Author  |  Photographer  |  Speaker


Countless hours of interviews, thousands of photographs.

Monica captures moments that are often hard to talk about, but oh-so-important to share.


"What Caregivers Need"

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An author, photographer and speaker who should spend more time with butt in chair to write, Monica Vest Wheeler focuses    on listening, collecting and sharing the emotional and everyday challenges of living with and caregiving for brain-related injuries, illnesses and diseases.

Monica studied journalism, and after a dozen years working community newspapers, she “burned out” and left her job in 1992. Then she discovered the joy of creating regional history books, producing nearly a dozen in the next 25-plus years.

Her passion also turned to the emotional complexities of catastrophic health issues like cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, traumatic brain injury and more. She’s spent thousands of hours working with and interviewing hundreds of patients, survivors, families and caregivers, and healthcare professionals. This takes her on the road thousands of miles every year as she has volunteered for nearly 120 Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camps™ since 2008, and 30 brain injury camps since 2012 from coast to coast.

Monica’s mission is to educate, enlighten, engage and entertain on the topic of caregiving and the human side of brain challenges. Her personal caregiving experiences — for her father-in-law, mother and cousin — also bring a unique empathy to individuals and audiences. She’s facilitated hundreds of intimate group discussions for Alzheimer’s families and stroke survivors and caregivers to reassure them that while their experiences are unique, they are not alone. She also puts a “face” on brain injuries, illnesses and disease with her photography that shows that there is still life to be lived … and enjoyed.

Home has been Peoria, Illinois, since 1979 when Monica married Roger Wheeler, who remains her chief cheerleader, though he refuses to wave pom poms. They have a son, Gordo, and two rescue cats, Gabriel and Bling, both of whom have special needs and have found a special home.

Your final chapter isn’t just about you

Monica speaking at her mother's celebration of life in July 2018. I’m hearing and reading the word “funeral” a little less these days. Is it a shift in society or vocabulary or a way to describe something that sounds so final? “Service” appears frequently as does the...

I’m not rejecting you: this is just how I roll

Everyone should attend a class on real life and engage with a stroke or brain injury survivor. It’s amazing what you can AND should learn about them … AND yourself. I absorb volumes every chance I get. In a text conversation with a stroke survivor, they asked if they...

The power of love, touch and tears

The last time my friend and I held hands … Though I had experienced this moment and written about it six years, this message is timeless … I was reminded yesterday of the power of love … I visited a dear friend who is in hospice, who quit eating a few weeks ago. She’s...

The conversations of real life while waiting for the oncologist

Monica and her mom in the fall of 2017. If those walls had ears … oh, the stories they have heard and could tell … I’m going to duct tape their mouth shut! During the 10 months my mom faced lung cancer, I drove her to every appointment with the oncologist and...

How we labor so ridiculously hard over compromise

Monica in her early newspaper reporting days. We all have our roots and sometimes they are replanted in the most peculiar ways. I grew up in a management family. Dad was in middle management of General Motors, a position that gave us a comfortable, not extravagant,...

Are you drowning in your weakness?

My son and cat finding their corner in the clutter. While scanning old photos, I came across images of the disorganized living room in our old house. I must apologize again to my son for the clutter in which he grew up because of MY shortcomings. My brain couldn’t,...

How one man’s courage gave me a new family

Monica, third from right, with her bonus siblings and mom, Brad, Susan, Diane, Brenda and Curt. How does that famous quote go … “Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.” Yeah, Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the...

Campers shower each other with patience and laughter

After a very hot day at Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp on Saturday, August 6, I was reminded of a camp from July 2017 when the weather was miserable and how this community of stroke survivors and caregivers and volunteers united in the most amazing ways … Here is...

Mothering ain’t easy for everyone

Mothering never came easy to me. It doesn't to all women, despite stereotypes to the contrary. And to this day, I have no idea how I've survived nearly four decades of the role. Or more important, how my one and only child survived my on-the-job training. While my mom...

Be honest: who and what do you pray for?

I was drawn into a recent post by the daughter of a dear friend, as the young woman tried to understand prayer after losing someone important in her life: “I prayed for God to heal him. He did, it was just not the way I wanted him to. I was so mad and frustrated,...

What’s the speed limit for your guardian angels?

Several dear friends have given me a gift saying, “Drive no faster than your guardian angel can fly.” With the gazillion miles I drive, I’ve always heeded that advice … hearing the flapping of winged protectors many times. Moments when God called in extras … Like in...

Leaders need a kick in the ass with lessons on being human

In a world filled with seemingly more people who make a lot of bad decisions, dumb mistakes, and fail a lot in public, I'm feeling pretty doggone good today … Tuesday evening during a live zoom presentation about a part of Peoria's history with an audience, I felt...

Books & Publications

Monica's books and digital publications focus on the core messages of compassion, common sense, and communication.  The mission of these publications is to provide individuals, families, and caregivers with valuable insight and opportunities to reflect, while also providing information and support needed while coping with the everyday challenges and emotions of health-related issues.

Alzheimers, Dementia & Memory Loss (Paperback)

In Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Memory Loss, you’ll learn from other caregivers and family members how to release the frustrations, loneliness and grief of caring for a loved one who seems to be slipping away because of these devastating conditions.

My goal is to comfort you with honest, easy-to-absorb suggestions that help you see that you aren’t alone in your struggles. You’ll find answers on every page. Even more importantly, you’ll find the courage to communicate your needs.

50 Answers to Everyday Caregiver Challenges (Paperback or Digital)

"To see what I see, you’ve got to be where I am.”

While the story of one survivor and/or caregiver can be extraordinarily moving, real life demands that you educate yourself in many classrooms to stretch your imagination and discover new resources and be reminded that you are not alone.

Because every stroke and individual is different, this book provides the perspective of hundreds of survivors and caregivers to bring the diverse realities of stroke into closer focus.

Meet Me in Myrtle (Kindle)

A unique and engaging first-person account of how the paths of two women crossed in coping with the loss of loved ones. Monica writes of how she continued to struggle with grief several years after her mother-in-law's passing, until she connected with a friend's sister, Susie, who was dealing with the recent loss of her boyfriend. Both discover much about life and love as they meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a weekend to console each other.

This book is an excellent resource for grief support groups. It includes talking points to stimulate conversation about a necessary, yet delicate, subject.

Strike Out Stroke Children's Coloring Book (Paperback, Volume Discounts)

Join Eddie and Ella as they teach youngsters how to recognize and respond to a stroke emergency. Delightfully illustrated, this well-constructed, 8.5x11 inch, 8 page coloring book is a wonderful teaching tool.

Created in conjunction with Strike Out Stroke ( and Retreat & Refresh Stroke Camp ( A portion of proceeds are donated for every coloring book sold.