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

Saturday, March 24, 2012

He gets knocked down and gets up again

Throughout my blog and in my book I talk a lot about perseverance.  I have learned through this long cancer battle how to persevere through many hurdles this cancer brings.  From the day I was diagnosed, the horrible chemo-embolizations, many experimental treatments, several surgeries, hip surgery, femur replacement and learning how to walk again, continuous pain, treatments that caused nasty side effects and did not work, huge financial burdens, and even several trips to Switzerland for difficult treatments I have tried my best not to give up and keep climbing the mountain.  My faith has most of the time stayed pretty strong which gives me hope. I read every chapter in the Bible that speaks of perseverance and several books on how to keep going when the going gets tough.  I have asked the Lord to help me get through my rough times and have seen those prays answered.  I do believe that there is better days ahead so I keep on fighting until that cure is found.   I thought that I knew what it meant to keep on going no matter how many times I fall.  Never did I think I could learn the real meaning of perseverance through the life of my 15 year old son Austen.

Yesterday I watch my son play his first baseball game in 17 months, since his first surgery on his knee.  April of 2011 Austen injured his ACL, MCL, meniscus and PCL of the right knee playing an AEU basketball game.  He had reconstructive surgery a few weeks after the injury.  He had 9 months of physical therapy just in time to start playing again in the middle of the basketball season. However he had missed the whole summer season of baseball, his true love.  A week into basketball season he had his jaw dislocated.  After two weeks of chiropractic work and rest he was back on the court only to injure his left knee the first game back.  Thanks to much prayer the left knee was just a bad sprain of the MCL.  Again going through physical therapy for five more weeks.  I have to say I truly thought this would crush him emotionally. 

I think back to a few days after his first surgery and the  pain he was going through.  I was helping him put his brace on, he look so sad and discouraged.  I told him that this is just temporary and he would back to sports sooner then he could remember the pain.  He said that he knew that, but he said it without convection.  I really don't think he actually believed it then. We started talking about what he had to do to get back on the court or field.  I could tell he felt defeated and scared.  He had so much time on his hands without sports.  I told him that this could be the most important time of his life.  This is when he will learn what he is made off....yes physically, but mentally mostly.  Of course like moms are suppose to do I hyped him up and told him he could do it all.  However I don't think our conversation impacted him until I told him he was tough.  He said, "I'm not as tough as you, mom. I hope I can do what you do."  I laughed because I can't even open a pickle jar.....I am a weakling now....he thinks this is tough well this should be easy then.  I said, "Are you kidding me, your have always been tough. I look at you for help".  I explained to him that the times when I am losing my strength I just close my eyes and imagine the goal.  I then told him that I really pray a lot and then my fears go away.  I don't know what I said that changed him that day but the switch was on.  Austen has never been afraid of anything.  I call him my extremist because everything he does he does to the extreme.....both good and bad. Ever since he could walk he would try anything.  He would never quit trying at something either.  If it was learning to write his name or making the small basketball in the big boys hoop.  I remember him at 3 years old going to a the basketball court at the park across the street from our first home and shooting and shooting.  The ball never getting more then 6 feet from the ground.  He would just say over and over again, "one more try, one more try".   He thinks he not as tough as his little mom.  He is crazy. 

After that talk which continued on for a while I saw the real Austen emerge.  He worked so hard to get back to his old sports self.  He went to physically therapy 3 to 4 times a week all summer and fall.  When his friends were at the swimming pool or summer barn fires, Austen was either at the gym or at physical therapy.  He would come home and do more work for an hour or two in his room.  School started and homework kicked in.  When he wasn't studying he was rehabbing.  He was so determined to be in the best shape he could be as fast as possible.  After all his hard work he was so excited to go back to the surgeon to get the okay to go back to sports just before basketball tryouts.  But when the surgeon XRayed him he told Austen he needed six more weeks of rehab.  The surgery was more then most he does and the muscles around the knee were just not strong enough to hold up for basketball.  I was crashed for him. I think I cried harder that night then I did after my last scan reports when they told me my liver tumors were growing faster.  He did not shed a tear. He was not discourage at all. In fact he had that Austen determination in his eyes again.  That look I see in him when he losing a game he wants to win.  He worked even harder and harder those six weeks.  Mark and I went to Switzerland for my treatments and Austen just kept on working.  The week we got back Austen started back to basketball finally. 

