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.
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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, November 29, 2011
We have spent much time in pray over this decision and it seems that God is leading us to the Y90 treatment in Switzerland. Sometimes we pray and pray for something that we think is the right choice for us.....like the Houston treatment. But God seems to know what is best and leads us the other way. I am a bit worried that the travel for me now with my pain and weakness is going to be a bit rough. I was hoping to get the Houston treatment for that reason...closer to home and easier flights. But the cost is making it impossible at this time. So this is where true faith steps in. I have to believe that God will protect me and make the trip as easy as possible. I cannot let fear get in the way of staying alive.
Mark and I are leaving January 5th. I will enter the Basel hospital on Jan 9th to receive treatment. We are not sure of the return date but know that it will be ASAP. I have had much experience with this treatment and the severe side effects usually take about ten days to come into full force. So I would like to be home and not suck in a Swiss hotel when that happens. Not to mention the kids need us home. So as soon as I get the okay to come home I will be on the plane heading back to the beautiful city of Pittsburgh.
Of course this is always subject to change when God has His hand on things. The Houston treatment could become FDA approved and then my insurance will cover it. We could hit the lottery and be able to afford it. Or God could open other doors for us. Heck I could go for a scan and be completely cured. Nothing is impossible with Him. It has happen before. But as of now we are set to go over the pond and get that magic potion.
Please keep praying for me and my four boys. I'll keep fighting.
I also want to remind everyone of the Saturday book signing and spa treatment night at Bella Figura Spa from 6:30-9:00. I will be speaking and signing books. But the more exciting thing is several mini spa treatments available. To purchase tickets please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their will be food and wine and fun. I hope you can join us.
Bella Figura Spa address
608 Main Street
Pittsburgh, Pa (Sharpesburg)
Thursday, November 24, 2011
This is only the second year in the past twelve years that we were not in FL for Thanksgiving. So of course Mark, the boys and I were missing our swim in the ocean right before we feasted on the dinner....especially Mark. Tomorrow is his birthday and we always spend that day surfing and just loving the ocean. However, its been a rough few months and I did not think I could make the trip. Not to mention we are trying hard to save for my new treatment. I really regret it now. Never again will I let this cancer stop me from that trip. It is the one time of year that we are together with no interruptions. We go to the beach, the pool, the boys and their cousins have a turkey bowel football game, we eat, and then play games that night. Minimum TV stations and no Internet. Just the simple life of forcing three teenagers to spend time with their parents. Simple to us....not so much for them. Its been an empty feeling all day. But we are still just happy to be together.
Tomorrow is Mark's 41st Birthday. He's got the whole day planned in between basketball and soccer practice which he reminds me the boys would be missing if we were in FL. We are then going to do a big tail gate party with the Back-yard brawl....Pitt and WV. I pulled all the boys aside yesterday and told them that there is to be no plans made for their busy social lives and no mention of what they will be missing tomorrow. Its dad's day and nothing else. Truly its kinda of dad's week. He really does milk the whole birthday to a birthweek. But he does deserve it.
As I said Thanksgiving is a day that people like me don't need. We don't need a day to remember all the blessing we have, we see them right in front of us everyday. When you are fighting to stay alive every little thing seems to be huge. Every well wish, act of kindness, beautiful flower or sunset, every hug that is given to you, every tear that is shed for you and every pray that is said I appreciate. When I have a day like today and I can get out of bed and control my pain, go to Grandma's for dinner, sit with a nephew and reminisce, get a hug from a brother, or have a son tell you that you look good I have moments that you know you must be thankful for. When you arrive at dinner and everyone is happy you made it. When you see your children's smiling faces and having a good time with their family. When a niece tells you her Christmas list. It's again "THE GOOD IN CANCER". So yes Thanksgiving is an important day to count your blessing and have somethings to say when its your turn at the dinner table. But for me everyday is Thanksgiving because I am so thankful for every little thing.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
As I said I reached out to all my friends and family asking them to support me on November 10th and wear black and white or even better zebra print for the day. I also told them to make sure they tell everyone why they are dressed that way and explain to them what carcinoid cancer is. Once again I should not be surprised, but I was, the out pour of love for me was amazing. I am still in awe and drying the tears from my eyes at the number of people who stepped up to the plate for me again. My phone was going crazy all day with text messages of photos of people in their black and white, zebra prints or my "Sunny Team" tshirts. My facebook friends changed their profile pictures to the black and white carcinoid ribbon in my honor. I had even had a few people have their place of work participate in the awareness day too. All of them sending me photos. My eight year old niece brought my book into her classroom and while dressed in her "Sunny Team" shirt told her whole class about me and carcinoid cancer. I had Sunny Carcinoid Supporters all over the US and even one in Switzerland. The bartender at the hotel I stayed at when I got my treatments sent me a email telling me he wore his wife's zebra head band for me. The zebras were galloping around in California, New York, Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Maine, Nevada, Hawaii, St. Thomas and of course Pennsylvania (I hope I didn't miss anywhere) raising the awareness for NET cancer in my honor. I know I have said this over and over again, I hope no one ever gets sick of hearing it, but days like these are why I fight so damn hard. How could I ever give up when all those that love me are never giving up on "loving me through" this cancer?
