SUNNY CARNEY
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



Friday, June 26, 2009

We are back again!!!

Well I am back and filled with all kinds of new information. Mark, my brother Micheal and I had a good time. It was really nice to spend time with both of them together. Mark was a real trooper because from what I am told Jennings' can drive you crazy at times. We are very controlling and like to run things our way. We always laugh because we understand each others idiosyncrasies and can relate. It's the ones we married (the outlaws they call themselves) that like to gather around and compare notes about the uniqueness. Anyways Mark just let Mike and I take control as he just went with the flow.

Micheal was great too. It was really nice to have someone else come along to actually see what we go through on a day to day basis because of this cancer. I try to hide all the inconveniences of this disease because it is just something we do and there is no need to discuss it. He was very respectful of my choices and did not try to talk me into anything. Since my dad passed Mike has kinda of been the leader of the family. He is wonderful and very generous. He is a big brother anyone would love to have and I am glad he is mine. He has been a huge support through this whole journey. It amazes me how much he is like my dad. Very comforting. My sister-in-law Sue (my brother Happy's wife) and my niece stayed here and with the help of my friend Sharon watched the boys. She whipped the boys into shape for me and the house was spotless when I got home.

We were so blessed to have a place to stay. My friend Leah hooked me up with friends of her that live in Iowa City and John, the husband, actually is a doctor which specializes in oncology radiation at the same hospital as Dr. O'Dorisio. They were an amazing family and now are great friends. They opened up their home to me anytime I will need to continue my care in Iowa. They were truly the work of God. I can not thank Leah, Michelle and John for reaching out to me. Thank you again.

The doctor's visit took hours. I had 9 valves of blood taken, few scans and ultra scans, and met with the doctor for almost an hour and a half. He was soooo knowledgeable about the cancer and has dedicated his life to just this type of cancer. He was so patient with all our questions and so amazing in helping us understand this cancer. For the very first time in 13 years I actually felt like I spoke to someone who knew everything there is to know about Carcinoid Cancer. Never ones did he say "I don't know" to any question I asked, and I asked many. He spoke with confidence and hope. He was very straight forward in admitting that this is one of the most difficult cancers to understand but talked with belief. However he did say that there is no cure and it is his job to keep me alive as long as possible.

So here is the game plan for now (subject to change depending on my body and my reactions):

1. The cancer has spread to my gallbladder and ovary (the only one I have left) so I will have surgery to remove both of those soon.

2. I am now going to be given myself injections 3 times a day of sando to help keep the tumors at bay and to help keep the endocrine symptoms in control. I will also go to the hospital every 21 days for an even larger dose.

3. I will go on a drug (undecided which one as of now) that will help with the bone pain and keep the bones as strong as they can be with the cancer invading them. This drug should also help with the pain.

4. I will go on pancreatic enzymes to protect me from the medicine I will be trying in the clinical trail.

5. I will start his clinical trail.

6. I will start a drug called Affinitor. The problem is that this drug is not covered by my insurance and cost $500 a day. YES A DAY!!!! So I am looking into grants to help us out on that. But it is proven to help stop the spread of carcinoid cancer.

7. I will go back to Switzerland in the fall to winter. Gives us more time to come up with the money for that.

8. If all fails then I will have extensive chemo. LAST OPTION because it is very hard on the body with little results.

So that is the game plan. Not once did he tell me to sit and wait. Although many of this treatments are not covered by my insurance I still feel at peace. I will find a way to pay for them but I will not give up. This cancer will not take me down without a fight.

Sunny

Monday, June 22, 2009

Off to Iowa City!

Tomorrow Mark, my brother Michael and I are off to Iowa to see the guru of Carcinoid Cancer. We are just gathering some information on some new experimental treatments and some clinical trails that may be offered to me. I have been waiting to see this doctor since March so I am really excited to see what he can do to help. The appointment could not of come at a better time because we just got the results back from my two day octreotide scan and the news was mixed. The two large tumors in the liver did shrink a little, so ya for that. Unfortunately there are many new tumors in the bones and some have spread to the ovary. This is why I have been in an enormous amount of pain in the last month. Although, it seems like every time I hear not so great news I have a glimmer of hope that goes with it. Today I am hanging on the hope that this doctor has some options for me.

