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
Thursday, June 4, 2009
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.