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.

Listening to the end of the song reveals the truth

What if we treated life like the lyrics to a song … actually listening to the words instead of being swept away by the rhythm … slowing, not accelerating, the beat of our heart and soul … I'm a child of late 1960s and decade-long 1970s music. Shudder … Speaking...

The child, the man, the boy at heart

My husband Roger has been driving me a bit batty for the last year as he seemed to talk non-stop about turning a landmark age … gonna do this, need to do that … Unfortunately, that birthday had a shitty start because of ME. I didn't say things the right way. After an...

A day of failure becomes an anniversary of freedom

While we muddle through many days without upheaval or life-altering events, certain calendar dates signal an abundance of emotions or an opportunity to reflect. January 7 is one of those. My parents divorced on that day in 1982, Mom had some major challenges on...

The day my list of excuses felt longer than ‘War and Peace’ 

Friday morning, December 31, 2021, wasn’t the way I had expected to end the year … going to a funeral of someone I’d known a quarter century. I planned to go through the line and leave, but a dear friend was already seated in the back, expecting me. No way I could...

It’s safe to scatter some memories to the wind

Winter cleaning … no excuses to run away outside when you get tired of it. And when you have some ADD like I do, l move from one box to another when frustration threatens to derail me completely. It's decision overload that wears me down, and people who say, "Just...

The beauty of imperfection

Awaking after another Technicolor dream, I walked to the living room this morning and plugged in a little purple tree, fresh from basement storage. Only one side of lights came on and looked more red than purple.   But it suddenly didn't matter. Gabriel and Bling...

When we cram more living into life

My husband Roger had plenty of warning. He saw how much stuff I brought home from my college dorm, as pictured. He saw it on weekends when he'd drive to my tight but semi-orderly University of Evansville campus dorm from his noisy, stinky all-male domain at Rose...

Dear dear friend, thank you for needing me

Dear dear friend, Thank you for remembering that you can call me anytime about anything. Thank you for gently reminding me of something I forgot to do the day before. Thank you for asking how I'm doing. Thank you for not being embarrassed by being seen in public with...

Your choice: Either step into or out of a family

In the group photo, I'm the short one on the right … but I've never been shortchanged or left out. Seems like yesterday when we captured this official family photo 11 years ago on Father's Day weekend, the month with many family birthdays … well, at least Dad, me, my...

History, herstory, who cares!?!? Just learn it!

From my not-forgotten file … Forget the upcoming resolutions of a new year. I've opted for a new kind of solution … a lively revolution … a healthier constitution … a lot less pollution … a greater contribution … worldwide distribution … and I won't settle for any...

The ultimate key to successful relationships

Perhaps you've heard some of the primary rules for an enduring relationship, especially for life partners … love and trust. Yep, gotta have 'em. After 42 years of marriage and five years dating before that, I've learned those well along with many others … patience,...

When everything on the walls comes crashing down

When you hear a crash two hours before your alarm was scheduled, you take that as a sign to not just wonder, but investigate the cause. Roger and I rushed Saturday to discover all the hanging clothes and bins on one side of the laundry room/closet, next to our...

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.