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
Sunday, November 4, 2012
After weeks of increased swelling in her legs, and of fighting various different blood count issues, we were sitting on the couch Wednesday afternoon before the kids came home and the conversation steered around the last supper and communion. In fact she asked me to text our Pastor and ask him to come over on Thursday and share communion at the house. It strikes me now how either one can say it was incredibly ironic that this would be the subject of our last true heart to heart conversation at home or one could say it was reaffirming assurance that God's hand writes every chapter of our life and we just need to be faithful enough to read the directions he gives each of us in individually unique ways. Sunny had never asked for communion at home, but by asking for it, and although ultimately we never had the opportunity, but by asking for it, God was definitely preparing her heart and soul for the next 72 hours.
When we went got the call from her doctor at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon we had just had dinner dropped off, in fact Aunt Joan was still there....I was getting ready to drive Austen to an away hoop game, and Lisa was coming to sit with Sunny to keep her company, and to help get off the couch....etc...The doctor said her blood sugar was high, she needed to come , not a rush , before midnight, get some fluids, some insulin, and then could go home Thursday afternoon. It was stressful in a way, but this didn't seem like the beginning of the last short chapter of her life here on this earth. We didn't get to go home Thursday but her count had improved from 486 to 261 and we were almost there. After spending the night and day when I ran home to shower leaving her in the good hands of her sister Lynn, it was another hectic night at the Carney house. Grandma was in charge of helping our two younger boys make salsa for class, Lisa had dropped off the ingredients, we couldn't find the processor, garbage had to go out, the dog needed fed, just another typical frantic evening at home...it felt normal...Sunny called a couple of times to offer input and give advice, since this was her salsa recipe, and she had to make sure it was done right, so her kids wouldn't be disappointed. She was coming home on Friday they told us..and we told the boys.
After getting back around 8:30 on Thursday it was still pretty normal. Sunny was lucid, we got her up and walked around the floor and the hall for a bit...we talked about the about grades, about Austen's practice, about Nolan's guitar lesson that night, and Logan's salsa-making skills...We waited for a new mattress that was going to be changed at 10 that night per doctors orders...At eleven fifteen when the mattress was taken care of she put the nurse in his place when he complained about having to switch it and how they were shortstaffed so he hoped she liked it and wouldn't need it switched back....I will say in an aside that other than this one experience the care during this short chapter was remarkable...it went beyond anything that was expected....there was care given with smiles that 5 star hotels would be envious of...maybe this was Sunny's one last chance to share wisdom...about priorities...because this nurse got the "I've got weeks to go fighting before I die and you are worried about changing a mattress". In retrospect it was the final Sunny smackdown but it really had a message behind her words. Don't sweat the small stuff. Don't bitch about
things that aren't going to matter in the bigger scheme of things.
Things changed dramatically after midnight. Her counts doubled. Of course as she dozed off, in and out of it, I thought it was the meds. At 9:15 Friday morning as Dr. Friedland asked me to step out into the hall to speak, as tears formed in his eyes, as he started to tell me that things were progressing, as he hit me with have you and Sunny discussed living will? I think I did my best Gilligan impression and answered back to the Skipper, with hands up "Uh..so we aren't going home today? And then I am pretty sure my head did the Exorcist spin several times. We talked and he said he wanted to tell me this personally since he was off over the weekend. My head spun a few more times as I asked him "So it can't wait to Monday when we come in for her treatment? It finally sunk in. He shared how inpsired he had been watching Sunny fight and having the opportunity to help her over the past four years and how his own mother had passed away from cancer at 53...and we shared a moment. It was surreal. There was all of the buzz of the 7 Main floor around us, but I was oblivious. I went back in and before I started the phone and text chain to family and friends I sat and held her hand....stroking and sobbing, sharing words of encouragement and praying....she squeezed back and I think she was letting me know it would all be OK. I love her so much. And this is the hardest thing I ever put to paper but if I have to stop ten more times and come back I promise you Sunshine that I will finish this last short chapter for you.
