Chris Cashen crosses the finish line at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. The Truro resident is in the intensive care unit in a Halifax hospital following a massive hemorrhage in his brain after completing a 10-km run on the Cobequid Trail on Aug. 30. Cashen wasnt expected to live long after an initial CT scan but is improving and the story has warmed many hearts along the way.
TRURO - A Truro runner is undertaking the biggest marathon of his life.
Chris Cashen was thought to be dying a little over a week ago following a massive hemorrhage in his brain. But his zest for life and with his loving family at his side, the ultra passionate man is pulling himself through a remarkable recovery.
"He was addicted to running, now he's addicted to life," his wife Gwen Mowbray-Cashen told the Truro Daily News yesterday.
On Aug. 30 Chris completed the Cobequid Trail 10-km race, finishing 16th out of the 113 runners. Gwen and children Tara and Quinn went and cheered him, and the other racers, on.
After the race Chris went home while the rest of the family went to visit Gwen's parents.
"He was going to take a shower. He stripped down to one sock," she said.
Three-and-a-half hours later, Chris was found on the bathroom floor by Gwen's aunt and uncle, who were visiting the family.
Gwen received a call and remembers thinking, "it's bad," maybe a head injury of some type.
But she tried to stay positive and think of the best case scenario. The doctor ordered a CT scan as Gwen and her two children waited in the family room.
The doctor then asked to speak with Gwen privately.
"She takes me in the room and tells me there's no hope," Gwen said, the pain evident on her face. "I just can't believe my ears. It's like a dream."
The hemorrhage started after an episode of hypertension Chris endured during the race.
Moments later the doctor mentioned Chris had signed an organ donor card and the immediacy of what was occurring came crashing in.
The family had the worst night of their lives, trying to come to grips with what had transpired during the past 24 hours.
Overnight Chris was taken to a Halifax hospital where it was expected he would be declared brain dead and his organs harvested.
St. Andrew's United Church Minister
"Jay (Ettinger) came in that morning and
we started talking funeral arrangements," Gwen recalled.
"A few hours later I get the phone call I was dreading."
But a miracle had occurred.
Chris still had brain activity, his condition had not worsened as specialists in both Truro and Halifax had expected.
"This stunned them. They did another CT scan and it was slightly improved," Gwen said. "That was the beginning of the race."
She was told there was a reasonable chance of recovery if the blood clot was removed. Since surgery, he has exhibited many encouraging signs of recovery, including giving the family a thumb's up during their visit to see him in the intensive care unit.
"Now, oh my God I am leading the charge of optimism because there is no other option," she said. "He's not a quitter."
Chris is an avid runner. He has done nine marathons and even completed a goal earlier this year by finishing the Boston Marathon.
He has run each day (some more than others, but mostly more than 20 minutes in duration) since 1996, a jaw-dropping 4,684 days or 12 years and nine months.
"He never missed a day," Gwen said, noting that includes hurricane Juan, white Juan and more. After a hernia surgery the runs became walks, as per doctors' orders, but he remained committed.
"Now he's got this new marathon," Gwen said. "We've dubbed it 'Chris's addiction to life marathon.'"
Gwen said she was told Chris had "catastrophic bleeding" in his brain. She was told by the head of the neurosurgery division at the Halifax hospital that since his residency he has witnessed more than 700 cases like Chris's that have a massive bleed out and he is one of two that has survived.
The family knows it has a long road ahead of them but Gwen says Chris does not have to hurry to get better.
"We'll get through it," she said. "We have so many people around us propping us up."