After a courageous 10 year fight battling Carcinoid Cancer, Sunny Carney, of Plum, passed peacefully on Saturday, November 3. She was married to her devoted husband, Mark; and was a loving mother to Austen, Logan and Nolan; daughter of Patricia Jennings and the late James J. Jennings; daughter-in-law of Dale and Dottie Carney; sister of Judy Phillips (Ray Jr.), Lynn Pesta (Teddy), Michael Jennings (Vicki Lynn), James Jennings (Sue), Joseph Jennings (Elizabeth), Sheila Fortes (Jim); sister-in-law of Craig Carney (Julia). She is also survived by numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews, and was a true friend and inspiration to many.
In addition to being an inspiration to family and friends Sunny inspired carcinoid cancer patients across the globe through her blog, and then her book "The Sunny Side of Cancer. She spoke at numerous cancer events locally sharing stories of her journey which led her from Basel, Switzerland to all of the top Carcinoid Cancer specialists here in the states. She was an advocate for better diagnosis of the disease and for insurance coverage of treatments. She fought with grace and dignity, never letting the pain inside challenge her faith or diminish her love for life.
Memorials may be made to "Carney Family Fund", c/o S&T Bank, 2190 Hulton Road, Verona, PA 15147.
Friends received Monday 7-9 p.m. and Tuesday 3-8 p.m. at Unity Community Church, 215 Unity Center Road, Plum, PA 15239.
Funeral Services will be held on Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Unity Community Church with Rev. Frank Deluce officiating. Arrangements entrusted to CHARLES W. TRENZ FUNERAL HOME, INC.
VIEW GUEST BOOK Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Below is an entry that was written by Sunny's husband Mark when she had her third bout. To become updated on her journey please enjoy her posts.
Please check back for updates and event information.
Sunny's husband Mark tells their story...
A mother of three boys, a daughter, the baby sister to a large family, an aunt, a godmother to several, a trusted friend, an outreach volunteer, a business owner and my wife. Sunny Carney lives up to her name every time someone speaks to her; she is beautiful both in and out. She has been my biggest motivator, my rock and my inspiration in tough times, my biggest fan in good times, and most importantly my best friend. Told 14 years ago that having children may not be part of our future because of ovarian cancer, she kept the faith, and is a wonderful mother to our three sons- Austen, Logan, and Nolan. She is always ensuring that they know the Lord, love of life, kindness to others, hard work, and occasionally when to "shape up".
Her boundless energy, healthy lifestyle and positive attitude are infectious. She has served as president of our children’s PTA, organized committees that benefit those who are less fortunate in the community and led drives for those who have been caught up in unfortunate situations. She has done so much for others, usually without letting anyone ever know, I could not begin to list them. Her strong faith in God and modest upbringing has given her a sense of giving that only she can explain. When she successfully started her own photography business, she also started a non-profit division photographing family portraits for area families fighting cancer. Her friends say she is amazing and she simply shakes her head and wonders what all of the fuss is about.
Her mother, sisters, brothers and large extended family will tell you she is the one you can count on to lend an ear when needed and never judge. She was raised by her loving mother and father who was the warden of the Allegheny County Jail and actually spent most of her childhood in the residence connected to the jail. At a young age she witnessed more of life’s tragedies and obstacles through her neighbors, the prisoners, than most of us can imagine.
Although all of the aforementioned is remarkable it is not what makes her truly special. Sunny is a two time cancer survivor and now is currently fighting for a third time. After beating ovarian carcinoid cancer and undergoing serious surgery for carcinoid tumors in her right lung just three years ago, the carcinoid tumors returned in her lymph nodes, liver and bones. The size and proliferation throughout the liver of these tumors mandates immediate chemotherapy in four treatments over the next few months as well as monthly octreotide treatments. These painful treatments will hopefully stop the growth but are not a cure. There are numerous tumors in her spine, her skull, her hip, her leg, and her shoulder...all in the bones and she will wait on potential radiation to fight those.
What my wife has is Carcinoid Cancer Syndrome, an endocrine disease which is rare and spreads from organ to organ. As of right now the only known treatment for remission is administered by renowned clinics in Europe. However the treatment is not covered by our insurance. Our doctors have encouraged us to start raising money and matching grants could follow. Her lead oncologist strongly believes that Sunny would be a prime candidate to be a voice to get the message out regarding carcinoid cancer syndrome, bring this treatment to the United States and encourage approval from the FDA. Without this treatment, the tumors most likely will continue to metastasize in other organs and her fight will be ongoing. Sunny has set up The Sunny Carney Carcinoid Cancer Fund to support her treatments. She believes that once she beats this cancer she can make a difference to others also suffering from Carcinoid Cancer.
Mark A. Carney
C/o S & T Bank
Friday, April 24, 2009
After posting yesterday I realized how good I feel after I write (or type) everything down. So you are blessed with another boring one to read.
