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
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Today I decided to observe some of the things that are going around me in a room full of cancer patients waiting to hear their destiny. Mark, was cracking up at me because I was sitting with my little "notebook" laptop jotting down everything I saw. He leaned into me and whispered, "you always come in here with blinders on. Now what are you doing?". I told him I was living. I am no longer ignoring what is going on in this world of cancer.
This is what I observed:
1. Rude secretary completely clueless that each person she is snapping at have so much more going on in their life then hating there job. God help her.
2. Worried elderly lady holding her husbands hand as he sits in a wheelchair with an IV in his arm and a smile on his face. She is thinking of her future without him, he is looking at the young Drug rep sitting across from him that is wearing a short skirt and sitting with her legs uncrossed. Sorry Mark pointed that one out to me.
3. Mother and Daughter sitting very close to each other while surfing the web for wedding gowns. Mother wearing a beautiful red scarf on her hairless head and daughter hugging her so tight. They are so happy despite the battle.
4. Mark sitting next to me telling dirty jokes to another elderly man. The man is laughing so hard I am scared he is going to fall off his seat. However, the snotty lady in the J. Crew cashmere sweater, I know that because I just got the catalog yesterday, is giving Mark looks that are dirtier then his jokes. "Get I life lady". I just smiled at her and she looked the other way. She must waiting for someone because she's to mean to have cancer.
5. Several names being called out at one time by the mean secretary. The patient jumps up with excitement because it's finally their turn. They quickly lose that excitement when they are asked to stand in line and then follow the nurse into another room to be injected. Like a group of cattle being herded to the next step of their fate. I've been there, done that.
6. Automatic doors opening and closing with patients and their cancer buddies coming and going. Coming with anxiety and leaving with exhaustion.
7. Three Television in three different corners of the large pen all with different stations and volume turned down. WTF are they doing to these patient. Just teasing them. I decided to walk over to one and turn the volume up. Now I see a bunch of happy faces.
8. A husband and wife dressed in designer clothes sitting prim and proper. They are not wanting to look around for fear of what they may see. They are also afraid to get comfortable because they think that they don't belong here. Probably cancer newbies. Reminds me of Mark and I way back when. Not sure which one has the affliction. I would like to see them a few months from now to see how they change.
9. A young girl with a beautiful face but tears in her eyes. She is bald and scared. She is sitting next to me all by herself. I decided to reach over and tell her it will be okay. She puts her hand on my arm and shakes her head. Me in 1995.
10. Oh my favorite nurse just walked in. She has that smile of peace on her face. She shoos Mark to the next seat and sits down next to me to give me a hug. I pull out the big bag of lemon candies that I bring for her other patients. With Hillman's cut backs they discontinued that treat for the chemo patients who have mouth sores. She sneaks the bag in her lab coat like it's a drug deal or something. We laugh.
11. That same nurse moves down next to the young girl who is next to me. She starts to explain the scan to her. I am so relieved that this girl has her today. However, I want her too.
12. A middle age man, okay my age, sits across from me with his brother. He is wearing a black Under Armor running suit. He is fit and looks perfectly healthy. He is drinking that nasty crap they make us drink for some kind of scan that I try to forget. I am lucky that I am small so I only have to drink two bottles....he has three, yuk. He is making faces and gaging. His brother is laughing, but I can see the pain in his eyes. It's that kind of laugh that you get when you are really nervous and don't know what else to do. He asked me if I have ever had to drink it. I shake my head yes. Mark adds, "They should serve it with Jim Beam". God sometimes he is so embarrassing.....he got a big laugh today. I told the gentleman to hold his nose and just suck it down. He tries and spits it all over his black jacket. Oh well! Mean secretary is coming over. Oh no!!!!
13. A family of brothers and sisters from Ohio. I know that because they asked the brothers across from me how to get on the PA turnpike and conversation went on. They are sitting close while they take turn pacing back and forth. Each one of them catering to their mothers every need. One brings her a snack, another a drink, another holds her hand, while the youngest boy hands her a magazine. She hands him back the magazine and tells him it's from May of 2007. He apologizes and tells her he will go to the news stand outside to get her another one. He wants out, but buddy there are no news stands outside. Kinda of cool to listen to the stories. There mother looks tired and worn out but she is happy to have her kids with her.
My name is being called. It's time for me to get herded with the rest of my cancer posse to the next room....to wait.
