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
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Mark sent me an email today (yes we both have home offices but we still communicate through technology. Sad but true, with only one floor between us texting and email is our main way of talking during the day. We sometimes may pick up our cells and actual call each other but that is only when our fingers are tired). I opened the attachment and read the above. "Interesting"....what does he mean about this? Surely I have not quit on anything or given up. Or have I?
A few hours later after a long morning of work for both of us, Mark came into my office and asked if I got his email. "Of course I got it", I said in my irritated tone. He then said to me, "sounds like something you would say", and he walked out and closed my door.
The rest of the day I could not stop thinking about the email. It is something I would say, but I can not help wonder if I really live this way? There are times where I think about when. When is God going to put my number on his list? How old will my boys be? Will Mark be ready to take over? Will they know that I love them and that is why I fought so hard?
I seem to have been spending the last year and half getting Mark and the boys prepared to live without me. Of course I don't let them in on my fast track for them to learn everything I would have taught them over 20+ years. The changes my family has gone through is huge. Mark can cook three things now, I hesitate to call it a meal yet: Daddy eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches and something they call gramen burgers (only to be eaten when it's a bro night and mom's not around). I showed him which one of the two big white machines in our basement needs soap, only because detergent in a dryer was a huge mess I had waiting for me after a long hospital stay. He now knows were the boys schools are located. He is even learning that when the boys say they don't have homework it really means they don't feel like doing their homework. Although, the biggest change I have noticed is that my baby boys go to dad more when they need ride somewhere or money. Before my "preparation plan" they would walk right passed him, if he was even home, as if he was invisible and hunt me down for anything they would need. He could be standing in the kitchen with the milk jug in his hand and they would search the entire house to ask me for a glass of milk.
With all of that said, I wonder if I am a hypocrite. Did I put a period on my life? I claim that I have hope, but I know that my cancer has no cure. I know that eventually my life will end because of this disease. The thing that makes me sad is that I have accepted my destiny. It's all a matter of time, so I take everyday as a gift. Sounds great but is that try faith?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I don't try to hide my pain from my children. I did for a long while after I was diagnosed but there is no need to do that now. They are living with my cancer and dealing with it. One reason is because I want them to realizes that despite my cancer and its effects I am loving life. Also, they are becoming men now at 11, 12, and 13 and I need their help. I depend on them for things now and I want them to understand that mommy is not running marathons or can bet them in a race anymore. Anymore.....I am so glad I can say ANYMORE because I am so glad I did those things when I could. Anyways, Nolan was so understanding when I told him I will point to the shells with my foot but he has to bend over to pick them up. It was actually fun.
The sunrise was once again amazing. In the begin of its ascendants it was covered behind a huge cloud. I thought it was going to be a dud of a morning so I wanted to leave. But Nolan told me to wait and be patient. Then within a half-hour there it was. God's performance again. That big orange ball rising up to start a new day. God how I love watching that miracle. I have written about it so many times and could write about it so many more times that it could be a whole book. Every time I am in just awe at how miraculous this process of renewal is. It is truly heaven on earth.
Which brings up Nolan and my conversation as we sat there on the beach with the water just reaching our toes. Out of no where he asked me what I thought heaven was like? I don't know why he brought it up, but I felt like God was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me to open up to him. So I answered, "I've never been there but I bet the sunrises are even more beautiful then this." He was quiet for about 15 seconds, probably processing what I just said and then he quietly said, "are you afraid to go to heaven mom? Because I know that is where you will go when you get way to sick". I really was way to sick to even begin to talk about this with him but I think God was telling me not to walk away from this conversation. I looked out into the ocean because I was afraid to look in those deep blue green eyes of his and I said very strongly, "Of course not. I imagine it to be the most peaceful and wonderfulest place ever."
We sat for awhile and then he started talking again but in a happy way. It's hard to described the tone of the conversation but it was not sad at all. It was not funny or happy but I guess peaceful. We started talking about things like what would dad do if I was not here anymore. He asked me if I would want dad to remarry. Then he jokingly said, "he would need to get some new manners, because sometimes Mom.....Ugh." The conversation just flowed naturally and it was very easy. Finally he asked the question that I hope I never know the answer to, "mom, how long until?" Until.....I knew what he meant. I'll I could answer was, "hopefully not for a long time." We sat for awhile longer then I could hear his stomach making some muffin want noises. We gathered our shells and towels and off we went.