She got one more ultrasound of the stomach to see if there was one last straw...a blockage...maybe the bilirubin was blocked and they could buy some more time...when she came back the room the love began to pour out. Sisters, in-laws, out-laws, nephews, Mom, friends from the old home in Greenfield and the new home in Plum...and most importantly...Austen, Logan, and Nolan. The 7th Floor Main Family Lounge, the hallway outside room 714, and the area by the elevators were filled with those who came not to pay respects, but to encourage, to talk with her through grips and nods, to cry to laugh and to pray. It was an unbelievable outpouring of love that I know meant a lot to me and I know Sunny was able to hear every word, feel every swab of water, soak in the skin lotion, and share in the love. Seeing my sons go in numerous times on their own, by themselves with their mom, having that chance to be with their mom as hard as it was for them to see her like that, having them return time after time to be by her side, it was hard, but they knew their mom was fighting, and listening....and they surely had to feel her love through the squeezes. Boys I am Damn proud of you. The gathering was a small crowd, her nurse said they had never seen anything like it....I said thats been said a lot about Sunny over the past ten years.
Everyone began to trickle out and by 1:00 as my parents and brother went to leave, her nurse said she was going to send the doctor in because they were having trouble keeping her pulse steady. I remember it was 60 over 32. Her breathing was laboring. Her heart was slowing. He explained me to that the
meds were not working to keep the pulse going. They were concerned she might be starting to have a lot of pain. They asked me what did Sunny and I decide was more important....continuing to try to pick up the pulse with no guarranty of results or focus on pain relief. When you discuss this stuff on a couch at home, or in a car on the way to a treatment, when you pray about together numerously it all seems so clear and easy. When you have to say "her wish was not to have to suffer at the end or to have anyone see her suffer" it sucks. Real life is a lot harder than dry rehearsals and hypotheticals. It was 1:30. Saturday morning. Just over 24 hours removed from watching her put the nurse in his place , standing on her two feet in the hall. I kept thinking how is this possible? What the hell was going on? This can't be real? This is way too fast and it must be a dream. Going back now to where I was able to hold her hand for the last two hours. My parents and brother stayed, giving me space and alone time by waiting out in the lounge. Thank you. Right before her sister Sheila arrived I was holding her hand talking about the boys and their love, telling her how proud I have been to accompany her on this incredible journey, how it was the like the band on the Titanic, when the one musician turns and says how it was an honor to have played with you tonight gentlemen...I told her how priviliged and honored I was that God gave me the chance to fight with her. I told her it was OK to stop fighting on our account...that heaven or Jesus was waiting...and she squeezed my hand as hard as it had been squeezed all day....and gave me a thumbs up. Those that say there is no God and those that may question why just have to realize that he is in charge...and that Sunny had been given the chance to have the closure she wanted for us. For her boys. That one gesture, the thumbs up around 3:00 showed me that she was there for it all, and was ready. And soon after she answered the call. Heaven's gain is this world's loss. Sunny I love you and I will hurt and miss you but I know you are no longer in pain....and I know how you lived and fought and even though the years before and after the dash may not be far apart, you lived more in 42 years than most will do in twice that amount of time. Thank you for being you. Thank you for raising our boys the way you did. Thank you for inspiring all of us who had knew you and loved you. Thank you for leaving those CONCRETE FOOTPRINTS behind.
Those footprints came through this morning when the boys ran the race for their mother this and
then spoke their thoughts to everyone. Their courage and strength is your legacy....your footprint...three of them...forged by the love their mother gave them....and molded by the inspiring way you lived each day. They are footsteps of not just concrete, but rebar enforced concrete. GOD walks with them. They will carry on the legacy and be a lasting testament to how you chose to life.
I love you. I love you. I love you. Thanks again for all of the wonderful memories and time spent together.