Again I am reaching out to say thank you. Thank you for being part of my battle. I was speaking at my last book signing and I said, "when you are diagnosed with cancer everyone who loves you is diagnosed too". I did not realize that when I was first diagnosed; I thought I could fight it all on my own. I was tough and I did not need to bother anyone with my battle. I would go around faking that I was fine and I was handling this cancer war all by myself. I am not sure how long I went on like but I believe it was the words of Pastor Frank that kinda planted that seed that I need to accept help. In one of our conversation I told him that I was feeling so uncomfortable with all the donations, meals and offers to help me. He looked at me straight in my face and said, "if you don't let others in your life right now you are denying them the opportunity to be blessed". Well being that I have this huge fear of hurting any one's feelings I started to let others join my cancer battle team. Even though many tell me that they are blessed to be helping me I know that I could never of got this far without each one of you cheering me on. Thank you!!!!
I have made some huge decisions on my treatment plan this week and after I get all the "T's" crossed and "I's" dotted I will fill everyone in. I am asking for more prayer that Mark and I are heading in the right path and that all the finances line up so we can take a big leap in some experimental treatments. My mind is spinning and time is running out so we need to wrap this all up. Another thing I have learned in the past few years of my journey is that nothing I have been through I have done alone. Yes I have a great support group which gets bigger and bigger every minute but God is right there always. Prayer is what leads me to the answers....not just my little prays but all those who pray for me. God hears you. So please in the next few days pray that all the decisions we make are made because God lead us to them and that they become possible.
Just a few of many pictures I got.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I have to say I have been on an absolute kite since then. I feel like when people talk about my book they are talking about someone else......it can't be me. I have had three book signing and I am schedule for four more in the next month. I even turned a few down because the timing with my boys schedules don't mesh. The reaction I have had has been so humbling. I have met they most amazing people in the last few weeks and heard so many heroic cancer battles. This is the pick me up that I really needed. God knows just when to throw me a bone to show me life is worth fighting for.
On Saturday and Sunday, October 29th and October 30th, I was asked to speak at Unity Community Church, where I am a member, during service and then do a book signing. I have to say those two days changed my life. The togetherness and spiritual uplift in the service, especially Sunday's 11 service, was indescribable. I could feel the love all through me. Although, I was there to tell my story and how I chose to turn my battle over to God I was the one that was touched again. I can not tell you the out pour of love I got those two days and continue to get everyday. Then when my good friend and cancer prayer warrior Roza Kline sang our song, well Martina's song, "I'm going to love your through it" there was not a dry eye in our packed church. I just feel so special and I don't deserve all this attention. I have to give all the glory to God. I am not a writer by training and never set out to write a book.....it all just happen. I am not sure how it all came about but I have to express that God was holding my hand through every click of the keyboard.
The sales have been great, but the words and kindness towards the book is the most wonderful thing ever. I am not boosting in any way I just want to express what the words of encouragement and kindness regarding my heart on paper has done for me. I love all of you for pumping me up and for loving my story. Below is some of the feedback I have gotten (I excluded all names for privacy reasons):
thanks for writing this book. I started reading it today on my lunch break but had to close it up because the tears started flowing and my makeup was running down my face. So on the way home while sitting on the "T" I put my sunglasses on and continued. I can't put it down. Just so moving and touching. It's really changing my outlook on all my problems.
Finished you book in 2 days. WOW!!!! I never knew.
I wanted to let you know that I read your book and it was amazing, as are you. You are truly an inspiration to many, whether you know it of not. Your children and your husband are blessed to have you.
My mom also ordered it and is making my Dad read it. He was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at the base of his tongue. He finished the treatments and his first PET scan was good. Second one was not good but they think it was just ulcers. He still feels crappy but the tests are good. He has been feeling down lately so she wanted him to get some perspective and we are hoping your book will help.
Keep fighting the good fight, you have so many people praying for you and pulling for you.
My name is xxxxx and I have met you twice through amutual good friend of ours, xxxx. xxxx actually bought me a copy of your book and dropped it off to me last Saturday. I have known through the years the different fundraisers that were done on your behalf and Iknew your story through xxxx and xxxx, or should I say, I thought I knew your story.
I picked up your book on Saturday at 3:30 and didn’t put it down until midnight (except to eat dinner). Your book…………..I can’t even find the words to describe what I want to say. I can only tell you how I felt while reading your book, it made me feel like I want to be a better person and appreciate every moment I have here on earth. I want to spend every second enjoying life without complaining about work, finances,and the little things that I can’t even remember. As I was reading yourbook, I would text xxxx different pages and your message for that blog or a quote that you had and it was just like I couldn’t get enough.
I don’t know how to describe you, I was trying to explain you and your story to a few people and I couldn’t put into words,the best I could come up with is that you were sent here as one of God’sspecial Angels to spread your infectious love and message of strength and happiness. You are truly such a special and brave person.
