She doesn’t have to go back for six weeks.
For more information on the “Paint Pittston Pink” weekend, visit Sciandra’s page on Facebook titled Paint Pittston Pink.