To Be Continue for another day.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I have been sitting here in my home all morning thinking of all those who are presently participating in the race today for me and the Shook family. Upon doctor's strict orders I was unable to attend "The 2nd Annual Miles of Smiles 5K and Walk for Carcinoid Cancer" but my heart and spirit is there. With all the quietness in a usually zoo of a home, I am able to think about each of my running angels (R4R) and the sacrifices that have made in the past few months to organize this event. Each and everyone of them have families, jobs, and other stresses in your life yet they found the time to give of themselves. I feel so privilege to be part of your group as well as blessed with your generosity. A year and a half ago I would of had trouble finding more then a handful of people in our community that could pronounce Carcinoid let alone know what it was. Because of my running angels the awareness to this rare form of cancer Carcinoid Cancer is the talk of not only Plum Borough but the whole Pittsburgh area. That alone will not only help extend my life or Scott Shook's life, but several hundred others.
I also need to show my appreciation for all those who have come to support me. Mark called me a few minutes ago and started naming those who were sending their love to me. I must say the strong side of me turned to mush. I sometimes wonder why I am so blessed? I have such an amazing support group and I don't know if I am even worthy of that. However, what I do know it is that each and everyone of you are the reason I am not giving up on my battle. You have all played a part in me being alive for my boys by inspiring me to keep going. When you run dedication hill in the below freezing weather today know that I will be running a similar hill with you in my battle. Also, when you cross that finish line please know that you have inspired me to cross my finish line with a victory over this cancer.
I hope you all know the passion that goes behind the two small words, Thank You, when I say them. I wish I could find a new way to express it, but I hope my action will let you all know the true meaning. I've said this before but still it comes from the heart you make it impossible for me to give up.
And to my running posse, I know you like to call yourselves R4R but you will always be known to me as my "Running Angels". Thank you for spreading your wings and carrying me. We are not just a group a friends we are a R4R family. Of course Joe as our Papa and each of us playing our brother and sister role. All nine of you and your families will always have a special place in my heart.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I heard this quote from my friend Debbie. She is a mother of a three year old little girl that is not just a toddler but a cancer survivor. Although, I knew her story when her family was fighting this battle I did not know her personally. When I had my relapse Debbie reached out to me. We connected immediately. When I heard this quote from her I knew exactly why we connected. She has taken the most unimaginable situation and polished it. She has seen the "Good in Cancer". Her daughter is the light of so many worlds. This three year old little girl has beat all odds and is truly an inspiration to so many. Especially me. She is God's gift.
So many of us go through trails and it is nearly impossible to find the bright side of life. I have been there too. That is when it is time for us to start making the best out of a bad situation. I have realized when you do that you can polish a beautiful gem of a life. And once a dull dirty gem is bright it is priceless. Much like Debbie's daughter Ella. I am asked many times how I don't just give up. The only way I can answer that is, "if I quit then I will miss all the good that is to come."
Let's all polish the dull side of our difficulties this week. I think if we do that we will see that it may just become the bright side again. I know that it has worked for me.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Today a stranger went into my doctor's office and left me a gift. I want that person to know that it meant more to me and my family then he could ever imagine. I don't know your name or even if you want me to know, but I want to tell you that your thoughtfulness has made a difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I always say I wish there was a better way to say it then those two simple words.
"To give to others and then not feel that you have given is truly the best gift of all".
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
When I got home I had an email from Dr. Friedland. He had already checked my scans and informed me that Dr. MGough, a orthopedic oncologist, will be calling me immediately to talk to me. I could tell in the tone of the email that things were not good. However, I think I knew that already when I saw tears in the tech's eyes when she finally freed me from the tube. After talking to Dr. MGough's office, not Dr. MGough, I decided to put all this news aside and wait until my appointment Monday morning, as soon as I can get there. The weekend was great because I knew that Monday was coming quick with a not so positive experience so I savored every minute with Mark and the boys. That's the "Good in Cancer", you sometimes have the advantage of knowing that the days to come are going to be tough so you can appreciate the simple times before hand.
