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Mom's courage never waned in cancer battle

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Sunny Carney was determined to leave behind “concrete footprints.”

Inspired by the poem “Footprints in the Sand,” and knowing cancer would cut her life short, she set out to leave a deeper and more permanent impression than what she saw on beaches during family vacations to Vero Beach, Fla.

And she did, said her friends and family.

“She was an inspiration to everybody in our town,” said family friend Lisa Lagnese of Plum. “She is the strongest person I ever met in my life.”

Alicia “Sunny” Jennings Carney of Plum died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, after a 10-year fight with carcinoid cancer. She was 42.

In 2004, Mrs. Carney was diagnosed with the rare endocrine disease, which spreads from organ to organ. Relatives said she likely had suffered the first effects of the cancer more than a decade ago, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

She underwent three successful treatments in Switzerland to shrink tumors found in her liver, skull, spine, hips, legs shoulder, ovary and gallbladder.

The Carney family was one of the beneficiaries of the fourth annual Miles of Smiles 5K walk/run event on Sunday at Boyce Park ski lodge. The fundraiser, which began as Miles of Smiles for Sunny, was founded to help Mrs. Carney pay for expensive cancer treatments.

Her illness got progressively worse over the summer. In the past few weeks, “she started preparing, getting her ducks in row so to speak, with a lot more strength than I would,” said her husband, Mark Carney.

“She went out Christmas shopping and got the boys the things she wanted to get in case she wasn't able to be there,” he said.

Mrs. Carney was a stay-at-home mom who passionately pursued anything she could do with her kids.

She was PTA president, made their Halloween costumes, took a cake-baking class so she could make their birthday cakes and involved them in her home-based wedding and family photographer business, her husband said.

“She did everything to the extreme in the positive sense,” he said.

But she also inspired carcinoid cancer patients across the globe through her weblog and then her book “The ‘Sunny' Side of Cancer.” She spoke at numerous cancer events locally.

In a tribute, Mark Carney posted an account of his wife's final 24 hours on his wife's blog on Sunday.

“I know how you lived and fought… you lived more in 42 years than most will do in twice that amount of time,” he wrote.

“No matter how many years you have on either side of the dash (between your birthday and death),” he said in an interview, “it's what's you do with the dash that counts.”

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Carney is survived by her children, Austen, Logan and Nolan; mother, Patricia Jennings; sisters Judy Phillips, Lynn Pesta and Sheila Fortes; and brothers Michael Jennings, James Jennings and Joseph Jennings.

She was preceded in death by her father, James Jennings.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Unity Community Church, 215 Unity Center Road, in Plum. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the church.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Charles W. Trenz Funeral Home.

The family has asked that memorials be in the form of contributions to the Carney Family Fund, c/o S&T Bank, 2190 Hulton Road, Verona, PA 15147.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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