This morning at 7:00 a.m. I dropped Austen off at school with a big tour bus waiting for him. He and his class are heading to the Nations Capital for a few days. This is the biggest field trip he has ever been on and the very first I have not chaperon. I must say my heart is aching. I feel this huge sense of guilt that I am not experiencing this trip with him. I think it's from being raised Catholic, sorry Mom. As I sit here typing this I am hearing rolling thunder coming from outside and Mark yelling the weather updates from the other room as if a hurricane is on it's way. He doesn't know that if he continues I may just throw him outside in it. So my mind is wondering to all the things that could happen when you drive in the rain. At least I am focusing on just the ride now, not like the nightmares I had last night about what could happen to my first born in DC. It's funny how a mom can fight terminal cancer like it's a itsy bitsy spider climbing your wall, but has a complete anxiety attack when her child leaves her for a few days. Last year when the first planning meeting came I was absolutely positive that I was going. I would of bet the house that I would be better by now. Of course, I believe the meeting was only a few days after my news of reoccurrence. But I must say again God knows what he is doing. Even though I am not with him we have gotten closer the last few days with all the preparation.
Austen and I spent hours together laughing and having a great time preparing for his time away from us. He was so excited about going and had no tension about me not chaperoning. I think he felt a sense of pride that I am trusting him, with other parents who know him well of course, to behave and be responsible. He also told me that he cannot wait to get away and to have fun. As we packed last night we had the most intense conversation about me and my illness. He really opened up and it felt so good to know what he's been holding in. I don't think he has ever been that honest with me about this whole journey our family has been forced to go on. When it was his time to get on the bus I just waved bye because I did not want to embarrass him by running up to him and squeezing him tight. He gave me the "I'm so cool nod" and off he went laughing with one of his best friends. I was so proud of him.....so strong and happy. As I walked back to the car stopping a few times to talk to a few parent that assured me that they would watch out for him, I hear him yelling "mom". He actually got off the bus to give me a hug and kiss. He squeezed me so tight and said, "I forgot to give you this." A big kiss on the check was his gift to me. He didn't care that everyone was watching and his friends were wondering what he was doing. He just did it. He then said, "Be good Mom and Make Good Choices".... my favorite saying to the boys when they walk out our door. It was one of those breathtaking moments that I write about.
Moments like these are when you can see "the good in cancer". It has given Austen a responsibility that only having a mom with cancer can give a kid. A kinda of maturity that he is his own person and not just the son of Sunny and Mark. Before my reoccurrence I know for a fact Austen would of never wanted to go on this trip without me. He was always a little more independent then the rest of my boys but still very needy. I realizes now that I made him that way by being a "helicopter mom". I think I like my boys to need me so much. He has been forced to change quickly....for the better I must add. He amazes me everyday. Sometimes in good ways and sometimes in not so good ways. I would not take back his growth over the past 11 months. I know he will have a wonderful time and have peace that Mom is okay.
Don't wait to make your son a great man - make him a great boy.
I wish I could say I did that but I think it was the cancer.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Meanwhile, my doctor gave me much encouragement on my fight. He told me that 90% of fighting cancer is attitude and to continue my optimism and not give in to the frustration of this prolong disease. He also said that he is very impressed with all my knowledge on this rare cancer and that I am helping so many others who are suffering from carcinoid. He wished all his patients where as upbeat as me. Little did he know that I just got finish lecturing the nurse practitioner that was in the room 20 minutes before for not reading my chart before questioning me about my cancer and for not having anyone call me back when I got home from Switzerland and needed some prescriptions. After all I called for 3 days twice a day and finally after the last call and telling the operator that I will not leave a message but hold for person that could help, did I get what I needed. Little did he know that I told his assistant that I am tired of going over and over again all the ins and outs of this rare cancer with those who are suppose to be treating me and that I need them to be the advocates now because I am just worn out. Little did he know that I burst into tears just a few minutes before he enter the room because I was sick of telling all those who are treating me what test I need and what drugs I should be on which I find from doing hours of research. Little did he know that a was going to the "dark side" and had a quick thought of giving up. Maybe he did know about all this and was just being my cheerleader. Whatever the case, I wiped my tears, stopped feeling sorry for myself and took more action to help me feel better. So if he was playing mind games they worked. That's why he is a good doctor and has an excellent reputation. I have the confidence with him on my side.
However, I did come home and follow up with my referral in Iowa. I am scheduled for my first appointment with him on June 24th. By then I will have all the scans ran to see if the treatment in Switzerland is doing it's thing. He can then direct me better as to which way to go depending on the outcome of those scans. His office wanted to see me sooner but I thought that if I had all the information gathered it would save us some money and the number of trips we need to take. Although I love the two oncologist I have here in Pittsburgh, I am looking forward to talking with the expert. From what I am told this doctor has dedicated his life to carcinoid cancer and endocrine cancers. I feel so blessed that I can actually get in to see him. I must say I would probably bet done his door if I could not get an appointment. But no need for that.
