Thursday, May 10, 2012

Faces of Thyroid Cancer: Beth Munelly

Beth Munnelly, a breast and thyroid cancer survivor, who
will be running in Ridgefield's annual Run Like a Mother Race,
is photographed Wednesday, May 2, 2012. Photo: Carol Kaliff / CT

Ridgefield, CT- For her entire adult life, Ridgefield resident Beth Munnelly has been a runner. She ran in seven half marathons, three triathlons, and many smaller races. Yet, the race she is running May 13 -- the Run Like a Mother 5K in Ridgefield CT -- holds the most meaning for her. This 3.1 mile race, which is held every year on Mother's Day, symbolizes not only that she is a runner but also a mom. There was a time in her life when she wasn't so sure she would be one.

"Cancer runs in my family. My grandmother died at 50 from breast cancer. My aunt died of ovarian cancer at 66. My mother died from breast cancer at 48. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 33 -- which was the same year my mother was diagnosed. 

When I first heard the diagnosis, I thought it meant I would die like my mother had. I felt sad that I might not have the chance to be married and be a mom," said Munnelly, who is now 50. Munnelly had a bilateral mastectomy.

Two years later, when she got married and was planning a family, her surgeon and oncologist were reluctant for her to become pregnant because there was an increased likelihood the cancer could return. So, she and her husband, Kevin Munnelly, adopted two boys -- Brendan, who is now 13, and Conor, who is now 11.

"When I held both of my sons for the first time, I truly felt that I was meant to be their mom. It was an incredible feeling and a dream come true," said Munnelly, who works as a public relations account executive.

In 2010, Munnelly was faced with yet another health scare when she learned she had thyroid cancer. She had her thyroid removed, and now takes a synthetic thyroid hormone every day.
Turning 50 was a milestone for her because neither of her parents lived to be that age. Her father died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 47.

"The week before I turned 50, my Sunday morning running friends threw a surprise 50th party for me -- at 6:30 a.m.! On a cold, dark February morning, they managed to surprise me with balloons, party favors and a plan to run an 8-mile training run from Ridgefield to Bedford, N.Y., where they had a beautiful brunch to celebrate my birthday at the Bedford Post (a restaurant). 

They created signs and placed them every half-mile along our run. The signs featured photos of me from my childhood, marriage, motherhood, and with friends. It was such an important part of celebrating this milestone birthday.

"I'm always thankful for my life and my boys. Whenever I run a race, they are my motivation. To me, the RLAM race is a celebration of life, motherhood, turning 50, and 17 years of being a survivor."

Munnelly is one of about 1,700 women expected to run today's RLAM race, which is an annual women's-only race held every year on Mother's Day since 2008. The race was founded by Ridgefield resident Megan Searfoss. Its mission, according to Searfoss, "is to fuel a woman's journey toward health and wellness." Each woman who is participating in it has her own story, and each story is special.

Article by Sandra Diamond Fox a freelance writer in Connecticut. 
She can be reached at

About Run Like a Mother:

Run Like a Mother The RLAM race is now held in ten cities across the United States. There is also a virtual race, where women who don't live near a race location can still sign up and run on their own. The RLAM in Ridgefield is May 13 at 8:30 a.m. beginning at 90 Prospect St. There is a kids' one-mile race at 8 a.m. There are women running in the race who live as far away as Canada, Arizona, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Proceeds from the Ridgefield RLAM race are going to Family & Children's Aid in Danbury. 

RLAM founder Megan Searfoss, 47, has run in 14 straight marathons and six Ironman competitions, as well as many triathlons and smaller races. She lives in Ridgefield with her husband Chon, 50, and their three daughters, ages 12, 15 and 19. She has run more than 20,000 miles throughout the country. "I developed Run Like a Mother because I wanted women to experience the same feeling I get when I cross any finish line. That invincible, 'I did it myself' feeling, that feeds the brain and fills the soul. I think as women and mothers we often lose sight of this. To accomplish a goal like a race gives you the strength to push when the going gets tough. It gives you the bit of mental edge to dig deep, whether it is a death or cancer or other obstacle," Searfoss said. Mother's Day 2012 

This year, Mother's Day is not only a celebration of moms, but also the kickoff to National Women's Health Week. The event is designed to encourage women to start getting serious about their health. According to a recent survey, although moms are overworked and stressed, they just really want to spend the day with their family. Mom will feel great when lacing up those tennis shoes, not only because it's healthy for her, but also for the entire family. Parents are role models for their kids when it comes to health, and kids are more likely to participate in activities when they know it's important to their family. Finn Partners, part of the Ruder Finn Group, an international public relations firm.

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