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
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As Mark and the boys belted off U2's finest, "It's a Beautiful Day", I could not help but think what a beautiful day and everyday is if you make the choice to live it to the fullest. The drive to Florida is like second nature to me. I have been on this route at least twice a year ever since I was a little girl. Florida was my father's haven and wanted it to be a haven for his children too. Each road stop, mountain stop or tourist trap have some kind of fun memory. I can still hear my father presence when we drive through the West Virgina and Virgina mountains that he loved so much. His words, "this is heaven on earth", still ring in my head every time we hit that spot on the trip. In fact, I even repeated it to the boys this time. They gave me the same reaction I gave my dad, "you got to be kidding me. This is all heaven has?". But now I get what he was saying. This whole experience is pure pleasure if you let it be.
As I sat in the front seat and looked out to the most amazing sky I realized that just two years ago I was wishing I was almost to our destination. I did not know then what cancer was going to teach me now. In fact I remember that each of us had our own headset playing our music of choice while we tried to block out Mark's 80's rock. The only communication we would have with each other would be them asking me to pass them some food, them asking Mark the famous, "how much longer?" question, or an occasional "he's touching me". Now we actually talk about things. Things that matter, things that don't matter, or the beauty of the sites. We even nicknamed our youngest "Cliff Claven" because he gives us some odd fact every hour or so. He is so funny when he is trying to be serious. He is Mark all over. It sounds like this car ride is a perfect "Hallmark" movie special. Well I will tell you it's not anywhere near perfect. However, to me it's "heaven on earth".
After the song ended Mark turned down the stereo a little before the next track began. He reached over and grab my hand. He could see that I was not feeling well and he told me that he would pull over when I needed him to. I told him that I was perfect and that I am enjoying every minute of this day. He assured me that he was not rushing and we can take our time to get to Vero. In my joking manner but I was truly serious I said, "let's take our time forever. When you have what I have there is no need to rush to get where I am going." Unaware that Logan, my middle son, was listen we heard him chime in. With a very low tone, so low we could hardly hear him he whispered, "I wish I could stop time for you Mom". Although that moment was precious it was broken with his older brothers comment calling him a dork. Then a shutup followed and a you shut up after that. That is when we knew that life was normal again. Realizing how special simple times are is a gift that cancer has given me. Another "GOOD" in cancer I found just riding in a car.
P.S. Along with spending Thanksgiving with my family, this trip was also planned to fight this incurable cancer. Next week I will be seeing another carcinoid cancer guru in Tampa FL. Please keep me in your prayers.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I tried every excuse though not to go. I thought, "if Mark and the boys fight me about church this morning, what they are wearing or slowly get ready....I am just going to give in and go back to bed." But for the first time since Mother's Day, because that day I asked to go to church without any arguments and arrive on time for my present, they just got up and got dressed. "Darn" I thought, "I guess I cannot use their behavior as an excuse not to go." We actually arrived one minute late which is about 10 minutes early for the Carney Clan. There were no arguments in the extended SUV as to where they where going to sit (which I will never understand anyways because I sat on the arm rest while my other siblings piled in a small car when I was growing up. My boys have a three rows of leather seats with headsets to watch a movie. Any seat to me in this automobile looks like luxury.) So I figured I was meant to hear Pastor Frank's message since with God's grace my family was the perfect church goers this week.
For the past eight weeks we have been studying the Beatitudes. Yesterday was, "Blessed are the peacemakers" Mathew 5:9. I sat there with one of my three boys on each side of me and decided that this message would be for them. Case in point is that even in church they need to be separated. After all, I know what a peacemaker is because I have three boys, a feisty husband and the youngest of a big family. I've been a peacemaker all my life....so I thought.
After listening more intently I learned what it really means to be a peacemaker. Being a peacemaker is more then just resolving conflict. It's about giving others actual peace when they are going through a battle that you have already experienced. It is the choice of sharing your experiences with others so that it is easier for them. God wants us to be a person who shares hope. As believers we are obligated to be an example to others and be there for others. "Two people are better than one. If one falls down the other can help them up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls because no one is there to help." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
I was able to somewhat understand the answer to the question that we all ask when we go through difficult times.....WHY? In my words the answer is: only God knows. I never believed that God gives us evil or hardships because of our actions in the past. But what I learned is that God may let them happen so that we can turn to him and help others turn to him. Sometimes we don't know that we need God until that's all we have left. Then with our faith we may crawl to him and he then takes over. That is when we see it is never to late to turn to God, but the earlier the better because your pain is less.
We are then to use our brokenness to help others so that they can experience your peace. I have always said that is what I wanted to do with this blog. I want others to learn from what took me so long to learn. It may be with different treatments, new information on this rare cancer I have found or my experiences through this journey. Or I may just inspire one or two of my blog family to not give in to there burdens or give up. Whatever we all are going through it is tough and I want others to have peace. After all, everyone has there own cancers.
Friday, November 13, 2009
One particular email I received today stood out. It was from a cancer survivor that reads my blog. She is waiting for results from a biopsy that her son just had and she is fearful of the outcome. She said that she needs to know the Sunny side of waiting. It brought me back to when waiting for results would overcome my life. I use to pace and pace for days carrying my phone around with me everywhere I went just in case the doctor called. I don't do that anymore. I don't let it consume me because I realized that would mean that the cancer is winning. It is affected me both physically and mentally, which is giving it more power then it deserves.