That is all my updates. Once again I wish I could tell you that I finally woke up from this nightmare and live in castle with many servants, angel for children and half dressed men feeding me grapes. If anyone wants to shake me when they see me just to try to help give it a try. My next blog will be more inspirational.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I hope everyone cherished their Easter Holiday. I know that I did. Each and every holiday is so much more meaningful since my rediagnoises. I know it's a subject that many hate to hear me talk about but I spend each holiday like it may be my last. To be perfectly honest, I wish I would of done this so many years ago. It makes all the overboard fuss that I did for years seem like such a waste of time. I always thought that it was my job as a mother to make each holiday "Martha Sewart" perfect. The perfect Easter to me then was having the perfect Easter basket with color coded candy so each boy knew which one was there by seeing their favorite color dominate the basket. Each one filled so full that it was to heavy to lift. I would spend weeks buying the perfect chutzskys so that each boy would have a huge smile on their face when the saw that I listen to what they wished for.....for my enjoyment. It was complete unneccessary overindulgence. I realized that what really makes my family happy is that we are getting through each day of our cancer journey together. I realized that all my boys want for holidays is to spend time together and make happy memories. I realized that the only gift or present they want right now is for their mom to be able to spend the holiday with them. I finally realized, after three battles with cancer, that the only perfect holiday is being together as a family. There is no basket, no present, or no amount of money that could be more valueable then that. I hope that my boys always keep that in mind when they are celebrating holidays years from now.
Of course I did do the whole basket thing but it was so not the focus. We tried to teach the boys this year about what scarfice our Lord did for us. Mark and I used my cancer as a way of putting Jesus' suffering in preceptive. I think they got it. For years we have read them the whole Easter story starting from the last supper to the resurrection. They have also attending church every Easter of their life and has been drilled over and over again about what Easter is all about. But I am not sure they completely understood the amazement of Jesus' journey until this year. It's another good in cancer. Cancer has brought us closer to our Lord. There is nothing more important then that.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
How often we wish for another chance
To make a fresh beginning.
A chance to blot out our mistakes
And change failure into winning.
It does not take a new day
To make a brand new start,
It only takes a deep desire
To try with all our heart.
To live a little better
And to always be forgiving
And to add a little sunshine
To the world in which we're living.
So never give up in despair
And think that you are through,
For there's always a tomorrow
And the hope of starting new.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
What living with cancer does do is make you reconsider what you are really saying when you tell your wife or your kids that "we will do that tomorrow" or "I'm busy, ask me later" or "not now, I am too tired." Sunny has continued to fight this disease with the tenacity of a cornered pitbull who has only one way out, and in this case the door is blocked by tumors. She has had another rough couple of days, pain comes and goes, ranging from aches, to dizziness, to intense sharp jabbing discomfort, and has not slept good for about a week. Yet, if you ask her, she will tell you that she is doing better this go around since returning from Basel and to quit making a fuss. She would rather talk about how many points she has left(yes she is insisting on losing a few pounds as if she didn't have enough on her plate) on her new diet chart, she would rather talk about how excited she is to be coming up on the start of a busy photo season or to let me know that I really need to take my time when I help out by folding the laundry(apparently just being a lefty doesn't cut it as an excuse for miscreasing clothes).
Time around the Carney house seems to be measured not by calendars, but by the sports activities our boys happen to be playing. Outdoor soccer practice, mud, gnats, and all for Logan, baseball practices and scrimmages for Austen and Nolan. We had the official close to the basketball season Sunday night with Ace's team party and Sunny not only went, she suffered through the heat of the indoor pool area(if I had planned ahead I would have worn a plastic suit and lost 10-12 pounds pretty quickly myself), and watched as the kids opened their end of the year gifts which included her individual framed action photos for each...unbelievable to me that she still stresses about making sure each 6th grader on the team had the perfect photo that reflected their true personalities. I told her we weren't awarding Pulitzers or Peabody awards for sports photojournalism, but those of you that know her can imagine the fretting that went on as she wrapped each one the night before(again I was barred from helping because apparently being a man does qualify as an excuse to be dismissed from wrapping detail). Thanks to Steve Fuhrer for organizing the event and thanks to all of the kids for all of their hard this year on the court and to all of the parents who drove to what seemed like a hundred road games without the benefit of even one home game.