When we got home everyone else was still sleeping and I was exhausted. So I woke Mark up sent him to outside to watch Nolan in the pool and went back to bed. Unfortunately the rest of the day I was useless. Mark and my mother took the boys to the beach and I stayed in bed only to get awaken every hour or so with phone calls from them checking on me. By the time they got home I was up and somewhat able to function. I swam a few laps and made some dinner for everyone and back to bed I went. Although, for most people yesterday would of seemed like a day of no accomplishments but for me it was a day of great peace. Sure I did not spend every minute surfing, building castles, playing volleyball or even just watching my boys do all that, but the time I spent in deep conversation with one of my boys was more then I could ever ask for.
Later that evening, I told him about the morning with Nolan. Of course he must put some rationalization onto why he brought up the subject. He even went as far as to say that maybe he read yesterdays post and wanted to bring it up. I truly believe it was just the force of God. It was the perfect time and perfect place for a conversation that needed to happen. This is just another example of how faith will lead you to the right path.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Another misconception is that many people who have been diagnosed with Carcinoid Cancer can live a completely normal life. Normal....normal for who? Is it normal to be in pain all the time, have a doctor's appoint two to three times a week, or be stuck with needles and have poison through your veins once a week? Maybe everyone has tumors full of deadly hormones invading every organ of their body. Is it normal to have medical expanses that exceed more then what you make in one year because this cancer is so unknown several of the treatments are not FDA approved which means not covered by insurance? Is it normal to have to travel all over the world for unapproved treatments just to stay alive? Tell that to the family whose whole lives have been turned around and changed because of the horrific disease. Or sit done and explain that to an 11 year old boy when he has to keep asking his mom as they go for a walk on the beach, "are you ok still?". Or assure a 13 year old boy that you would be fine if Daddy remarried once I was dead because you don't want him to be sad and lonely. Tell that to the mom or dad that have this cancer when they are up all night worrying about their children's future without them.
What frustrates me the most is when I hear a doctor or "expert" say, "Many people live up to 5 years or more with this cancer. So relax." Say that to the many mothers, wives and husbands that have emailed me telling me that they lost their love one from Carcinoid Cancer several months after they were diagnosed. Tell that to me when I open those emails and have to find the words deep down to show how horrible I am feeling for them, only to see my mother or husband writing the same letter one day. How about telling someone who is on their fifth year with this cancer and they cannot get out of bed to, "relax this is a slow growing cancer". Tell that to woman who wrote the email below to me on Sunday. Give her some suggestions on how to tell her two boys that she is never going to get better:
I have been reading your blog for a long while now. I want to thank you for sharing your journey. I look forward to your updates and hearing about how you and your family are doing. The post about your son and the cross you gave him (than he gave back to you) just has me in a pool of tears, honestly it was the sweetest thing I have ever read. God bless you and your family.
I want you to know that I also have carcinoid and 2 boys, now ages 10 and 15. I struggle with what to tell them and how to be there for them and like you said "compartmentalize" the cancer part of me as much as possible. Live and struggle through the days and relate to very much of what you share and also a deep faith in God.
My 10 year old son, Nathan, came to me this weekend and asked me why I seemed so angry. (I have been having a lot of new pain - probably bone mets and have been very crabby at times). I told him it was because sometimes I feel angry that I am so sick and I want to feel better. He tried to show me some exercises I could do to get better. He knows I have cancer and that is why I am sick - but I had not really told him it was terminal cancer. I felt it was time to tell him a little more of the truth, so I explained that most all of the time people get sick and then get better. But sometimes, rarely, people get sick and don't get all better. I told him, in the most tender way I could, that I have been fighting this thing for 4 years, and I am still fighting, but that eventually I would get sicker and eventually I wouldn't be here anymore. He cried and cried and I held him, my own heart breaking along with his. I told him that I could take it, so please cry and let it all out. I told him that God has kept me here this long and that I am still getting my treatments, so we had today to enjoy and probably many, many more days.
After this weekend, I wanted to go to your blog, to find some comfort, to connect, and then I read your post about your situation and your son and the cross and it really touched me.
I am so glad that you are doing the things you love - and working your photography. Even though I know how miserable you must feel at times, it inspires me to hear how you are living through your journey with carcinoid.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Thank you again for keeping your blog - you are a blessing!
I know that the tone of my post today is not the "Sunny" tone you are all use to reading. I am not trying to be bitter or angry about being inflicted with this cancer. However, I want to express my frustration with all those "experts" and those who read an article on the Internet that now think they are "experts" who tell me and several hundreds other that this cancer is rare and not so bad. I want to be a voice for mothers like Andrea and others who are fighting everyday to stay alive. I want to speak out for those who wake up every morning have to face the day with a cancer that less then .25% of cancer research money is spent on researching a cure for our battle. But mostly I want you all to understand the pain those who have lost someone they love and need to Carcinoid Cancer. Please don't take my post today as anything but another way for me to fight this cancer. I need to clear up all the misconception before I can get on with my journey today.