After reading her amazing email I thought about what I could say to her to let her anxieties not take over her life. All that came to my mind was have faith. Faith that whatever the outcome may be you are not alone. Worry about what you can control and let God handle the rest. When you offer it up to him you get a whole new sense of peace. A peace that I have never felt until I decided to give it to Him and let Him take a hold of the wheel. Let go of trying to control the situation and let God do what he has promised us he will do. Do what ever you are able to do to help the situation then let go of the worry. Sounds easy right! Well it is.
I try very hard to live up to what I say. But there has been times when I catch myself trying to play God and control a situation. The famous comment someone says to you when you are finding things difficult is "God never gives you what you can not handle". Well there are times when I wish God would stop thinking so highly of me. Faith that I can handle what ever comes my way is what gives me the strength to hold on. Having true faith means you no longer need to have a sense of control over things that our out of your control. You lose worry and gain the greatest sense of strength and calmness.
There are times when I just feel like becoming a turtle and crawling in my shell. I have also had times when I thought it would be a lot easier if I just take a break from the fight for a while. I have become tired and weary so I just want to sleep. But I refuse to lose my faith. Faith gives me the courage to let go and see what God can do. I am not saying that because I have faith God will give me a miracle and cure me. However, I do believe it could happen. But my faith is more simple then that. It is knowing that while I am climbing this mountain God is right next to me holding my hand. I have seen some amazing things happen because of letting go and letting God take a hold of the situation. And when I feel that faith falling I then pray and it God puts someone in my life to bring it back. Yesterday it was Mark. Today it was all the emails, text messages and phone calls I received.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I have had a difficult week and today Mark decided to give me an intervention to snap me out of the funk I have been spiralling down too. The role reversal of Mark giving me the intervention was quite humbling. The motivational words that were coming out of his mouth where way to familiar. All they way down to actually bullet pointing exact situations to prove his theory that I am slipping into the "dark side" of cancer. He did not pull out the white board and pointed like I have done with him but I think if he knew where I hide it he may of. As he was speaking I can see the wheels in his head turning trying to actually remember my exact words when he is the subject of concern. I realize now that the blank look in his eyes after a few minutes of me having my pump-up meetings with him was him not showing disinterest but him really taking mental notes.
As Mark was talking it click to me that my attitude about this disease and the way I choice to battle it affects everyone that I am in contact with. We have had a few uncharacteristic incidents with one of our children. So this morning Mark and I were summoned to the principals office where the main topic was this child. I said to one of the many adults in the room, "let's get to the root of the issue" because it just could not be about his mom having cancer. "When did you notice a change?" I asked. She told us almost two weeks ago. So after coming up with some solutions with the group on how to "fix" my already perfect child I decided to go back to what went on in our life two weeks ago. On the ride home from our son's school I went over every situation that could of been the root to my son's change in prospective. I started rattling off doctors appointments, scans, results of scans, death of a friend, my unexpected trip to the emergency room and even rambled about running out of bread and cereal. Finally, Mark looked at me and said, "YOU have changed. Your attitude has changed. Your ambition has changed. Your smile has gone away. Your laugh is not as loud. Your hard work ethic is falling. Your eyes are sad. You are not the Sunny that we all know."
He continued to list things that I would of never let fall by the waste side no matter how sick I was. The one that hit me the most was telling me that I am letting go of my passion to beat this cancer. As tears filled my eyes I knew deep down he was right. I've been letting cancer define who I am. When I was told of my relapse I decided to do whatever I could to not let people look at me and see cancer. I would not and still don't accept pity or someone feeling sorry for me. Cancer is part of me but it is not who I am and it does not define what I can do. However, I am afraid that in the past few weeks cancer has beaten me down. I have become tired....too tired to fight. That attitude change has changed the whole dynamics of our family. A change I am not willing to accept until I cannot do anything about it.
I have not given up and will never give up. All the same, I have not been the fighter I usually am and it has affected those around me. I don't think in our 15 years of marriage Mark has every had to tell me not to give up on anything.....until today. He told me that it's always been a given in our family that I am the rock that motivates the rest. And when the rock stops being hard the whole mountain falls. With this realization I have learned that my action on how I handle this cancer will teach all those important to me how to fight any obstacle that comes their way. Mark, my boys, my family and my friends will feed from my attitude. If I want them to look at me with hope and not pity then I need to act like I have hope and not fear. My son told me this evening that he knows I am getting sicker and he is scared. I can only think that my action in the past two weeks have made him feel that way. All I can do is go forward and let my strength shine on him. No storm is a match for a "Sunny" attitude. So the fight continues.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Although the above mention sounds like he was a great man, more then that he was a great father. The hurt in his wife's and children's eyes told it all. I wanted to take all their pain away but I realize that is impossible. All I keep thinking is that death leaves a heartache that no one or no action can heal. However the love you have for that person that is gone leaves memories that no one can every steal. Memories that they will cherish until they meet again.
This all brings up the question I have wrote about so many times...WHY? I am wondering when will I know the answer to why a 12 year old little boy and a 8 year old little girl have to feel this pain. Or why a family that has given to so many have to suffer so much. Or why a wife who has been a dear friend to me in my lowest times deserves this lost. When will I get my answers...maybe I should stop asking.
I read this quote in a book that I read to my boys when we lost a dear family member almost two years ago. I wrote it down in my journal even before the cancer returned. I don't know why but it just stuck in my mind and I wanted to remember it. It goes like this:
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.
I know that Bob is in a better place and I know his wife believes that too. But how is knowing that going to take the pain away from the love ones left behind away? I wish I new just that and then I will stop asking.