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

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Love Is In The Air

Mark and I celebrated another year of marriage this week. To all of Mark's credit it was almost as amazing as our wedding 14 years ago. He and one of his friends from childhood (whom was a groomsman in our wedding) planned the whole day and evening. This post is just to relive it again.

Because of our children's sports schedule we decided to celebrate a day earlier. I think that is what started it out so special. Mark actually pre-thought about the day and decided that he could not postpone it until we get time, which in the past has meant a bottle of wine a week or two after July 22nd sipped quickly after the boys went to bed. Maybe if I am lucky we would put in the wedding day video and we would actually watch the whole thing through, without fast forwarding, before we fall asleep on the couch. Not this year though. Mark did it all. I'll I had to do was give him the best night to go out. However, even that was difficult because in between treatments,being ill from the treatments and sporting events there was really no perfect time. So we just forced ourselves to cancel everything and just do it.

The day started with a amazing bouquet of roses. Not just any roses but the exact type of rose that I had in my wedding bouquet. These are wild roses that have to be ordered six months in advanced because they have to be cultivated to blume in July instead of May (so I guess that would cancel out the wild part). I had these roses in my yard as a child growing up and when I was planning my wedding had to have them in my arrangements. They are blush to a very pale pink, almost white, in color with a yellow center and are the most fragrant of the roses. Not to mention the most delicate and I am told are not the most ideal for floral arrangements because of how fragile they are. In fact I remember hunting for a florist when planning my wedding that could actually find these roses. Over the years Mark has tried to replicate these roses with several attempts on past anniversaries or when he has just screwed up. I have never told him that it just could not be done without pre-ordering the rose months in advance until a few months ago when we were in Switzerland. In Switzerland when we had so much time on our hands and the tele only had two English speaking station we talked about everything and anything and these roses and how difficult they are to find came up. He was amazed that after all these years of receiving bouquets of pale pink roses and hundreds of dollars spent on these arrangements, I never told him he did not get it right nor did I ever expect him too. Well he finally got it right and that was really all I needed to make it a perfect anniversary.

Nevertheless, he did not stop there. A dear friend of our, John Cinq., and Mark planned a spectacular evening with dinner at Zao cafe, Cinq's restaurant, and opening night theater tickets to Barry Manilow's Copacabana The Musical. The dinner was outstanding. When we got to the restaurant Cinq had two glasses of champagne with raspberry puree,my favorite, waiting for us and an amazing meal was served. We then had a special dessert of both Mark's and my favorites, chocolate ganche mouse and lavender cheesecake. The desert plate had Happy Anniversary Sunny and Mark written in chocolate. The Musical was great but the company was better.

We skipped out early on the musical, because we were not sure how long we had until the boys would be calling us to come home, and heading out on the town. We had a blast together. Laughing like BC (before cancer). It was truly like old times when money was not an issue and the theater and dinner was a great date. The most important part of the evening however was the time we spent just talking. Mark finally opened up to me about what it's been like for him during my battle. Although we talk about it at times we never get into the true and actual feelings. The one and maybe the only thing that makes Mark and I alike is that we both suppress our negative feelings. I have always felt that it is harder on those who love a cancer patient then it is for the actual patient. I cannot by any means pretend to know what Mark is going through nor do I even want to walk in his shoes for a day, but I can imagine at times it is a helpless feeling. As a patient fighting this cancer I can pretty much take control of almost all of it. Sure I can't change the progression of the disease but if I am in pain I can take a pill, if I have a question I can call the doctor, if I am tired I rest, if I am restless I exercise. I know that eating right and taking vitamins may help, so I do that. I can choose to have treatments or not. And when the time comes for it all to end I can leave this all behind me and no that I did whatever I could to stay alive. With that I can rest in peace.

For Mark it is not that easy. Although I do not always agree with the chooses he makes when handling the stress of this difficult voyage, I do try to understand what he is going through. I receive emails from many spouses of patients with carcinoid cancer. Some are commenting on my treatments, some ask my advise, some want to know where I get my information from, some just ask how I am doing, some say they read my blogs to their other half and others ask how my husband is dealing with me being sick. Although every email has a different story or topic they all have a certain tone of sorrow and helplessness to it. Much like Mark has at times. For those of you who know my loud fun loving husband it may seem hard to believe that he could ever feel dispirited or powerless. But that is what cancer can do to a man when he watches his wife battle this monster on her own. It is a demon that can take a perfectly stable family and tear it apart. It is a malignant spirit that can take a strong happy go lucky man and bring him to tears at the site of his wife suffering in pain. It is a brutal beast that can destroy a happy spirit and turn it the dark side. Cancer in my eyes is as evil as the devil. I wont speak for Mark but I will testify I will not let it tear me or my love ones apart. I will not let them give in to it's affiliation.

Of course we both did not want the evening to end because it meant we had to go back navigating our cancer journey. However, we knew that it was just a fantasy night and reality was through the red door of our home. And as we open it and enter a house of sleeping boys we held hands and felt grateful we had one more night together. Thanks Mark for your romantic side.