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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I am so happy to report I am back from Switzerland.  We arrived home late Saturday night to be greeted by my mom, a spotless home and three of the most amazing man-childs ever.  That is my nickname for my big teenage boys.  The four of them and our crazy beagle greeted me with the biggest smiles ever.  My mom said the boys where wonderful and her time with them was wonderful.  "They were great and so funny.  I had no problems at all", she kept saying over and over.  I can't say, even if it wasn't true, how good it is for a mother to hear that about her boys.  Especially with what my three have been going through recently.  However, I tell them all the time that my cancer and our struggles are not an excuse to complain or not do your best.  It's a cop out to let your bad times pull you down. If you use them as a reason why you can't accomplish something then you are a failure.  Sounds a bit harsh but it is truly how I want my boys to live their lives. I tell them, as I put my hand on my chest and go through the pull motion (I know this because we just had this conversation last night about it), these are the times you reach deep down inside you and pull out all you got left.  When you finally learn to do that then you see exactly what your made of.  Nobody can take that fight away from you.  Each adversity it gets easier and easier.  If my boys use my cancer as a reason for them not to be their best then anything in life would pull them down.  Life is full of obstacles that you can find as reasons why you can't accomplish things.  Why let those hurdles be your excuse.  Instead let them be your fuel.  I recently read a story about a 22 year old man that lost his hands and legs from the knees down in Iraq by a road side bomb.  Before he went to war to save our freedom he loved to  climb the West Virgina Mountains with his girl.  He had never been anywhere else in the US let alone the world. He had made a deal with his fiancee that when he got back they were going to climb MT. McKinley.  So of course the doctors told him that would be impossible after his injuries. He got so angry with the whole war and the bombers that he used that to fuel to work hard and only six mouths after was with his now wife climbing.  No Excuses!!!!

I am happy to report the flight on the way home was uneventful.  Of course I was really sick and in some pain but we were able to fight through it.  The airlines changed our tickets and gave us a whole four seater row. Of course I tried to talk them into an upgrade to a least business class but I guess a 90 lbs cancer mother from Pittsburgh is not worth the upgrade and when they told us they would be happy to for $3000 a ticket I almost lost my breakfast again.  We were three rows back from First class and perfect.  I was able to stretch out and when I did get sick to my stomach no one was able to hear or see me much.  Mark was wonderful.  Truly great.  He held the bag for me to upchuck in and covered me up with a towel so not many saw.  We joked about it that he learned how do this in college when I would party a little too hard.  I never like anyone see me look gross.  Actually, that is how I felt, like I had one of those old college hangovers.  The ones I tell my teenagers you get EVERYTIME you drink when your body is not mature enough to handle it.  I think it's kept them away so far because they can't bear to see me sick so the fear of them feeling that way has detored them thus far....I think.  Mark carried everything through all of our layovers we had.  For some reason on each one we landed at the A termanal and took off at the X and Z termanal.  I honestly could not make that up.  In Germany we asked ahead of time for a wheelchair but I'm guessing they call them something else over there because when we got off the plane there was no wheelchair.  Mark said I probably would not of let them push me anyways.  So we trucked our butts through customs and to termanal X and he carried everything.  At one point he even wanted me to get on his back, of course he was joking. 

As we were sitting on the long 9 hour flight from Germany to Philly. I got really sick.  I started sweating and vomiting.  He was just wonderful.  He helped me through it all.  At one point he just held me and prayed.  The plane was full of people but I don't think we even noticed.  Of course most were sleeping and it was dark.  When I finally got settled I started thinking that this is so not what we had planned for our lives that hot July day 17 yrs ago when we said I do.  We had so many goals and dreams.  We were so young and vain.  Both with successful starts of our career. We were carefree and somewhat independent of each other.  We were in love and close but not that couple that always had to be together kissing and hugging.  We had faith and prayed together but nothing like we have now.  I know he loved me then but when he looked at me he saw beauty.  That is what his first attraction was to looks. Not my heart, my fight, or anything else.  As I was sitting there I thought how unfair it is for him now.  He thought he was getting this beautiful, high spirit wife and now he is sitting next a fragile terminally ill wife.  He didn't want to be holding a puke bag or flying half way across the world to see her cry in pain. I'm sure he did not want to work his butt off to only have his vacation be a trip to Switzerland sitting in a hospital watching his wife be stuck and pricked.  He never thought he would be the one taking care of me.  I have to admit the first years of our marriage I thought he was quite lucky to have me.  It sounds conceded now but I was pretty strong and confident that he got a great catch. 

