2009 PCA: Monique
Monique stood in the middle of the Imperial Ballroom with a smile so big, the TV lights on the main stage couldn't compete.
"It's been six months?" I said.
"June 13th" she said. "That's the date."
When she says the date, it comes out like a person offering the day of their child's birth or a most important anniversary. For her, it was certainly the most significant day of 2008, if not one of the most important of her life.
"I still don't have hair," she said. "I'm just waiting for it to grow back."
Monique is a fixture at the PCA. Her energy and spirit is boundless, no doubt doubling the youngsters half her age. Her red hair looks as perfect as ever. She's not embarrassed to tell us it's a wig. Around poker people, she doesn't care. Around everybody else, her personality and radiant face give away nothing, so she doesn't bother to tell anybody she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
Monique has a regular job. From the time she was diagnosed, to the time she was had her surgery, to now, she's kept her traveling job as a sales rep. She has breakfast with the same people nearly every day.
"They have no idea!" she said.
Now, she is as bouyant as ever, bounding around the poker room, offering kisses on the cheek, and sweating her ever-lovely daughter, Isabelle Mercier. She is, as near as the doctors can tell, cancer-free.
"It's like it never happened," she said.
In June, the story was a lot different. Mercier, a longtime Team PokerStars Pro, disappeared from the World Series. Later we learned it was to care for her mom. Monique had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was due for a quick surgery. Isabelle had been scheduled to play the $50,000 HORSE event. What's more, Monique wanted her to play. In fact, while she was recovering, Monique hopped on PokerStars, entered a HORSE tourney, and made the final table.
"She practiced for me," Isabelle said then with a small smile.
Now, Monique is here, sweating her daughter, and enjoying some time by the pool. To anyone who hadn't seen her for a year, it's like nothing had changed. As far as Monique is concerned, nothing has.
We may believe nothing has changed, but in a world where fortunes can change on the turn of a card, everyone realizes Monique is a better story than nearly any we will find in this ballroom. While her daughter beats the game, Monique beats cancer.
Nothing may have changed...except for maybe how we think of the word victory.