Mike Ashland was a veteran runner. When he lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, he enjoyed training for marathons. It was easy for the youth minister to step out of his home in San Leandro -- often into the cool, light drizzle that was ideal for long distance running -- and run all the way to the city of Fremont, more than 17 miles away. He loved it. He was in his element.
That's why the diagnosis was so shocking.
Ashland had gone to the doctor suffering from fatigue and a persistent cough he had developed soon after he relocated to Oregon at age 54 with his partner, Judy Goetz. As he worked on the renovation of their new "fixer-upper", he felt tired all the time and grew more exhausted each day. Even a short walk left him worn out. Medical tests revealed that without his knowledge, Mike had suffered a massive heart attack that destroyed nearly half of his heart muscle.
Within a month, Ashland went from being a marathon runner to a critically ill heart patient. With no job and no health insurance, he found himself facing the most serious crisis of his life.
Ashland is chronicling his perilous journey in a blog for his family and friends. It's an inside look and a crash course into the mysterious world of heart failure, but it will be familiar territory to anyone with a chronic illness. In his blog, he writes with poignant honesty and occasional humor of the hope, fear, pain, frustration, and triumphs of staying on course with treatment. Most of all, he writes of reveling in tender, lighthearted moments with his family -- while joyfully cheating death -- yet another time.
Page 2: "Unwelcome news"
Page : "Woozy time"
Page 4: "Can I trust my heart?"
Page 5: "First good day in a month"
Page 6: "Dialing back the machismo"
Page 7: "Layaway plan for a new heart"
Page 8: "Can I ignore that blip, or am I having a heart attack?"
Page 9: "There's a cow sitting on my chest."
Page 10: "Did I just run a marathon, or was I just typing?"
Page 11: "Love that university hospital"
Page 12: "For Sale: Used Lifevest defibrillator"
Page 13: "Planning the 'just-in-case' wedding"
Page 14: "Somebody to lean on"
Page 15: "Tired of being waited on"
Page 16: "Born to run"