I hate posting mixed or bad results on the blog for many reasons. First and most importantly, I don't want all my carcinoid posse to give up hope. I have not given up, so I don't want them to think that this fight is hopeless. It is true that when one door, or treatment, closes another one opens. I have never accepted the bad news without looking ahead for some good news. Today my good news is this appointment I have in Iowa. I like to think of it as if a hurdle gets in the way of life and it's to high to jump over you can go around it because there is always another way. You just need to be determine to find it and not give up until you find it. Often I hold back posting when I am not at my best for that exact reason. I don't want other carcinoid patients who read my blog to feel down. If each one of us supports each other then this disease will not win.

Another reason why I keep the bad news under lock and key at times is because I don't ever want anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't feel sorry for myself, so the last thing I want is for others to pity me. I do not have time in my life for self-pity. I have this quote inside my Bible beside my bed. Not sure where I heard it, read it or who even claims it but I use it for a book mark. And when I start to feel that "dark side" creeping in I reach for it:

"Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles, and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success. Never again. There is a better way.”


I am so lucky to have my family, my friends and the opportunity to know what is really important in life. It is something that you get when faced with an adversity that is life or death. It is like your eyes get washed with your tears and you see things so much clearer. I know that is deep or difficult to relate to but I also know that some of you who have been through a similar situation are shaking your heads knowing exactly what I am saying. It's like that gift that comes with cancer. Sounds crazy but if you look at this disease as exactly that it makes it a whole hell of a lot easier to navigate through.

Lastly, as I stated over and over again in my blog I hate talking about bad news. I just as well stuff it under a log and never lift it up again. I feel like if the news does not give any benefit by telling it then keep it in. It is the same way I feel about negative people. I avoid them like the plague. No need to spread the germ of negative.

However, in this case I have up news to go with the new tumors. The fact that some of the liver tumors have decreased in size and that I have an appointment with the "Mack Daddy" of Carcinoid Doctors on Wed.(boy I am talking like my sons). So as promised I gave you the news of the scans, but now I need a promise form all my supporters. That is do not feel sorry for me, feel inspired by me. Do something this week that will make you a better person. Don't cry for me, cry with me.

Keep me in your prayers Tuesday and Wednesday. I am hoping for a miracle.

Sunny

check out the photo to my earlier blog. One of those breath taking moments I write about.

Father's Day


Since my dad has passed Father's Day has always been bitter sweet. I miss my dad with all my heart but I am so happy that my children have an amazing dad to spend this day with. I think about my dad and how his heart would be broken seeing me ill. My dad was an amazing man. Great father but an even more incredible person. He was a man that made a presence everywhere he went. He was strong and tough, yet so generous and kind. As the warden of the Allegheny County Jail he dedicated his career in giving to others. I can not tell you growing and even today how many inmates, parents, teenagers or just ordinary people come up to me and tell me that my dad had helped them through a difficult time. He was the kind of man that never let anyone know he was helping others either. He just made it a way of life and expected us to do the same. He would teach us that no one is less then us because they are "down on their luck or have different circumstances". But we are less then them if we don't reach out a hand to help them.

As well as that he also instilled in us to do the best at everything we take part in. He was strict to a fault at times, but being a parent myself now I understand it a bit. Mark always tells that boys that I grew up in a prison with the warden actually watching every move I made. That was literally true in every aspect. I had a curfew even the night before I got married at 25 years old and I listened with respect. He use to say to all of us, "I will never be your best friend, but always be your dad." That sums it all up. He loved all his children unconditionally no matter what they did. Just what a dad should do.

All though Mark and my dad are very different in some ways their parenting is very similar. Mark loves his boys always and makes sure they always know that. Just the other day he was very anger at something that Austen did and as he was scolding him he made sure he added in that he loves him. At this time in my boys life knowing that you are loved by your parents makes any obstacle easy to get through.

Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. That is what my father left me and Mark will leave our boys.

Happy Father's Day to all the dad's. Being a father is a gift from God but having a child with a great father is a better gift.

Sunny

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Wiffle Ball Tournament is Back!

Back by popular demand our Second annual wiffle ball tournament is currently in it's planning stage. We are hoping to raise money for both my treatments and to help with the starting of a Carcinoid Center here in Pittsburgh. I have decided to give some of the proceeds to help other carcinoid patients. UPMC had approved the center months ago but the funding was non existing. Please look to your right under upcoming events for more information. Last year we had over 600 people and it was a blast. This year we are hoping for an even bigger and better event. This event was the first of it's kind in this area and was a huge hit. I am hoping to see all my supporters there.