Yesterday came and the news was just what we prepared for. The cancer has spread more in the right leg and moved to the left leg. The scans showed that my bones in the right leg are becoming unstable and brittle. Not as bad as the doctor would of thought with the amount of tumors that have grown but still a concern. I guess being forced to drink milk as a child finally paid off a bit. So with that he gave me two alternatives....neither sound like a party. Both options are serious enough to rightfully obtain a second opinion. But as of now this is what I have:
1. The first option will be to have a surgery that will stabilize the bone. The doctor will insert a medal rod in the femur bone. While in there he will try to reduce some of the tumors depending on the mass of the tumor. I will then start immediate radiation. Their are several risks for this surgery for me. One main risk being that the fatty acids that fill the bone will be released in fill the lung. I only having one lung would be at a risk of death if this happens. However if this bone breaks I could risk death as well.
2. The second option is to do radiation first to take care of the pain then do the surgery to stabilize the bone. Their are several risk to that as well. The main risk is that the radiation does not work and the bone becomes weaker.
I did schedule the surgery for the end of October even though the doctor wanted sooner. I really just need to think about this all and get a second opinion. Of course I would not do any of this without hours of research.
Nevertheless, I will keep my faith. I am determined to do whatever it takes to be here as long as I can.
Friday, October 2, 2009
It is Dr. Friedland's assumption the the cancer has spread pretty quickly in my right leg bones. He wanted to send me immediately to radiation therapy but I panicked. For many reason I am terrified of direct radiation. I need to do some research before I do anything and fifteen minutes is not quite enough time to prepare myself. So he decided to give me an MRI and confirm what we all know is going on. It is Dr. Friedland's style to put the patient at ease before he puts them through hell. In all seriousness, he really does try to make you feel good about every decision of treatment. After waiting an hour for the poor nurse to call every hospital in the UPMC umbrella we were unable to find an available MRI machine asap. So we decided to cancel the radiation that was schedule and go home. Today I will be getting my 90 minute MRI and Monday if the results show necessary I will get my first treatment of direct radiation.
I was actually thanking God that there were no MRI's available at the time because I was so overwhelmed, not to mention Mark was on the verge of taking a bridge. I always try to clarify that I truly believe it is harder for the loves ones of a cancer patient then it is for the patient themselves. I still believe that with all my heart, but yesterday I was being selfish. I was so angry that he was frustrated. I felt such a helplessness and complete loss of control. He was upset that our appointment was at 9:30 and we were not seen until 11:30.....pissed off that I would not sit in a wheelchair and then when I finally gave into the wheelchair complaining that the handle was to low for him to push it....frustrated with the whole hospital monopoly because we waited an hour and still had no MRI done......annoyed that his phone was ringing continuously with client calls and he can not pick them up to make some money and then completely angry at me because I insisted on going to Austen's open house last night even after the doctor suggested I just stay in bed and rest. If you know me I refuse to miss my kids important activities if there is anyway possible I can make it. If I had to crawl I would of been there because Austen made it clear that it was important for him that I don't let Dad go alone. When we got home all hell broke loose when Logan decided to tell us, with his "I don't care attitude", that he forgot a book he needed to study with for a test he had today. I thought at that moment Mark was just going to blow his lid.
This is just a small example of what cancer can do to a family. In just one day it can completely put your home in shambles. The cancer tsunami. In a insistent this monster can rip all sense of hope and happiness..... if you decide to let it take over. Cancer can take a happy, go lucky, jolly man and turn him into a panicked stranger.....if you decide to let it take over. It can take three respectful, amazing, smart, straight A children and turn them into a walking mess......if you decide to let it take over. However, I am not going to let it take over. I am not going to let my family fall apart. My boys will not feel guilt about their mom being sick even when they make a mistake. I refuse to let this monster win.
This week I have been tested. I have had some quiet meltdowns were the tears fell. I had some times anger - at the cancer, at the doctors, at the nurses, at myself, and at my husband. I had a time of frustration that I am unable to do what a mother is suppose to do. All the things I complained about for years before hit with the cancer card.....cleaning, laundry, taxing and helping with homework. I even had a time of envy at Mark because he is starting to get the hang of being both a mom and a dad. But, what I refuse to have is a time where I loose hope because that is when this disease has won.
We have hit a road bump which will slow me down a bit, but I promise you it will not become a road block. I will get through this and I will help Mark get through this too. We are resilient and will not let this beast take over our family spirit. However, we know that we can not do any of this fight without God.
I will fill you in on the results soon.
P.S. On October 18th my running angels R4R will be holding a 5k and 1 mile walk. The proceeds will be going not only to my battle but to another family in Guthrie, Iowa. Through my blog I have had the pleasure of corresponding with this family. Please read to the right of this page the article written in the Advance Leader on September 24th for more details.