Blake was diagnosed with MS in 2007. He first started experiencing MS symptoms while deployed to Iraq with 1 BCT 10th Mountain Division of the US Army in 2006. Blake then returned to Canada, to the area where he was raised. Receiving his diagnosis, Blake was immediately put under the care of the MS Clinic in Ottawa.
Blake’s disease began to progress quickly, with frequent attacks that left him unable to work or go to school. With the assistance of his family, Blake gave up all work and academic pursuits. With no insurance, Blake was unable to receive treatment for MS in any capacity. Instead, he ran. For a year straight, he ran.
Eventually, Blake was running half-marathons, regularly training out to 18 km and never experiencing a relapse of his MS.
That all changed in February 2017. But it goes further than that.
In November of 2015, Blake had surgery to remove a portion of his left kidney in order to remove a cancerous tumour. Before going into surgery, Blake was warned that general anesthesia could exacerpate his MS. And exacerbate it did.
By the summer of 2016, the cognitive decline had started as a result of increased MS activity. His short term memory was reduced to almost nothing. After taking six months off work to try to let the MS run its natural course, Blake returned to work. But only for a brief period of time.
By that winter, things had become markedly worse. He was suffering from cerebral spasms, still had memory issues, and was starting to experience weakness in his legs. Struggling through his regular Friday night pickup hockey, Blake realized he was nearing the point of having to shut everything down. But MS did that for him.
After an attempt to play hockey on a Friday night, the MS struck. And it struck hard. His speech was now slurred. His cognitive abilities were greatly reduced and walking was incredibly difficult. He made it home and continued to decline. Within a week, it was impossible to walk. His eyes had begun to work independently of each other. Eating and drinking became impossible. Seeking out help and treatment, Blake continued to struggle through his attack. Neurologists offered disease modifying drugs (DMDs), if he could figure out how to walk again. But he couldn’t eat or drink and was losing weight rapidly.
Finally Blake was rushed to hospital in February as the cerebral spasms had combined with an incredible amount of shaking in his legs. He had lost over 50 pounds. He was taken to the Civic campus of the Ottawa hospital to begin aggressive treatment but also to figure out what was actually happening.
After over a week of aggressive steroid treatment, a plan to treat his MS with chemotherapy, and the promise of a possible stem cell transplant, Blake made it home. Physiotherapy at the hospital had allowed his eyes to work as one and he could now walk with some assistance. He was eating and drinking and rapidly adding weight back.
He had a goal of being able to walk to the mailbox. and then it was the end of his tiny road. Eventually, ditching his cane, Blake decided it was time to learn to run again.
Using a running stroller he weighted down for balance, he started awkwardly running to the end of his road and home a few times a day. Soon he found that balance and the strength to run without the stroller. Then he was free.
Before his maintenance chemotherapy even started, Blake was running up to 16 kilometres a day. He had been told that it would be much longer until he would be able to run again. Walking was, by itself, an accomplishment.
As maintenance chemotherapy to contain the MS started, Blake was forced to stop running. The risk of injury was too high. And any injury would prevent him from being able to go through the stem cell process.
Blake entered the hospital for his transplant in early November. After receiving a lot of chemotherapy in order to eliminate his existing immune system, he received his transplant on November 14th 2017. During most of his stay in the hospital, he was itching to run.
Blake spent exactly three weeks in the hospital. And then he was sent him to complete his recovery. With weekly appointments to check on his progress.
Shortly after going home, the effects of the medication and the chemotherapy began to take their toll. He spent a couple months only able to move from his bed to his couch. With rare trips into Smiths Falls to get groceries.
Once he was healthy enough, he was back to running. After completing the 10K at Ottawa Race Weekend, he was asked by a friend to run the PEI Marathon. After thinking about it for a couple days, he agreed to run the race.
And that resulted in the birth of the MS Warrior Fund.
For more information about Blake, read this article from the Ottawa Citizen: