The Benestad Story

Published 1 year ago -

By Max O’Meara, Staff Writer

One of the most challenging situations a family can go through is a cancer diagnosis. In November 2019, this was unfortunately the case for the Benestad family when 13year-old Matthew was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Luckily for the family, they detected Matthew’s cancer early enough for him to be declared cancer free by March of 2020.

Having an early detection of cancer can be lifesaving, which is why Matthew’s mother, Kelly Benestad, Education Professor at Assumption University, partnered with DetecTogether to raise $11,800 and run the 2021 Boston Marathon. DetecTogether is an organization that educates individuals on the importance of early cancer detection.

Professor Benestad worked around a busy work schedule, being a mother of three and training. When asked about some strategies Benestad and her family use, she said “it was harder than I thought that it would be to train during the summer months, due to my older sons’ schedules. Often, my husband would do his long run on one day of the weekend, and I would do mine on the opposite day”.

Typically, Benestad would train by running four to five days a week, and much longer run on the weekends. As for her source of motivation Professor Benestad mentioned, “My husband’s support and confidence in my ability to fundraise and train for Boston gave me a tremendous sense of motivation, along with the support of friends and community members that donated to the cause.”

When talking about how she discovered DetecTogther, Benestad mentioned, “DetecTogether was formerly known as the 15-40 Connection, and I had become aware of the organization years ago as a growing local charity. I started following the organization on social media around the time that my son Matthew was diagnosed with testicular cancer.”

“DetecTogether encourages individuals to be aware of their bodies in order to recognize when something is not right. Communication with family members and doctors is essential to detecting cancer early.”

Professor Benestad’s decision to run in the Marathon came from her family’s love for running, as well as the cause that she was supporting. “This October marked my husband’s 16th consecutive Boston Marathon, and several family members have run Boston in previous years. I always knew that at some point in my life I would want to run Boston for a local charity, one that was close to my heart.”

Running has been a great chance for the Benestad family to spend time together. “Running has served as a bonding activity for our family for many years. One year, my husband and his four siblings all qualified and ran in the Boston Marathon, and several family members (including Matthew) often run the Falmouth Road Race each August,” she shared.

Matthew has also embraced running and completed a half marathon in June 2020, just three months after his last treatment.

When Professor Benestad was asked if it was surprising to see her son take on such a big challenge she said “It was not surprising, because once Matthew has a goal in mind, he certainly goes after it. However, I was extremely nervous about him training so soon after chemo ended. Matthew’s chemo ended in March of 2020, right as the pandemic started. I think that training for a half marathon gave him something to look forward to when everything else around him was being cancelled.”

When asked about what others can take away from their story, Benestad hoped that, “our story will serve as a reminder for individuals on the importance of early cancer detection. Matthew came to my husband and I in early November 2019 with groin pain, that we incorrectly assumed was a pulled muscle from the start of basketball season. Matthew was never one to complain about an injury, therefore when the pain did not subside after two weeks, I made an appointment for him to be seen.”

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