We are also looking for volunteers to help with both the planning and the day itself. Please email me if you are interested. Picture from last year event on to right under Wiffle Ball Tournament 2008.

Sunny

Monday, June 15, 2009

Days like today I hate cancer!

I must say when I was rediagnosed with cancer of the liver, lymph nodes and bones I made up my mind that I was going to fight this disease with everything I got and most importantly with a positive attitude. I was and still am determine to not be defined as a "cancer person" but as a person who has cancer and still lives her life like she always did. For the most part with good organization and planning I do a good job of not letting this disease interfere with things I enjoy to do or events that I don't want to miss. But there are times no matter how hard I try that cancer gets in the way.

Today is a prime example. Mark had decided to take today and tomorrow off so that he can be with me when I go through this horrific two day Octreotide scan. Little did we know that it was also the day of the Pittsburgh Penguin's Stanley Cup parade. For those of you who don't live in the US or are not hockey fans the Pittsburgh Penguin's are our home hockey team and YES they won the Stanley Cup on Friday. So the city of Pittsburgh had planned a winning parade, like was had for our Steelers who are the Super Bowl Champs, and my boys (Mark too) where dieing to go to. Not to mention it was a picture perfect weather day. Blue skies and high 70's. So my heart broke last night when I told the boys that mom had a scan scheduled (which took me 2 weeks to get so I could not cancel) and they could not go to the parade. I wasn't sure who was more disappointed the boys or me because I could not share in their excitement about the parade. So after looking in their big blue eyes, which always gets me, I decided to have Mark take them to the parade and I would go to the scan by myself.

The last time I had this scan was a little over a year ago and had about 30 different scans since then so I could not remember the logistics of the whole procedure. What I did remember was that I got something radio active injected in me and had to lay in a confine space for a long time. I also remember that it is very painful on the spots of the bones and the liver where I have tumors and when it was over I needed a wheelchair because I was in to much pain to walk. What I did not remember and realized when I got there was that I was injected and then could leave (but don't go near small children) yet had to return in four hours for the actual scan process itself. It was recommended by the tech that I not drive anywhere because the injection could make me feel a little sick. So after finding that out I was really cursing cancer. My family was out on a beautiful day enjoy life and I was alone in a hospital that I have seen way to much of this past year, lighting up like light bright.

For those of you who know me you would not be surprised when I did get in my car and drive home in between because as I was sitting in the chapel of the hospital finding my "happy place" and I remembered that I did not wash the boys baseball uniforms for their game tonight and would now not be home in time to get them washed. So I pretending that it was urgent that I drive home and do that. When in actuality I could not sit at the hospital for 4 hours and stew about how much I hate this cancer. After getting home and putting the uniforms in the washer the boys came home with smiles on their faces. They could not get the words out fast enough about the day and the parade. I was so glad that they got to go but sadden that I could not be with them to see them enjoy it. So the uniforms got washed and off I went again back to the hospital for phase one of the scan from hell. Mark wanted to come with me but baseball was calling and one of us should be there to cheer them on.

I truly hate when I let this disease take control my mood. Today that is what it did but only for a moment. I was frustrated and felt trapped. Rarely do I like to write a negative post, but I wanted you all to know that I do at times hate what cancer has done to my life. I feel at times that it is a full time job to just stay alive and it is getting really old. But then I come home after laying in a tube in horrible pain to a house full of happy boys, to a dinner made by a friend, to a few cards that I got in the mail and realized that I am truly blessed no matter what the cancer does. Tomorrow is another day of scans but when it is all over my life is still great.

Sunny

Monday, June 8, 2009

Scan Results!!!

Today was my appointment with my Liver Specialist, Dr. Gamblin (first time, Dr. Gamblin, I mentioned your name because I know you are reading this). We took the boys because we wanted to take them through Pitt's campus and show them where Mom and Dad spent time studying together before they were even thought of. I thought that it was just another doctors appointment where they read the scans (I had one Monday) and then out the door I go. Nothing special, no change, let's just wait and see. On Friday I spoke with my overall oncologist and he usually stresses the bone tumors because he knows they give me the most pain and that Dr. Gamblin handles the liver tumors. So Friday he told me that the PET Scan was somewhat inconclusive because not all carcinoid tumors show up on PET Scans but that possible two new tumors showed up in the bones. So I am schedule for a two day scan, Octreotide Scan, to look at the tumors that we know are there but did not show on the scan and to further look into the tow new spots. I was trying to avoid that scan because it is very long and hard on me. But it is what it is.

