October will be another busy month for Pennies in Action(R), the non-profit whose mission is to educate, advocate, and fund research, development, and trials for Penn Medicine breast surgeon Brian Czerniecki, MD, and the work he is doing for breast cancer vaccines.
October's fundraising events kick off on October 5 with the Ace Cancer Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournament at Bucks County Racquet Club, and then move all the way to Florida that same day with the Palm Beach Figure Skating Club’s Regional Send-off and Winter Olympic Preview. From October 24 to October 27, Steve DiOrio, host of the "Steve DiOrio Show," will complete a 250 mile triathlon to raise awareness and funds for the phase III Trial of Dr. Czerniecki’s vaccine, and to close out fundraising initiatives for breast cancer awareness month, on October 30th the Voorhees Middle School will host a basketball shoot off fundraiser. St. Joe’s head basketball coach, Phil Martelli, as well as the wife of Flyers head coach, Kristen Laviolette, will be in attendance.
Uschi learned of the cancer vaccine from Dr. Czerniecki when he performed surgery to treat her breast cancer. As a former élite athlete and tuberculosis survivor, she refused to kill her immune system and diminish her strength while battling cancer, and opted for surgery without chemotherapy or radiation.
|Pictured from left to right – Pennies In Action® Crusaders: Michael Nicholas, Brian Czerniecki, MD, PhD, Uschi Keszler, MacKenzie Nicholas, and Melissa Nicholas.|
As it happened, her decision aligned with Dr. Czerniecki’s research. A vaccine that uses the patients’ own white cells to fight disease by training these cells to attack a protein that early tumors need to survive – and a way to keep breast cancer from coming back.
While Uschi herself was ineligible to enroll in any cancer vaccine trials, she forged a tremendous partnership with Dr. Czerniecki. His brilliance and ability to focus and think quickly on his feet in and out of the operating theatre, reminded her of the elite athletes she both competed with and trained to become champions on a worldwide stage. Uschi’s fortitude refusing to destroy her body in order to heal it, and high-profile status, made her a perfect advocate for Dr. Czerniecki’s vaccine research.
When Dr. Czerniecki asked for her help, Uschi knew she wanted to give it. At first she was unsure how. Her inspiration came when she spotted a penny while biking. “I always pick up pennies,” Uschi said. “I was raised on a saying that ‘he who does not honor the penny, is not worthy of the dollar.’”
Six years after its creation, Uschi and Pennies in Action® have raised many pennies that have added up to many dollars – so many in fact that those dollars are funding a new vaccine trial to prevent breast cancer recurrence at Penn Medicine. From Pennies in Action® local fundraising events around the country to a charity partnership with the Philadelphia Marathon to a placement in a major motion picture– Uschi’s fundraising ingenuity and tenacity has guaranteed there is no place that Pennies is Action cannot go and no goal they cannot reach. Further proof is an international event with the sponsorship of a Kenyan who will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro raising funds for Pennies in Action®.
What sets Pennies in Action® apart is the organization’s minimal overhead and massive professional volunteer base that donates time and lends expertise on a pro bono basis. But it is Uschi who really makes Pennies in Action® so special, and so successful. Her discipline, drive, and determination have resolved her to continue fighting until cancer is history.
“I play to win, I don’t go to a competition to participate, and how do you win? You beat your opponent at its own game,” said Uschi. “Our opponent is cancer- and cancer beats life by emulating regular cells, the way cancer wins is that it never shuts down, but the beauty of the vaccine is that it doesn’t even give recurring cancer cells a chance to become a contender!”
Learn more about Pennies in Action and their upcoming events here.
Learn how you can support Dr. Czerniecki's Cancer Vaccine Research Fund here, or contact Pam Keon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-573-4040.