Monica Beakley and her son Jesse Jakob Estala have a lot of worries. Beakley, 47, has stage 4 cancer that traveled from her lungs to her brain, liver and intestines. Estala, 19, lost his vision a decade ago as part of a traumatic brain injury while boating with family and friends.
Last weekend, they had a new thing to worry about. Her car was stolen from a 7-Eleven parking lot while Beakley was inside the store. She had insurance, but the car wasn’t worth much.
The car was Beakley’s lifeline to get to appointments for Estala and get to her own appointments as far away as MD Anderson in Houston, where she receives chemotherapy every three weeks.
Beakley and Estala are part of the Statesman's Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families each year through local nonprofit agencies. Beakley and Estala were nominated by Wonders & Worries.
It’s anyone’s guess how long Beakley’s treatments will work. Whatever happens, she wants to make sure she has plans and funding in place to give Estala the life he deserves.
"I want him to be happy," Beakley said. "I want him to accept himself for who is, and to be proud of who he is, and to feel as though he is a huge contributor to the world, because he is. He just doesn’t quite feel that way right now. But hopefully he will."
Estala loves playing Rock Band when he visits his father’s family in San Antonio. He’s also tried Guitar Hero, he said, but "it’s too fast for you!"
To be really good at Rock Band, you need to listen to the music, then hit the right notes or beats with the video game’s guitars or drums. That setup, that reliance on touch and sound, is perfect if you have no sight.
The only part of Rock Band that’s hard for Estala are the slow songs. His injury affected other parts of his brain, too. Movement and speech require extra concentration. Emotionally, he is a very sensitive person. Slow songs open a wellspring of sorrow. His mind takes him to the death of his beloved cat, Molly, more than 10 years ago.
"I cry every single time," Estala said.
His mother reminds him about what they’ve talked about, to focus on being thankful for the present instead of aching for the past. She reminds him about the way Sasha, the cat they have now, climbs into Estala’s bed every night and walks across his chest until he pets her.
"Life is good today, even though it’s different," Beakley said encouragingly.
Beakley thinks Estala would benefit from working with a therapist who specializes in traumatic brain injuries. She also wants to provide more opportunities for him to try devices that could help him live more independently, though it’s unlikely he will ever be on his own.
Estala likes creating things like bracelets with glass beads and bath salts with scented oils, packaged in decorative bottles. Giving them out as presents fills his heart. Maybe someday he could work at a store, or make hand-crafted items for a living.
Beakley’s cancer has created an urgency around her plans for her son. She needs an attorney that specializes in guardianships and long-term care for people with special needs.
She also now needs a reliable vehicle or gift cards for ride share services until she can get a car.
To find out more about the Beakley-Estala family or to give an item on the wish list, contact Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757; wondersandworries.org.