Boy I am rambling. Anyways back to the liver specialist news. Dr. Gamblim is a really neat doctor. Extremely smart but really down to earth even in his bow tie. When he came into the small room he had a huge smile on his face so I knew he had to tell me something good. I thought it was about the new carcinoid cancer division he and another doctor friend of mine are starting here in Pittsburgh which I was really eager to hear about. He always has a entourage of"want to be Dr. Gablim's" and Jackie, his trusty and amazing nurse, following behind me. He goes through introduction and then we start talking about my liver. Today he just had to spit it all out. He was so excited to tell me that the two huge tumors I have in my liver have shrunk. Not gone by no means but have SHRUNK!!!! They have only shrunk about 1/2 a cem. but they shrunk. I tried really hard to keep it together but I could feel my eyes just filling up with tears. I love those happy tears. I knew that Dr. Gamblim, who lives day to day speaking to really sick patients and patients that have lost hope, was so thrilled to offer me the great news. I think he was almost as happy as Mark and I were because the first thing he ask after breaking the good news was how are the boys. He is young and has three very young children so I know it is very concerning to him when a mother is his patient.

Friday when I heard that the bone tumors where about the same (they think????) but two more seem to have popped up I was not sad just kinda of disappointed. I kept thinking that I don't want to share this news with anyone because it just sucks. I felt like I was letting everyone who have helped me get this "Magic" treatment down. I of course want to be cancer free for me and my family, but it's more then that now. I want to be cancer free for everyone who has supported me. After all the help I have gotten to get to Switzerland and receive this treatment I need to get better. I owe it too those who have helped me. So yesterday was like a start up the mountain.

"Life is good, even when times are tough". I know that some of you are thinking less then a 1/2 cem. shrinkage does not seem like much. To me it means prolonging my life a little longer until a cure is found. It means another trip to Switzerland. It means that all the pain and suffering I went through was worth it. It means some GOOD IN CANCER. Sure it's not gone and I know that I need to still fight for my life but it defiantly helps keep me reaching for the moon.


Sunny

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"The Speech"

A few months ago I was asked by Plum School District Superintendent and the school board to give the commencement speech to the graduating class of 2009. I must say I was taken back when asked because I did not understand why a mother of 3 not so perfect little boys, not so perfect wife, very small business owner with stage 4 cancer to say to a group of excited teenagers with their whole life ahead of them. After much contemplation I said yes because I thought what a great opportunity to thank everyone for all their support this year. The Plum High School student rallied behind me time and time again with my journey and I never got to thank them face to face. Then last week I became ill with an infection and was having trouble breathing and talking. I was close to canceling but after writing my speech I thought it would be very hypocritical of me to do so. After all I lecture the graduates to give everything your all and don't let obstacles stand in you way. So I said a huge pray and off I went.

Funny Story:

On our way to the graduation I was in the car explaining to the boys what a "Key Note" speaker talks about and preparing them for what I was going to say so that they did not cry. I told them that some parts of my speech maybe sad for them but they are not to dwell on the negative and listen to the positive parts. I told them that it's suppose to be inspiring. Nolan, my 10 year old asked, "Mom, does every graduation have a "Chemo Speaker" and if so how do they find people who have had chemo that everyone knows". I must say Mark and I laughed about it for about 15 minutes. His statement kinda summed up my whole speech. If you can't laugh at your struggles then expect to feel sad. Even my preteen thought it was cute.

After the night was over I had several people ask me to put my speech on line. So here it is:

Hello. Thank you. Faculty, staff, parents, friends, and most especially the Plum Senior High School graduating class of 2009. I am so honored yet humbled to be here with you all tonight.

