Effort launches to fix patient’s yard

Grant, Sandra and Tyson Dougherty (courtesy photo)

Effort launches to fix patient’s yard

Scripps Ranch resident Sandra Dougherty has been through three rounds of cancer in the last six years.

In 2014, Dougherty, who has lived in Scripps Ranch for a decade, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a mastectomy and chemotherapy, she beat her cancer. Then, as she was going through reconstructive surgeries, her husband Robert “Bob,” was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A little more than a year later, in spring 2017, he died, leaving his wife and two boys.

In July 2018, Dougherty was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, cancer that had spread beyond the breast.

Maria Mikus, who has known Dougherty for more than 30 years, remembers when Dougherty called to tell her she had been re-diagnosed.

“She called me in tears, and I went to pick her up at the urgent care. She thought she had hurt her back skiing and it was just an injury but, unfortunately, it was a tumor wrapped around her spine,” Mikus said.

As Sandra Dougherty was coping with everything going on in her life and the lives of her children, the family’s backyard began to fall into disrepair. Their backyard turned into a “big dust bowl,” Mikus said.

An effort is underway to rebuild the Dougherty family’s backyard. (courtesy photo)

Following the death of her husband and her second diagnosis, fixing the backyard was put on hold.

“It was all fine and alive until Bob died,” Dougherty said. “My dad tried to keep it going for a few months until the sprinklers broke and then I let it all die because I didn’t have the energy or time to deal with it.”

Mikus, who described Dougherty as a great mom and amazing person with a big heart, has started a project to help Dougherty rebuild her backyard as she undergoes treatment for her cancer once again.

“I think she’s just trying to be a single mom and give her kids a normal life without living in fear of ‘Am I going to lose a second parent too?’” Mikus said.

Dougherty has two sons; Tyson is in high school and Grant is in sixth grade.

Following her second diagnosis, Dougherty underwent surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy no longer works for her, Mikus said. Now, Dougherty is taking medication to help fight the spread of the cancer.

Dougherty is also seeking alternative treatments to prolong her life, Mikus said. She is trying meditation, veganism and doing “whatever she can to stop the cancer from spreading.”

“For me, it [the experience] has just been looking at someone and just admiring them for their strength and it makes me appreciate everything I have, and being healthy and being able to do this for her would just help me feel like I’m giving her and her boys a  place to hang out,” Mikus explained.

“I feel like the yard is a mirror of my life. It died with Bob, essentially, and now it is staring me in the face every day reminding me of the disaster that my life has become,” Dougherty said. “I’m hoping to rebuild my backyard to move on from it, just like I’m trying to rebuild my health. Somehow those two things feel a bit connected.”

Mikus and a couple of Scripps Ranch families thought it would be a good idea to assist Dougherty by helping her fix her backyard.

Originally, Mikus applied to home makeover shows. When that didn’t provide any results, she decided she could round up more people to help.

“I thought, if we can all chip in – whether it be monetarily or time – we can make this backyard a place for her and her boys to be able to relax and spend some quality time together,” Mikus said.

She is extending that invitation to anyone in the community who can donate time, materials or donate to the GoFundMe page to help give Dougherty a “sanctuary where she can relax and just feel at ease and comfortable.”

Mikus said they would like plant donations or anyone to volunteer their landscaping skills. She would like to give Dougherty’s backyard a tropical feel, while also being water conscious.

For now, Mikus has divided the project into two phases. Plans for the first phase are to plant trees, mostly for privacy since Dougherty is using a backyard sauna as part of an alternative treatment to rid her body of toxins. They also plan on building a deck and to put in some sod.

Ideally, Mikus would like phase one to be completed by December. Phase two of the project would involve adding a jacuzzi, a deck and water features. Mikus understands that it is a big project, but believes Dougherty deserves the effort.

“I get numb when I think of all she has gone through. I think she’s truly an inspiration because with everything she’s gone through, she doesn’t play the victim and she just takes it head on and says, ‘I need to defeat this,’” Mikus said.

Any monetary donations can be made to the GoFundMe page: To volunteer or donate plants or materials, contact Maria Mikus at

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