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Monica – ‘Everything is a Victory’

Just 14 when she was diagnosed the first time with Leukemia, Monica Sandoval received some advice that has shaped the way she handles her battle with cancer.

“A specialist told me, ‘If you lay in bed, you’re going to get sicker, and it’s not going to do any good.’ So I took that and ran with it.” Literally. “Mischievous Monica,” as the nurses and doctors called her, was never in her hospital bed. She was up and down the hall. Visiting fellow patients. Popping into her doctor’s office to chide him for taking too long. “Let’s go, let’s go.” Reminding them all, “I’m bored.”

Her fierce determination to find the good in each day started with her mom. “She would ask me, ‘What’s one good thing that happened today? Out of all the bad.'”

Her attitude has sustained her through three recurrences. She was first diagnosed in 2009, then 2012 and then 2016. There have been two bone marrow transplants, endless hospitalizations, chemotherapy and full body radiation.

This last diagnosis came when she was so close to that magic milestone. “I was going for my very last children’s clinic appointment with the survivor clinic… It had been four and half years. I was almost to that five year mark. I was so ready.”

There have been some especially rough months lately. She went into septic shock twice, had a lung deflate, and got double pneumonia. “I fell asleep in the ER and I woke up a month later. I don’t remember anything in between.” There’s been physical therapy and occupation therapy – and the need to learn to walk again.

“My family is amazing. My dad gets everything for our family. My mother quit work to take care of me. My brothers are the best.” From Cody, 13, who donated bone marrow twice, to Bubba, 20, who has postponed college to stay close and help.

Monica plans to be an esthetician and makeup artist. “Not a cosmetologist because I haven’t had too much hair to practice with… Makeup gave me confidence that I didn’t have when I had no eyelashes and no eyebrows and no hair on my head. I want to give that confidence to other people.”

“Everything is a victory. Every day I wake up, it’s a victory.”