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Monica Cardinal, pictured with her fiancé Mike Flynn, has battled cancer since she was 13. A local 4H club is hosting a benefit and all proceeds greater than $2,000 will go towards Cardinal’s treatments. Courtesy of Monica Cardinal.

Benefit for horse club and cancer survivor this weekend

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Monica Cardinal, 26, has hardly known life without cancer. She was first diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 13 years old and has relapsed 10 times since then. She’s currently fighting five separate brain tumors with intravenous chemotherapy while battling nerve damage on the left side of her body.

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Through it all, Cardinal is remarkably cheerful and laughs easily. When she’s not getting treatment, she’s busy planning her 2014 wedding to Mike Flynn, who she has been dating since she was 15.

“I’ve always had a positive attitude about everything,” Cardinal said Wednesday while wrapping presents at her kitchen table in rural Two Harbors.

When the Lake Superior Saddlers 4-H Club started planning a fundraising dinner, leader Cassidy Gow knew she wanted to donate some of the money to a special cause. Cardinal’s half-sister, Alyssa Lindahl is the vice-president of the Saddlers, a club for those interested in horses, so Cardinal was a natural choice to receive the funds.

“It definitely hits close to home,” Gow said.

The club will hold its fundraising dinner and silent auction on Saturday, reserving $2,000 of the proceeds for club’s budget and giving the remaining dollars to Cardinal, who said she will use the money to help cover treatment costs – for the tenth time.

“I feel like I’ve been sick for, like, ever,” Cardinal said.

Cardinal first knew something was wrong the summer after sixth grade. She would get piercing headaches, tendons in her left leg tore and her whole body felt weak. After four or five trips to the hospital, doctors finally found the tumor on the back of her head and removed it an emergency surgery. Cardinal started high school just days later and limped from class to class with the help of a friend.

“I basically had to relearn everything,” she said.

After radiation, she was told the cancer was gone. Her first relapse occurred when she was 16 years old but the tumors were removed shortly after. She did her best to continue a normal life, getting her CNA certification and starting her studies at Lake Superior College to become a medical assistant.

“I kept thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to make it!’ and then I got diagnosed again,” Cardinal said.

When she was 19, the cancer returned again, forcing her to drop out of school. She started receiving medical care in Oregon, and her parents maxed out numerous credit cards flying her to and from appointments. Since then, the cancer has returned nearly every year.

She has been doing horse therapy with Gow to help with the physical ramifications of more than a decade of toxic treatments and cancer. Gow lost her father, who was also an avid 4-H leader, to cancer.

The 4H Club will use the proceeds to fund the activities the 30 members take part in throughout the year, including competing at the Lake County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair during the summer. The club started last year, and Gow funded everything out of her pocket.

“I decided that we needed to do a fundraiser,” she said.

The members learn everything there is to know about horses in addition to riding them. They meet once a month. Gow said the benefit dinner will be a good opportunity for people to find out more about the club – and support two good causes.

Follow Cardinal’s journey to beat cancer at www.caringbridge.org – search for monicacardinal. Find out more about the 4H Club on Facebook, where their group name is “4H Horse Club.”

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