As I was thinking I guess a tear ran down my face.  He saw it and wiped it.  He then gave me a thumbs up and mouthed, "you can do it, last big hurdle".  I shook my head yes and then told him what I was thinking.  He looked at me so funny.  He then explained to me that the times he spends with me fighting this nasty devil is so special to him.  He told me I taught him so much about life that he would of never learned or experienced if I did not marry him.  I could not believe what he was saying.  He said he would never changed one minute except make it all go away now.  Mark and I have had many struggles besides cancer in our marriage.  Of course every marriage has difficulties.  We were raised very differently and those differences came to head many times over the years.  Mark has always been very social and loves a great party.  I was raised with many brothers and sisters so my parties were with my family.  We had several differences on raising the boys.  Mine being they are to always be best friends, respect each other, and the boys were to put their brothers first before any friend.  Mark disagreed with me about alot of the family togetherness and the emphasis I put on the three muskenteers. Mark has a small family. Mark worked 12 hour days and then was very social with clients at night.  I was more about being together and material things were not as important as being with each.  We are both very driven however many times what drove us was not the same thing.  So putting the cancer aside we had other issues to overcome too.

As we started talking it hit me that even though we may seem to sometimes want to just choke each other there is no way we could do this without each other.  The bond a couple gets while battling the cancer beast is something that seems impossible to break. The way we were raised or family values are not important when you only have each other. I remember when we were told about this last diagnosis and that it was defiantly terminal.  I went home and started doing research and remember reading that 75% of marriages break up when a family has been stricken with cancer.  The number did not even shock me at the time because we had been through this once before and I knew it was a rough emotional road for a marriage. I showed the report to Mark and he pooed it off but immediately made an appointment with our pastor.  That's when it occurred to both of us I think, though we never talked about it, that we needed to let God control the marriage.  Trust me its not been easy.  We have struggled at times and we both can be selfish at times.  Of course him more then me, just joking.  But even when things seem hopeless with us we somehow get it back together.  I know it's because God is part of it all.  On Sunday I was hiding in my room sick, not wanting the boys or my mom seeing me, and Mark came in to check on me.  He sat next to me and kept saying it'll pass Sun.....I promise this will pass.  I said to him that he has really has seen me at my worse more then I have seen me. I asked him if he ever wants someone else to take over for a bit so he can get a break.  He said, "I will never let you go to Switzerland with anyone else because I would feel so disconnected to you right now.  I would never understand what you are going through if I wasn't right there with you. Not to mention you are the ying to my yang". I laughed and told him never to say the ying yang thing again....sounds nerdy.  I then got what he was saying. 

So as much as we drive each other crazy.  I have to say Mark can drive many people crazy with his aggressive, loud and obsessive personality.  I of course am perfect but need to say I probably get on his nerves too being so perfect.....of course joking.  We have been through so much together that many marriage don't go through in 50 years.  I do sometimes wish we could go back to the July day and smack us both but I feel really blessed we are so far beatting the statistics.  Those that are close to us and are reading this are probably shaking there heads.  It's not a secret that Mark and I are polar opposites and both very stubborn.  But I think they would also know that there is so much love there too.  It's not a love of beauty or pipe dreams anymore.  Its a love of perseverance and strength.  So much more.  When we are celebrating our 50th anniversary we will probably argue about what to wear to the party and how much time HE is taking to get out the door.  We will probably do the same annoying ticks that drive each other crazy. But we will be so much more in love then we are right now.  I am looking forward to that.  I guess what I am trying to say is no realationship is perfect but the struggles we go through are so important.  If we let God in you can get through it all.

I started this post Monday morning and just finished it at 8 am Tuesday.  So I guess its been a little bit of a struggle since I've been back.  Please keep praying that I start to keep food down and the pain lessens. 

Thanks for following us last week.  Mostly thanks for loving me through this battle.