Paint Pittston Pink™, an all-volunteer 501c3 organization, was formed in 2014 upon the completion of Barb Sciandra’s immunotherapy vaccine clinical trial at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. Paint Pittston Pink™ is the collaborative effort of Barb Sciandra, Qiana Murphy Lehman and a group of selfless, committed individuals who volunteer their time and talents to bring the community together to support a cure for ALL cancers through research and clinical trials.
Please read Barb’s story in her own words below.
I was diagnosed with Stage III locally advanced breast cancer in my left breast (ER+, PR+, HER2+) at the age of 34 on August 17, 2012, just 3 months after the birth of our third baby – a little girl named Cameron. I felt a lump in my left breast at the very beginning of my pregnancy with Cameron, but it was not seen via ultrasound and therefore went undiagnosed until I had a rather difficult time breastfeeding. A few days after my initial diagnosis I learned that cancer was also present to a lesser degree, Stage II, in my right breast (ER+, PR+, HER2-). I was told that I needed to have chemotherapy first to shrink the tumors present on my left side. I had a port surgically placed under my left collar bone in less than a week after my diagnosis because time was of the essence. I started chemotherapy treatments one day after my eighth wedding anniversary to my husband, Sal, and on the same day that our oldest daughter, Jameson, started kindergarten and our son, Chase, started pre-school. After 4 months of chemo, I had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. A month later, I had my ovaries removed at Penn because I wanted to be as proactive as possible in preventing a cancer recurrence. Next, I underwent 6 weeks of daily radiation at a wonderful center in Scranton followed by one year’s worth of Herceptin infusion treatments which was specific in targeting HER2+ breast cancer.
I don’t believe that there are any coincidences in life and I’m thankful each and every day that I happened to pick up a pamphlet while sitting in my breast surgeon’s waiting area at The University of Pennsylvania. The brochure was for Dr. Brian Czerniecki’s breast cancer clinical research vaccine. Dr. Czerniecki and his team have created a breakthrough breast cancer vaccine. The vaccine harnesses the woman’s own immune system to attack and deplete cancer growth with proven and unprecedented success for more than a decade. The treatment vaccine has zero toxins, no side effects, is biodegradable and is activated using the patient’s own white blood cells. Upon reading about the vaccine and in doing my own research, I knew that Dr. Czerniecki’s clinical trial was something that I needed to be enrolled in because at the time of my diagnosis, there were not many options for treating HER2+ cancers. After undergoing extensive testing, I learned that I qualified to be a part of this vaccine clinical trial that has assisted in saving my life. Without this vaccine, I really feel as though my life span would have been shortened to an undesirable, unfair age due to the aggressive nature of my cancer.
By the grace and mercy of God and with the support of my husband and children, my amazing family – both immediate and extended, my many dear friends, a supportive community, and a revolutionary vaccine, I am alive and well. I feel better than I ever have. I am a Stage II and Stage III bilateral breast cancer survivor, and I will be turning 43 next month. I am certain to celebrate every single birthday and every single “health-a-versary” because every day is a gift.
So, how and why was Paint Pittston Pink™ formed?
I wanted to do something different to stand apart from the other unique and wonderful non-profits. Financial support of research is essential in finding the root cause of this devastating disease and I felt as though an organization like ours was lacking.
Paint Pittston Pink™ began as a small idea that grew and grew and is still growing. I approached Pittston City Councilman Michael Lombardo about selling flags to line Main Street for October which is nationally known as breast cancer awareness month. I mentioned, perhaps, having a 5K race as well. Attorney Lombardo put me in contact with Main Street Manager, Rose Randazzo and current Mayor, Mike Lombardo, and things took off from there. Qiana Lehman, Sarah Donahue and Jay Duffy quickly got on board when I asked each one of them for help. And the rest is pretty much history. My small but amazing committee and many selfless volunteers took the ball and sprinted. We started planning Paint Pittston Pink™ in May 2014 and held our inaugural events in October 2014. What started off as a flag sale quickly turned into the Color Me Pink™ 5K Race and Caped CURE-Sader™ Family Fun Walk, a celebrity bartending night, a silent auction including a beer and wine tasting event, a yoga class, spin class, zumba class, art night, manicures for a cure, and the list goes on and on. The store fronts were painted pink, and businesses quickly hopped on board and began holding their own fundraisers. The outpouring of support from our community was amazing.
After our inaugural year in 2014, Qiana Murphy Lehman, Esq. was essential in helping Paint Pittston Pink™ become a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. Paint Pittston Pink™ became a movement, and something more than I ever could have anticipated. I feel as though we are a successful fundraising organization because we believe in being transparent. Our donors are hard-working people who believe in our cause and understand the impact of their donations. We are a grass-roots organization comprised solely of volunteers without many large, corporate sponsors. We love reinventing ourselves year after year. We stive to have the best party in town and host only upbeat, fun activities for people of all ages! We bring the community together to make memories and save lives!
To date, in just six years, Paint Pittston Pink™ has donated nearly half a million dollars to targeted cancer research. 100% of proceeds benefit The Paint Pittston Pink™ Fund at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA and Dr. Brian J. Czerniecki, MD, PhD and his team of researchers at The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.
Paint Pittston Pink™ is the proud recipient of the following awards:
- Spirit of Community Award by The Greater Pittston Y.M.C.A., 2016
- Best Fundraiser by Happenings Magazine, 2016 and 2017
- Resolution from Luzerne County Council, 2019
- Best Fundraising Event by The Times Leader, 2021
- PA Legislature Resolution