After two practice I got a call from him that he needed me to come get him in the trainers office.  Of course I was praying that it was not his knee. You would think all that I have been through I would learn to not panic of a knee injury.  It's not life threatening.  It's his knee....but to him its his love of sports.  I just thought that another injury would really break him.  When I got there he looked like he did a few rounds with Tyson.  He had gotten knocked in the jaw going for a rebound and is was dislocated.  Another two weeks out.  He took it with such a great attitude.  He didn't complain or feel sorry for himself in the least. He did what he had to do to get back and in two weeks he was back.
Of course his toughness was not done being tested, first game back Austen drove for the ball and pop.  I was sitting at the top of the bleachers and his scream echoed through my heart.  He went down and was holding his other knee.  Honestly, I felt sicker to my stomach then any amount of chemo could do for me.  After MRI the news was not so bad.... sprained MCL and 6 weeks of rehab.  Austen took it like a man and back at it he went.  Worked hard and did everything and more to get strong again.  Never a complained, a "why me" or even a crap this happened....he just plugged along.  Went to every physical therapy, gym work and every basketball practice and game to cheer his team on.  Just like he did for baseball the summer of the surgery. 

Through his whole recovery I had learned so much about my son and about me.  I learned that he has true faith in the Lord.  Many times I prayed with him and many times he would pray himself. I don't lecture a lot about praying.  I tell them to pray or ask if they want to pray with me but I don't want to turn them off. I think its important for them to SEE me have faith not me TELL them to have faith.  My actions of pray and faith is what they need. They don't need me nagging at them to have a relationship with God.  Nor do they need me always quoting the Bible. They need me to show them how to live like a Christian so that they know how to live that way too.  I see that I never needed to lecture Austen about God because he got it and turned to Him during his rough time.   I learned that he is the toughest teen I have every come across.  Mostly I have learned that nothing is going to knock him down.  He has hope and dreams that no injury will hold him back from.  He showed me that he is truly a man.  One that I can say knows how to reach deep down and pull out the best.  Through all those months of rehab never once did Austen say the words, "I CAN'T".  I don't think he ever thought those words either. 

He showed me that perseverance is to have commitment to overcome adversity.  To have perseverance you must know how to work hard and endure pain.  He should me how to bear difficulties calmly, with patience and without complaints.  Of all the days of physical therapy or gym time he never once did not want to go.  He even missed a vacation because he did not want to miss his work outs.  I have to say I really learned from him. We even did therapy together.  I was learning how to strengthen my new leg.  I tried to challenge him and he would laugh at me.  He really was my rock through that time.  I would see him watching me out of the corner of his eye to make sure I was OK.  He would ask me for a thumbs up across the room and of course would pretend that I was great.  We would chat on our way to and from in the car.  He would talk to me as long as I let him listen to his music which I have to admit I kinda learned to like.  But he never quit and would never let me quit.

So when I sat at his first High School baseball game I sat with one eye closed every play he made and every hit he had.  When he ran the bases I held my breath until he made it to the next base.  But I have to say I sat and watched with such pride.  Yes he had a great game but that was not what my pride was about.  My pride was that he played like he never missed a step.  After the game, for the first time in 17 months I saw that Austen smile and wink.  He of course has smiled through his injury but it was not the same one.  There was something missing.  Well when he ran off the field after the third out he looked over a me and there it was.  The wink and smile that said, "I'm Back Mom".  I held back the tears until I got home and said my prays of thanks. 

I want to be humble about my son but I also want to express what I have learned from him.  I guess I expected him to succeed after the first surgery but he kept getting knocked down time after time.....he kept getting back up.  I could say that my cancer battle taught him how to fight back from this injury, but I know that this time cancer had nothing to do with it.  It is his inner soul that got him back on that field. His self assurance that he could do it.  Mostly though, it was his FAITH in God and his continue prays that gave him the hope.  It's hard to look at our children for knowledge.  As a mom I want to think that everything they have become is because of me.  But this time I know deep down that what I have become is because of him. 

Pleases pray that Austen stays healthy all season. 

With Pride,


When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
~Author Unknown