Watching the NCAA championship with Austen last night, I realized that some Americans think that we may over-emphasize the importance of sports and athletes in our culture. I have two comments relating to that. One, I can tell you that after returning from Basel in mid-January, having the ability to escape cancer for a few hours every week during the Steelers Super Bowl run meant alot to the Carney family. Black and gold days at Pivik, planning the back porch tailgates, and the victory parade enabled us to put aside scans, blood counts, pills, bills, and just be a "normal yunzer" family for a little bit. Getting back the second time, we have had first the run to the Elite 8 by my Panthers and now the Penquins playoff chase.(I would mention the Pirates by this is supposed to be the uplifting part of this blog) Again, for a few hours we can just be fans (although I don't scream and shout as much at the refs because I do realize now its just a game and not actually "do or die") and we can share in the experience of just that---being fans. Not a family fighting cancer...not a wonderful woman who can't sit or stand without grimacing, not a husband who gets frustrated at himself for not being able to do more for his wife, not three scared boys that have to figure out what to feel or to know what to ask or say about their mother.
The second relevation regarding sports is the joy that I know Sunny gets when she is able to go to an indoor soccer game and see Logan score, when she can go to a basketball game and watch Austen as the point guard, lead his teammates to a first place trophy, or go to a baseball game and watch Nolan who works his butt off, get a hit, steal a base, and score a run. But even if they struck out, didn't score, or missed all of their shots, she would still go, still cheer, still feel bad for them...and thats what a mom is supposed to feel. A mom is supposed to jump for joy and aggravate the parent sitting next to her in the process when her little man does something well on the field or court, and a mom is supposed to just want to go out and hug her big guy when he has that bad game and you can just see it in his face. Thats what a mom is supposed to do. Just be there. And for Sunny, the ability to be there, rooting, encouraging, and hugging when needed, is something she knows and she does real well. Because before there was cancer...there was and is one hell of a mom. My kids are blessed because their mom is always in their corner. I have asked her at times this past season, why don't you just skip this one...you look tired...or its too much pain and too long of a ride. She tells me that she is going to go because she doesn't know if she will be able to next season...but I think deep down she goes because she has put the "can" back in "cancer"....as in I can be a mother...I can fight and beat this...I can be there for my boys...I can cheer for them and I can hug them. And those of you that know her well certainly understand when I say she has always has been a "can do" person...cancer hasn't taken that from her and I would be surprised if it ever could.
I know this has been a rather long entry but it was certainly worth my time to write it. I am now going to hang out with my boys, watch some hockey, hug Sunny , and maybe walk the fat dog. Maybe Sunny will want to walk with me. In any case, please focus on how you choose to invest your time, because life isn't a DVD...there is no rewind...no instant replay...and if you always live like next week or next time is a certainty you may find yourself having regrets at mixed opportunities. Opportunities to share your most precious commodity, time, with those that you love and care about. I know the light bulb has come on for me, and my biggest regret is that it took cancer to make me realize that.
Continue to keep Sunny in your prayers as you are all in ours and we look forward to seeing you at Larry Mills , or the baseball fields, or just seeing you around.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
This time I thought about what my life was like before I was struck with this cancer for the second and third time. I remember praying to God not to change anything. I had a perfect family and a perfect life. Sure I wanted more but I was also content in many ways. I remember when we first bought our home that we are living in now and thinking, "we have everything we need. We are so lucky!". I had a hard working husband, three amazing boys and a beautiful home. What else could I have asked for? I remember praying for nothing to change. Little did I know that I was truly not as strong as I could of been. God needed to shake us up a little to makes us stronger and better people. Each time I get through one treatment or another I look back and thank God for the lessons I learned and the strength I feel in me. Now when I tell the boys to reach deep down inside of them and pull out something you never thought you had to accomplish you goals I truly know how to do it. I hope I am not sounding self praising because I will testify there were a few times this week when I thought I had nothing more to give. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. But with prayer and strength I am almost through it.
Through my thinking I came up with the following testimony:
I asked for Grace when things get tough and
God gave me cancer.
I asked for knowledge and
God gave me intelligent to find the answers.
I asked for wisdom and
God gave me obstacles to overcome
I asked for strength during treatments and
God gave me pain to make me strong.
I asked for a cure and
God gave me experimental treatments to try to help others with carcinoid cancer.
I asked for financial security and
God gave me a talent to work.
I asked for courage and
God gave me risky and crazy treatments to overcome.
I asked for love and
God gave me a husband, children, family, and friends who are worried and sad for me.
I asked for patience and
God gave me a rare cancer that I will live with forever.
I asked for peace and
God gave me prayers.
I asked for mercy and
God put me in front of others who are suffering more then I am.
I asked for hope and
God gave me the sun.
I asked for happiness and
God gave me blessings and taught me that happiness is up to me.
I asked to take away my loneliness and
God gave me opportunities to help others.
I asked for help with my family and
God gave me a voice to ask others.
I asked for everything to fight this cancer and
GOD GAVE ME EVERYTHING I NEEDED.
Sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.