A former Amador Valley High School track star is in a race for her life, this time against brain cancer, but she's got her friends cheering her on.
Monica Van Wegen graduated Amador Valley in 1997. She's now 31 but still holds the school's track and field record in the 200 meter run. However, on April 21, just a day after her thirty-first birthday, doctors discovered a large tumor developing in her brain. Van Wegen immediately went into surgery to have the tumor removed and started aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
She's hospitalized in San Francisco, and her friends have put together a fundraiser to help out with the high cost of treatments. Jennifer Dolder has been friends with Van Wegen since their days on the track team.
"When I heard from Monica how sick she was, it really broke my heart. Monica is such a kind, caring, active healthy person, no one deserves to go through this, but especially someone as amazing as Monica," Dolder said. "When I heard that she was having a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses, I immediately started brainstorming ideas on what we could do to help out."
A friend, Jarrod Dillion put her in touch with the Oakland A's, who helped them put together a tailgate party to raise funds. That's set for Sept. 25.
Meanwhile, another friend, Gretchen Meyer, came up with the idea of holding a raffle to raise additional money.
"She has been working really hard to get local businesses involved in making donations," Dolder said.
She said while raising money is especially important, it's about more than just the money.
"I want Monica to see how much she is loved, and how much we are all pulling for her recovery. It was important for me to give Monica something to look forward to and spite of all that she is going through," Dolder said, adding, "I wanted to help her family with some of the expenses of Monica's treatments so that they had one less thing to stress about."
Coping with Van Wegen's illness has been difficult for Dolder and their other friends.
"She's so healthy, so athletic and takes good care of herself," Dolder said. "It's just so hard for us to understand why this is happening. When you talk to her, she sounds the same; positive, vibrant. "
Dolder said Van Wegen is planning to attend the tailgate party.
"Monica is hoping to be there to be able to see all her friends, family and even those who don't know her, but are supporting her fight," she said.