In 2004, Pamela Tiano lost a grandmother to metastatic breast cancer.
“She did every trial,” the Bethel Park resident recalled, “and she basically told her doctors, ‘I’m going to die, but I’m going to go through this. If you can save one person from feeling this pain, then everything I just went through was worth it.’”
With that in mind, Tiano became a fervent supporter of activities surrounding breast cancer awareness and efforts toward a cure. Eventually, she and her husband, Justin, decided to take on a cause of their own.
For the past six years, they’ve raised money through their business, Mr. Magic Car Wash, to benefit A Glimmer of Hope Foundation. The nonprofit, founded and led by Diana Napper of McCandless, supports breast cancer patients and their loved ones throughout Western Pennsylvania.
With $10,000 raised this year, the cumulative total stands at nearly $50,000.
“Every penny that they make, it stays right here. And not only that, she shows you. She says, ‘Hey, you gave us this amazing donation. Let me show you what that money has done,’” Pamela Tiano said.
Contributions paved the way for the October 2020 opening of the Glimmer of Hope Metastatic Breast Cancer Center at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh’s North Side. The facility is dedicated to treating the most advanced stage of the disease.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a year passed before the Oct. 27 unveiling of a plaque listing major donors, and the Tianos are proud to have “Mr. Magic Car Wash” inscribed.
To honor the wishes of her best friend, who died of breast cancer, Napper formed A Glimmer of Hope in 1994 with the goal of funding a hospice. To date, the nonprofit has generated more than $6 million for projects related to breast cancer by Allegheny Health Network, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.
A current emphasis of A Glimmer of Hope is providing for women who have yet to reach 40, the age at which health insurance generally begins to cover the cost of mammograms.
“With young women, there’s not a protocol to test or screen,” Napper said. “So by the time they’re diagnosed, they’re well into the disease, and a lot of times we’re finding they’re metastatic.”
The foundation has implemented a program at Magee-Womens Hospital that provides mammograms for women ages 39 and younger, regardless of their circumstances.
“We’ll pay for any woman at any age to be screened, insurance or not,” foundation associate director Alexis Curran said. “They finally have a voice in it, because if they have an issue, they come to us. We’ll get them screened.”
Often at issue is a reluctance to speak up, according to Napper.
“In our society, we’re afraid to push back at the doctor, because the doctor has all the answers. But pushing back, nowadays, is what you have to do,” she said. “I’ll be happy to push back for you.”
In 2016, A Glimmer for Hope created the Home for Hope at the Wexford Health + Wellness Pavilion and West Penn Hospital as a designated space for integrative health services for breast cancer patients. The Home for Hope includes massage therapy, acupuncture, transportation and childcare services.
“What we’ve found is the balance with traditional medicine and the acupuncture, massage therapy and nutritional counseling has really improved outcome for the patient,” Napper said. “We have more and more doctors contacting us to tell us, ‘Hey, this is really making a difference.’”
Other projects her foundation has supported include the installation of a tomosynthesis machine to detect cancer at its earliest stages, an automated breast ultrasound system to detect cancer in dense breasts, research into monitoring and understanding breast cancer from a “liquid biopsy” blood draw, and a study that focuses on localized immunotherapy for metastatic breast cancer.
A Glimmer of Hope also teamed up with AHN to offer non-pregnant women ages 18 to 39 genetic testing as a preventive measure.
For more information, visit glimmerofhopefoundation.org.