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Valley teen beating the odds, finishing high school after brain surgery


FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — Graduation is a milestone for many, but Monica Christopher was told it wasn’t in the cards for her.

“I got a text on my phone and I went to go lay on my bed just to read my text and I went totally blind,” she said.

The Coursegold native, went to high school in Sacramento after moving with her mom three years ago. She was back in the Central Valley Friday where a parade of cars celebrated the day she was told would not come.

Christopher was diagnosed her junior year with a Chiari malformation — brain tissue extending into her spinal canal.

“It was blocking any fluid coming through, which affects my eyesight and explains the headaches so I had to drop out of school,” she said.

Brain surgery couldn’t wait and doctors had bad news.

“The doctor said I would not be coming back for my senior year,” Christopher said.

She was also told she wouldn’t be able to do what she loved, ride horses. But neither proved to be true.

“She is an overcomer and she’s by far gone away from what all the doctors had said this whole process.” mother Brooke Leyden said.

Now Christopher is graduating in a pandemic.

“It’s a unique situation, but so is her situation so it kind of goes hand in hand,” Leyden said.

After fighting to get back in school the biggest lesson may have been learned outside the classroom.

“After all that i’ve went through, just to never give up, and just to stay in the fight till the final round,” Christopher said.

Christopher plans on going to community college, then transferring to Sacramento State, where she’ll study to be a registered nurse.

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