Personal Story: Finding My ‘Sunnyside’

A+picture+of+my+brothers%2C+my+mom%2C+and+myself.+My+mother+was+the+most+inspirational+person+I+ever+met%2C+and+this+moment+around+the+Winter+Classic+at+the+ice+skating+rink+is+one+of+many+great+memories+spent+with+her.
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Personal Story: Finding My ‘Sunnyside’

A picture of my brothers, my mom, and myself. My mother was the most inspirational person I ever met, and this moment around the Winter Classic at the ice skating rink is one of many great memories spent with her.

A picture of my brothers, my mom, and myself. My mother was the most inspirational person I ever met, and this moment around the Winter Classic at the ice skating rink is one of many great memories spent with her.

A picture of my brothers, my mom, and myself. My mother was the most inspirational person I ever met, and this moment around the Winter Classic at the ice skating rink is one of many great memories spent with her.

A picture of my brothers, my mom, and myself. My mother was the most inspirational person I ever met, and this moment around the Winter Classic at the ice skating rink is one of many great memories spent with her.

Logan Carney, Digital Content Director

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Editor’s Note: “Personal Story” is a new series from RMU Sentry Media in which a RMU student or Sentry staff member will share their own experience in the style that they want. If you are interested in writing a personal story, please email Digital Content Director Logan Carney at [email protected].

MOON TOWNSHIP — My mother always used to say when one person gets diagnosed with cancer, then everyone around them is also diagnosed with cancer. Fighting the disease is a team effort and not something that can be defeated without a support system in place.

While I was growing up, these “Sunnyisms” as I like to call them, never really registered in my mind. Things like “everyone has a cancer” or “look at the Sunnyside of cancer” were just things that I heard and said, not things that I fully understood.

Cancer was normal to me. Watching my mom fight for her life, for her children, was normal. I was too young to fully understand the seriousness of the disease or fully appreciate everything that she was doing for my brothers and I. It was so normalized in my eyes that I joked about the disease, which is something that disgusts me everyday since she passed. I had accepted the fact that she was going to live a long life, but one in which she was always battling cancer. The “c-word,” as we called it, was something she had my entire life. I never imagined the disease going away, but I also never imagined her going away, either.

At a charity event for my family, the annual Plum Wiffle Ball Tournament. This was the last one we did for my mom as she passed shortly after. The photo was taken as we announced that she was given a timeline to live.

It didn’t register how dangerous cancer was until I called my dad to tell him about a homework assignment and he told me that I was about to be driven to the hospital. It didn’t really register until I was given five minutes to say goodbye to the invincible mother that I knew.

Then I felt alone. I was surrounded by my friends and loved ones, but I never felt more alone in my life. In the years that followed, I had great friends, most who went above and beyond for me, and a family that loved me, but I still felt very alone. Even though I had a great support system fighting my cancer, depression, with me, I felt alone.

Depression is a weird thing. You want to be alone, but you also want to be victimized. You want people to view you as tough, yet you also want people to see your struggles.

A picture from skydiving with my younger brother from this past year. An experience that I never thought I’d do that is now one that I’m looking forward to repeating.

You let people in only to push them away. You hurt people who are there to help you. If they want to be there with you while you’re hurting, then they should also hurt. The only two logical options are they either hurt with you or you should go through it alone. You’re a bad person who hurts people, so why do you deserve help?

These ideas would go through my head after the loss. The guilt that I felt for never taking the disease seriously caused enough depression to where I was asking myself, “Why go on with this pain?”

Depression was my cancer, as my mom would say. I’m sure everyone around me could see the pain because no matter how much I pushed away my friends, family, neighbors and teachers they all stayed with me. Fighting anything is a team battle and Plum Borough has a team mentality.

Winning a Golden Quill honorable mention for a story I was blessed to do on Jimmy Spagnolo, a heroic kid from an even more incredible family who inspire me everyday. Celebrated with RMU Sentry Media winners Gage Goulding, Megan Shandel, Mike Evans and Michael Sciulli.

The one thing that I realized during this fight was that my mentality, my depression, was not something that I needed to live with. While I still can’t read my mother’s book without breaking down in tears, I realize that the guilt  that I felt was unjustified and the source of my unhappiness wasn’t my situation, but the view I was putting on my circumstances.

My mom wasn’t upset with how I handled her cancer. She was proud of me and is still proud of me. Why should I feel guilt for pain that I didn’t cause?

I was blessed to have my mom. I was blessed to grow up in Plum and have the incredible support system that I still have. I am blessed to have watched my family grow and add two step-sisters and a step-mother. I am blessed to be the person that I am.

A picture of the, as my dad likes to call us, “Almost Brady Bunch.” While my relationship with my step family got off to a, unfortunate, rocky start due to my depression, I am blessed to be related to three more incredible people. I’d do anything for them and they’d do anything for me.

The moment I realized that, which I promise you did not happen overnight, I started to view the good things I was doing in a different light.

In the past year alone, I traveled to multiple cities including Washington D.C. and New York City, I became Digital Content Director here at RMU Sentry Media and now lead an unbelievable team of hard-working people, I went skydiving and even watched all the James Bond movies in one single-sitting.

All of those things would have just been instant gratification, only making me happy in that moment before the unhappiness returned. Now I look back at each one and smile, even though the inner struggle is still there.

It isn’t easy to lose the most important person in your life. It takes a lot to normalize a disease like cancer in one’s mind and that normalization takes a toll on a child, especially when it is no longer normal because the invincible mother is no longer invincible.

My SCJ induction, which consists largely of members from RMU Sentry Media, an organization I’m beyond blessed to lead.

Eventually those “Sunnyisms” became more than just words, eventually the support system no longer got pushed away and eventually the great things in life are no longer just there for instant gratification.

Eventually, your cancer takes a beating because of a team effort. I guess that my mom would say that my personal story really isn’t just mine. How can anyone imagine this story without the remarkable support system that I grew up with? I certainly don’t want to picture where I would be without those that fought my depression with me.