Up until this point you have had most of your key decisions made for you. Elementary school, Middle School, then High School…grade to grade…you had few options. From one activity to the next. …someone else, some adult, has made that decision for you. After tonight your future is yours to choose. College, career, military service, or even just slacking is now your call. I was asked to speak tonight by Dr. Nacaretti not because I am a mother, wife, photographer or a business owner, but because I live and fight an incurable disease, carcinoid cancer, which I am told will end my life. In 1994 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (year’s later finding out that it was actually the start of carcinoid cancer). At that time I was climbing the ladder to success in corporate America and was irritated at the interruption of my life plan. After a small surgery and a few months of treatments, I was in remission and back to succeeding in my career. I became the youngest manager of a fortune 100 company to reach number one in sales in the country. I was quickly promoted to leading an entire division in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, a year later and a week before my wedding to my husband, the cancer returned. I then had a more invasive surgery, and was told by my doctors that the odds of having children were slim, but if I wanted any chance I had to start right away. Within 26 months I had my three wonderful boys and decided to put my career on hold to raise my amazing gifts. Years went by and I threw my life into my children and slowly progressed in building my own business. Four years ago my youngest son Nolan started kindergarten and I knew it was time to really put energy and time into my business. Within 8 weeks of that time I was diagnosed again with cancer and this time it was even more serious. A tumor, which the doctors called carcinoid, engulfed my entire right lung and I had my right lung removed. The recovery took almost a year and there were a few very close calls. At that time I was told that there is no cure and that this rare cancer will eventually take my life. Then a little over a year ago, as promised by my doctors, the cancer returned with a vengeances and I was rediganosed with Stage 4 cancer throughout my body – two softball size tumors and many smaller ones are ravaging my liver and the lesions in my skeleton go from my legs through my hips, spine, arm, shoulder, and up through my skull.

However, I was asked to speak tonight not because I have cancer, but because of how I choose to live with it. I know the concept of terminal illness is probably the farthest thing from your mind tonight so I won’t dwell on what the disease has done to me, my life, and my family but I will talk about how I choose to fight it…to live each day to the fullest…to being a positive influence on others, and how you can do the same. In some ways, cancer was a wakeup call for me--I had to decide quickly who was going to win—the cancer or me. The tumors and treatments make me tired at times, nauseous at others, and the pain is a constant reminder that this disease is invading my body. But the only way I know to approach this disease is to make sure I am the one in charge of everyday. From my husband to my children and from my brothers and sisters to my closest friends the words I would hear mumbled after I broke the news was WHY HER?

I can only answer ---why not me? I, like all of you sitting here tonight, am not unworthy of trials and struggles. God has never guaranteed us a life without tough times. If someone has to take this on, why not someone with a big, supportive family, a strong helping group of friends, and a wonderful community that has rallied on my behalf time and time again. Of course, like most, I would choose a life without cancer but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned while navigating through this journey. I have learned that I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

You cannot let someone tell you the possible is impossible, that the reachable is unreachable, or that your dreams are unattainable. When I was diagnosed this last time I sat in a small doctor’s office with the faces of my boys running through my head as I was told, by the same doctor that removed my right lung three years prior, that there is nothing more that can be done. He just shook his head and told me to go home and wait for the cancer to take its tool. At that point I was not accepting that the possible was the impossible. I told that doctor that I would sit in that office for days if need be until he found me someone else that knew more then he did. After all I was in no rush to go home and face my boys with this news. Within in an hour, that doctor came into the room with two oncologist’s names that would take my case and see me immediately. Those doctors where willing to take me as a patient but they too had little faith. After hours and days of research I found a treatment that may give me a glimmer of hope but it was not in the United States and was not covered by insurance. But that did not stop me. As many of you know, I have already made two trips to Switzerland with the help of my family, friends and this community. And is hoping to return for more treatments soon.

My question to you tonight is this: what if I went home that day and accepted the very first “no” I got? Eventually I may not beat this disease but I will give it the fight of my life.

And if I can at the age of 38, with tumors throughout my body, with doctors who are ready to give up on me, continue to reach for the impossible, then you all can too. You can achieve whatever it is you set out to do. Don’t ever let the "can’t syndrome" or the “can’t posse” impact your life or your thoughts. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. See the opportunities and take advantage of them. I was told I couldn’t have children by doctors recognized in their community as leaders in their field. I was told to get my long hair cut, by these same experts, because the treatments would take it away and getting it cut first would ease the shock to my kids. I was told over and over that there is nothing that can be done. I have three wonderful, healthy kids. My real hair. Not a wig. And a little over a year ago, I was told my case was hopeless, I am standing here tonight. Not sure why. Not sure how. Except that I refused to believe what they were telling me was my fate.