Your book sends a message of how to live and enjoy life andyour blogs and your message is relatable for everyday life and everyday problems. I know that writing your blog was therapeutic to you but inturn, your book is therapy for everyone who reads it. Now that I havefinished your book, I will go ahead and study it again and make sure that I “dog-ear”certain pages and highlight certain quotes and messages.
My family and I also spent a great part of my kids childhood vacationing in Vero Beach and driving there every year together and when you were talking about your drives to/from Florida, I could totally relate to so many of the things you wrote about. I, too, always loved those long road trips because it was a great bonding time for our family….20 hours togetherand no one could leave the room, we had to be together talking, listening tothe same music and looking at nature’s beauty as we drove.
Sunny, you are truly an inspiration and you have inspired me to be a better person and love my life and those in it. I am so thankfulthat Lisa thought of me and bought me a copy of your book. I will beforever grateful to her for that.
Thank you for teaching me about life and also making me appreciate everything. I will keep you and your family in my prayers and I will make sure to get involved with your fundraisers, I’ll make surethat xxxx keeps me posted.
Got you book in the mail today and read the first five chapters before bed. I am so moved. Can't wait to read more tomorrow.
Just finished your book. As a carcinoid fighter thank you!!! You put the whole battle in perspective. I can't give up.
I just finished my last round of chemo today!!!! I feel like giving up but if you can do it then I can do it. Thanks and hugs.
Once again I am not writing this to be boastful in any way at all. In fact I am quite humbled. I just want to let all those that reached out to me that it means so much to me. Thank you for being with me through this fight and loving me through it.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Another one of my carcinoid posse has passed and this one has hit me hard. Kathy Pelkey had lost her battle on October 30th. Kathy and I met in Switzerland when we were the only two Americans there receiving the experimental PRRT treatment. We were actually roommates. I think God put her there to help me get through two very rough nights. When I arrived first at the hospital the nurse that checked me in said that they only have one room that is not a single room and I am lucky enough to get it. I remember looking at Mark with a bit frustration because I felt a little cheated that I was paying all this money and now I have to share a tiny European room with another very ill patient. I believe I made a comment about hoping they speak English and the nurse came back with, "you and her are the only Americans so we thought you can help each other". Mark was relieved that I would have someone in the room with me since they kicked him out before noon that day.
When Kathy and her husband came into the room to check in just about an hour after me I felt such a sense of peace. She had children just a little bit younger then me and I felt like she was my mom. Mark and her husband got along really good too. After the men left, I went to get the magic drug first and I remember her giving me a wink as I walked out the door. Her knowing exactly the anxiety I was trying to hide because she was trying to her anxiety too. When I got back to the room she had already went to the dungeon to get her expensive life saver. After about an hour we were both sitting in the room bored out of our mind. We played cards, ate together and we talked a lot. There was no curtain or anything to separate our beds...just night stands. We each had our own television however the room was so small we kinda had to watch the same channel, but there was only two American speaking stations so that didn't matter. I believe we watch some "I love Lucie" reruns and I remember he laughing so happily. We talked about our children and her grandchildren. I could tell she was a complete hands on mom. She talked with such pride about them. When her husband came in to visit you could just see the love in his eyes. I remember him saying that he would do anything to save her.
The first night was really hard for me. I was in a lot of pain and really sick to my stomach. Kathy did not have as many tumors as I so she took the treatment much better then I did. I felt horrible because I was so sick I kept her up all night. She did not seem to care at all, she actually was helping me. She comb my hair because it was getting in my face when I would get sick. She even sat in the chair close to my bed for awhile to help me with the bucket when I needed it. Truly just an angel. However all of that is not what I admired most about Kathy. The first night of our stay after we talked for hours Kathy asked me if I was a Christian. I then reached in my bag and pulled out my Bible. She opened the draw of the night stand and pulled out her Bible too.
At that time we talked about our favorite scriptures and she told me about things that had happen to her in life that where amazing miracles. It was not one of those highly "Bible pumping" talks that can make you nervous; it was just a natural talk. It was such a nice time that we spent together across the ocean saving our lives. Kathy was from Minnesota so she had that cute accent and it was fun to listen to her speak. She guessed that Mark and I were from New York because she said we talked to fast she couldn't keep up. When I told her from Pittsburgh she talked about the Steelers. It was like having my mom right next to me. My Pastor always says, "you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has something He wants to do in you, or through you, where you are."
I believe Kathy was my roommate for a reason. I grew up in a very large family and had to share a room for a long time.....even three to four in a room. So I am a bit selfish about my space as an adult. Poor Mark only gets a little space in our California King size bed. However, I am glad that God infringed on my comfort zone. I kept in touch with Kathy for awhile, then it we lost touch. So we I heard the news from her daughter that she had passed I felt a little bad that I lost contact. I do know that her because of her faith and the example that she showed me she is in a more glorious place that we can ever imagine.
Next post I promise will be the joy I felt this weekend.