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

After over a decade of suffering from Carcinoid Cancer, Sunny Jennings Carney has decided to fight back. She has currently undergone two proven treatments in Basel, Switzerland and is planning to return for two more. She is also planning on going to Houston, Texas for a six month period to undergo experimental treatments that look promising but are not FDA approved. She has exhausted all the FDA approved treatments here in the United States and will not accept that this is all there is for her. She has dedicated her fight to help others understand this rare cancer and to find successful treatments in the United States. Her strong faith in God and will to never quit has turned a 6 month life expectancy to over two years presently.

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 Carney Carcinoid Cancer Fund
C/o S & T Bank
2190 Hulton Road
Verona, PA 15147

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

Sunny Carney Carcinoid Cancer Fund
C/o S & T Bank
2190 Hulton Road
Verona, PA 15147

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday's Gone Again

Its hard to believe that spring is here (and the weather outside certainly reaffirms that feeling)and that we are coming up on a year since we learned that cancer had returned with a vengance in Sunny. After we all witnessed on the television this weekend in Stanton Heights life can be extremely fragile. Unlike money which you can budget, food which you can ration, clothes and material goods which can be passed down, go on clearance, or just replaced, our time here comes with no knowledge of a best used by date and the only manufacturer that has a true warranty also has complete control of each one of our "lifetime guarranty"...we just don't know how if its a twelve month, five year, ten year, etc..limit let alone tomorrow.

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 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" 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 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.