So the next time some well-intentioned friend, expert, boss, or advisor tells you you’ll never make it, it can’t be done, you’ll never pull it off, or you will never finish…tell them thanks…and then go make it, go do it, go pull it off, and go finish. You are the only one that can control your path in life with the choices you make. Don’t let anyone lead you down the wrong path. Sure there may be speed bumps along the way that may slow you down. In fact I can guarantee you that there will be, but don’t allow them to become roadblocks. Never believe that you can’t move on. Cancer is something I live with…but it is not who I am. Although at some point it might determine when I go, it does not determine what I will do when I am here. Tonight I get to be here with all of you, apparently, by just doing what I have always done, but doing it with cancer. I am just trying to do the impossible, which I am told inspires others. Being an inspiration just happened. It is not something that I set out to do. I still at times cannot believe what my struggles and my efforts to fight this disease have done for others. I would have never have guessed that I would have articles written about me, that I would be interviewed by radio or news shows, contacted by Senators to speak on Congress, have a blog that is read by thousands across the world or even be asked to address you all tonight. I am no more special then any of you sitting in front of me but my choices are what got me here. My choice to live my life to the fullest despite my challenges. If that choice can inspire just one of you tonight to never doubt yourself, to not let times of trials stop you from reaching for your dreams then I have fought the good fight. The disease has opened up doors I never would have thought possible and has given me an unexpected but urgent reason to make a difference.

Please, I urge each and every one of you to go through each day doing your best at everything you try. Go that extra mile. Everything you do in life is a self portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence. It’s OK to reach out to the moon and only be able to grab a star. It’s NOT OK to choose not to aim for the moon because everyone else says it’s unreachable. There are days when just getting out of bed for me is a chore. The cancer that is throughout my bones often at times gives me horrific pain. But I am determined even at my worst moments to wake up and greet my children every morning. On the days that I feel my worst I may, only get a star but I will always reach for the moon.

As a mother it would be injustices if I don’t encourage you all too always keep a strong relationship with your family. Let me tell you tonight, friends come and go; your family is for life. Tell your parents you love them every chance you get. The love a parent has for a child is the strongest bond any human can feel. Having three children myself I can only imagine the pride your parents are feeling about each one of you today. They are probably holding back the tears for fear of embarrassing you but will go behind closed doors when it’s all over and shed a few. Some maybe sitting in their seats today remembering your very first day of school and could probably tell you every detail of that day from the breakfast you ate , to the exact clothes you had on and up until the last word you said before you left to begin the first day of your 13 year adventure . My only hope is that I one day have the opportunity experience what they are feeling right now when it’s my children graduating. It is a heartfelt feeling that unfortunately may irritate you today but one day several of you will be able to relate too when you have children. Whatever you parents are going through today you should know that they are your cheerleaders, supporters and will always, love you unconditionally.

I have been given the opportunity to have reality thrust in my face and to recognize what really is important in life as a result. I never sleep in anymore….sunrise is an amazing time of day. I believe I can that there is nothing I can not do even with my cancer. Don’t go through life with a can not do attitude. You are cheating yourself out of the once in a lifetime chance to know how much you can really achieve. Stay away from negative “can’t do”, “why me”, and “life sucks people”. They have no benefits to you and cannot help you reach your goals. I have been to the point where life’s alternative has come up and I can say with all my heart life doesn’t suck...even during the most difficult of time life is a blessing.

Over the next few weeks as you party…sleep in…party some more….sleep in…remember that at some point the future will be upon you and it won’t be “just” tomorrow anymore. It will be time for packing, a call to duty or the start of a new job and this night will slowly become a blur. I hope that you all recognize that you hold your life in the palm of your hands and your choices from this night forward will determine you destination. Enjoy the moment. Plan for tomorrow and never have to regret the past. That is a good life. Be positive…make a difference in your life by getting involved so you can make a difference in someone else’s life like many of you have already done this past year in mine. Work your dreams to death and don’t get discourage when life throws you an obstacle. Get up early every morning, give the day your all and lay your head down at night with exhaustion. Whatever it is that you dream to do….do it. Do it giving 100%. As hurdles arise, remember if you can’t jump over them you can always run around them. There is always another way. Don’t be afraid of the hurdles. Never think tomorrow is going to be anything but a great day. When tomorrow comes and you are part of it, it’s a great day.

I am here tonight to let you know that you control how you get up and face each day. I have not done anything special. I certainly am not a hero. Cancer was spelled with can long before I was ever diagnosed. I am a fighter and I refuse to go down without a fight. That’s why I was asked to address you tonight. My ultimate message to leave you with tonight is that ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they refuse to allow the expected become reality.

Once again thank you for inviting me tonight. But I mostly want to take this opportunity to thank my family, my friends, the Plum Community, the school district and the students here tonight for all your support throughout my journey. You all make it impossible for me to give into this disease. Be safe tonight and in the weeks ahead. Good night.