BOSTON (CBS) - Like many runners preparing for Marathon Monday, Carol Chaoui is recovering after her longest run of the season – 21 miles on Saturday -- but that challenge pales in comparison to her fight against cancer.
Yet, to meet this Wellesley mom is to know extraordinary strength – as a person, an athlete and a fundraiser.
Carol Chaoui is living with breast and thyroid cancers – both stage 4. Since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, her life-long love of running has provided her sanctuary.
"The running has been there for the entire journey. It definitely has helped me through the ups and downs, and the treatments," says Carol. "My 5K pace now is what I used to run a marathon at, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm happy to be out there running still."
Last fall, Carol started the "Couch to 5K" running group. Women of all different running levels get together once a month, and it's not just a run – it's a party … because this group is about much more than just the running.
"It's become a social group, because any time you do something with Carol, it's social," says fellow runner Stephanie Hawkinson.
"It's a positive energy when we get together. We inspire each other; she inspires us," adds Couch to 5K runner Annie Rolincik.
Their runs build friendships, and for Carol, it's the best kind of medicine.
"I'm out with a great group of women, laughing and telling stories. It's a good part of my treatment; very therapeutic."
Laura Imperatore is another member of Carol's running group. "She has a way of welcoming and connecting people. It's a gift. She's a special person; that's why everyone rallies around her."
That can mean going for a run, keeping Carol company during a treatment, or just grabbing a cup of coffee.
"When you have two stage 4 diagnoses," says Carol, "you need to surround yourself with positive people and positive energy."
She sees her cancer as a chronic disease, to be treated and monitored, and she's hoping new and better treatments will keep her running for a long time.
The mother of four also finds comfort in her doctor's words of encouragement. "You'll live long enough to see your youngest graduate from college, my oncologist said, so that's ten years."
They say it's not how long you live, but how you live… and the way Carol Chaoui lives is an inspiration to those around her.
"Carol is, in all of our minds, Wonder Woman," says Stephanie Hawkinson.
So it's only fitting that on Marathon Monday, she'll be the one wearing the cape.
"My friends say I'm an inspiration. I feel like I'm just a regular person doing what I love, but it's nice to make a difference in people's lives."
For more information visit Carol's fundraising page: www.rundanafarber.org/2016/carolchaoui
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