By Tami Charbonnet

Her fight begins every morning at 5 AM. As Monique McKemie Funk approaches her 10th year as a kindergarten teacher and director of Dularge Summer Camp, she is a dedicated 5 AM fitness junkie. She approaches life with a beautiful smile and unbreakable spirit.  Monique’s journey is one of great inspiration for all who have the pleasure of crossing her path

Monique explains, “In college, I gained a few extra pounds and noticed the muscle tone that I enjoyed during high school slowly disappearing.  I started exercising my last semester in college.  I loved the way my body changed and all of the other benefits that come along with regular exercise like better sleep and even a more pleasant mood.  After a while, I developed friendships with the 5 am fitness regulars at my local gym.  “They were so supportive during my diagnosis.” 

Monique began to suffer from bouts of double vision and headaches. Her symptoms persisted and worsened until her physician ordered an MRI of her brain: “With my mom beside me, we were asked to wait in the doctor’s office.  We waited in a room, where bad news seemed eminent. Before the doctor came in, I told my mom something was wrong.  When the doctor came in, she told us the MRI revealed a mass in my brain.  We immediately began to cry.  What does that mean?”  

Monique was referred to a neurosurgeon who reviewed her brain scan.  “He asked me to walk up and down the hall, which I thought was odd.  He then explained that he asked me to do this because my tumor was so large that I should not be able to walk,” she says.  Monique was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a stage 4 malignant brain tumor.  In March of 2011, Monique was 26 years old.  She had surgery to remove the tumor, and she received daily radiation and oral chemotherapy for about 6 months.   She continued to work as a teacher and continued her 5 AM workouts throughout her treatment.  Monique’s physicians believe her physical activity and fitness level have contributed to her success in treatment.   The treatment seemed successful until a second diagnoses five years later, in April 2016.    

“I was more prepared this time, and I knew what to expect.  I had surgery to remove the tumor and had 7 months of oral chemotherapy along with Optune treatment.   For the Optune treatments, I had to wear the device 18 hours per day for 12 months.  I am required to shave my head every other day to ensure the device made proper contact with my skin.  It was definitely a challenge to wear the Optune.”      

 When asked how she manages her emotional strength, Monique says, “I managed my emotional strength through prayer, a positive, sometimes stubborn attitude and with the overwhelming support I received from everyone around me.  My wonderful husband takes such good care of me.  My gym families, my work families, my real blood family, my church family have all been sources of strength for me.  

Even people at the grocery store ask me for updates and offer prayers.  To be honest, I didn’t know how much I was loved until I was diagnosed with cancer.
It’s crazy to say, but I can see the beauty in it. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.  I know that each day is a blessing, a gift, and I intend to make the most of every second I am given.  I want to be a light.  Life teaches us to love each other.” 


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