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.

Speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Before and after … I'd used the formal photo, here, since 2009, where I had a makeup and hair helper in the studio. And the photographer friend had to keep coaxing me to smile.   That was when I was 51, thinking I had experienced a lot of life, but I didn't know shit....

Clearing mind clutter takes a special solution

Clearing the clutter in your brain is like purging a closet or storeroom. Some things you preserve, others you pitch. Sometimes you swipe away a little dust, other times you've got to bring in the shop vac and empty it many times … And sneeze numerous times to keep...

Two years after 9-11: standing amidst a city of souls

As I read my mom's journals, I came to September 11, 2017, the day she designated as her own "9-11" … after a diagnosis of lung cancer. Then I remembered hearing that from other people facing a variety of difficult challenges on that specific day of any year … For...

Driven to find help for my creative shit list

When I was a kid, I stood at the fence at the back of my yard and envied the golfers who drove their carts across the endless acres of manicured green. Living near the 16th tee of a country club course gave me lots of uncluttered acreage for me to image myself running...

We’re all surviving something

I fall in love so easily. And when you love so many people, you laugh more, you cry more, you experience life more. And I've decided that's what IT is all about. I used to be a homebody until stroke and brain injury camps taught me to live on the road. And I mean LIVE...

In sickness and health, in common sense and clumsiness

Remembering those wedding vows 42 years ago, I don't recall the clause about "common sense and clumsiness." Well, I was a bit nervous that day … thinking but not REALLY knowing what I had committed to … Relationships are kinda like the Hokey Pokey … you put something...

What must be kept full and what must be empty

When you’re stuck in traffic, you’re immediately grateful for two things: full tank of fuel and empty bladder. Don’t you just hate it when interstate traffic suddenly stops and you haven’t seen any warning signs that construction is ahead? Then you wonder if there’s...

Relationships must be recycled with purpose

Around age 40, I realized to my horror that I lived in a throwaway society. Material items didn't seem to last as long as I remember when I was a kid, teen, wife, then mother. I was from the "old school" where you tried to fix things or get the most mileage before...

Stop juggling before you drop everything

How on earth could I miss the designation of July 17 as World Juggling Day?!?!? Did you miss it, too? I mean, we’re all juggling something … mostly life. Not even counting a pandemic, we keep so many balls in the air these days that it’s almost impossible to suck in...

Can you hear your calling above all the noise?

I’ve never seen so many earphone options in my life as in the marketplace today … tiny, big, over the ear, large enough to hide your ears from view and give the impression you could have alien origins. Hmm … It’s the modern need to be tuned into something, somewhere...

All the chapters that must be written

I remember our walk through Glen Oak Park when Mom came to Peoria for a visit around 1990. We stumbled upon a wedding in the park, and I had to get photos of her. No, we didn't interfere with the nuptials but we sure had fun from a distance … And it's from a distance...

When things are too hot to handle

Are there days when you feel like you've reached your boiling point? When your potential temper feels hotter than the reddest sunset? Hot days can lead to hot ways … I don't handle the physical heat of summer well. It could be from a near heat stroke I had years ago...

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.