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Fundraising efforts continue for Plum resident with cancer

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Sunny Carney, pictured with her husband, Mark, continues to fight carcinoid cancer as well as raise awareness of the rare disease. Carney has tumors in her liver, bones, gall bladder and lungs and faces continued treatments at home and abroad. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Plum Advance Leader

Carol Dugas-Zoller will never forget the heart-wrenching feeling she had the day she found out her childhood friend had cancer throughout her body.

Sunny Carney of Plum called Dugas-Zoller to tell her she had been diagnosed with carcinoid cancer, a slow-growing cancer that can spread to several parts of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“It was devastating,” said Dugas-Zoller, 43, of Jefferson Hills. “We went to grade school and high school together and stayed in touch. We've been in each other's weddings and been through marriage and children.”

The two women grew up together in Greenfield.

Dugas-Zoller has participated in many fundraisers for Carney since Carney's 2008 diagnosis.

Recently Dugas-Zoller decided to take the lead and help organize a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Carney, a wife and mother of three sons.

“The outpouring (for the dinner) brings me to tears,” Dugas-Zoller said.

Carney was diagnosed in 2008 with carcinoid cancer.

More than 90 percent of all carcinoid cases are incorrectly diagnosed and treated for the wrong disease, according to the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation. More than 11,000 cases are diagnosed each year.

Carney said four years ago she was one of five patients being treated for carcinoid cancer at the Hillman Cancer Center in Oakland. Carney said today she is one of hundreds undergoing treatment, in part, because of more awareness and better efforts at diagnosis.

Carney believes her first bout with ovarian cancer more than a decade ago and her second bout with lung cancer several years ago were both carcinoid cancer.

Today, Carney has tumors in her liver, bones, gall bladder and lungs.

Carney continues to battle the disease, and medical expenses continue to mount. She returned to Switzerland in January for another round of treatment aimed at shrinking the tumors. Each treatment costs about $30,000.

“It was very rough this time,” Carney said.

A scan scheduled for October will reveal if the treatment managed to shrink any of the tumors.

Carney also has a new physician and a new chemotherapy combination.

Dr. Eric H. Liu, assistant professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., has prescribed a course of chemotherapy that consists of injections, intravenous medicine and a pill. The Carneys pay $7,600 a month for the drug regimen.

Carney also has undergone radiation in an attempt to shrink the tumors in her bones.

The powerful chemotherapy drugs lowered her blood counts resulting in Carney contracting shingles, a painful rash due to the virus that causes chickenpox, about a month ago. She also has lost about 30 pounds.

“This pain on top of the cancer pain put me over the edge,” Carney said.

The shingles complication has delayed Carney's chemotherapy treatments until her immune system is boosted.

Carney said she continues to be amazed by the support she receives from the community.

“I have an amazing family and friends,” Carney said. “I feel blessed. I wake up every day and see my kids. It's hard, but it is OK.”

Dugas-Zoller said Carney's three sons, Austen, 15; Logan, 14' and Nolan, 14 have been her “driving force.”

“She is a mother above and beyond everything else,” Dugas-Zoller said. “That comes first. She is an extraordinary person.”

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