Soldier and his wife cope with tumor diagnosis

By Bryan Richardson

Sometimes it can be difficult to describe exactly what it was like to go through a traumatic situation.

Lt. Col. Chris and Kristen Danbeck, who have been married for 11 1/2 years, attempted to explain their feelings after doctors discovered Chris had a brain tumor late last year.

Is it like being hit by a truck or more like being in a dramatic movie?

“Any bad cliche that you can write about it, it was like that,” Chris said.

For the Danbecks, the recovery journey involves maintaining a positive attitude.

Their spirits are kept up thanks to an activity that bonds them—running.

“I’VE BEEN here four years,” Chris said. “For an Army guy, that’s a long time.”

The couple and their four-year-old son, Aiden, became established in Manhattan after Chris was assigned to Fort Riley.

Their lives took a drastic turn just before Christmas last year, as the then-undiscovered tumor continued spreading in his brain.

The tumor caused Chris to suffer a focal seizure while taking a pre-command course at Fort Leavenworth in the second week of December. While having the seizure, he said he lost control of his right leg.

“Before that seizure, I had no symptoms,” Chris said.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, the type of tumor Chris has – it’s called oligodendroglioma – can be present for years before it is diagnosed.

Kristen said this particular tumor is more susceptible to treatment than other brain tumors, which is good news for them.

Chris said doctors initially feared he had a grade four malignant brain tumor. Grade four is a number given to the most aggressive tumors.

“The worst of the worst,” Chris said of that possibility.

Chris indicated the tumor ultimately turned out to be grade three, but it is still a relatively aggressive.

He underwent a 12-hour surgery on Jan. 16 to remove 90 percent of his brain tumor. He began proton therapy treatment afterwards to remove the rest of it.


PRIOR TO this diagnosis, Chris and Kristen said they enjoyed their times running together.

In a big step in his recovery, the couple ran in the local St. Patrick’s Day 10K road race Saturday.

“One thing we do is just keep going,” Kristen said. “We are not quitting our lives.”

Twenty people, including Chris and Kristen, wore shirts Saturday that contained the saying, “Just Keep Going.”

The shirts were Kristen’s idea for people to support “Team Chris.” She said she came up with the concept earlier this month while on a trip to Manhattan Running Company for St. Patrick’s Day shirts.

“I was so proud of my husband, so I really wanted to do something cool for him,” Kristen said.

Whether he should run in the race, however, drew mixed opinion from the medical community, she said.

Kristen said the surgeon wasn’t sure if Chris should run, but the oncologist thought it would be fine as long as he watched himself.

Chris, who has been a runner for 20 years, said he had his own doubts about running in a 10K less than two months after his tumor was removed.

“If I weren’t for this lady, I wouldn’t have done this at all,” he said, looking at his wife.

Chris admitted he was holding back with his running initially after the tumor removal.

He said he figured he wasn’t training for anything.

“Yes, you are,” Kristen told him. “You’re training to run with me again.”

After that pep talk, Chris began picking up his running, doing a five-miler last week in preparation of Saturday’s 10K race.

Chris described running as something that helps him.

“We can do it together,” he said. “That’s what’s most important to me right now.”


CHRIS SAID he appreciated the support from everybody else during his treatment.

“It’s been phenomenal,” he said. “The outpouring of support has been crazy and unbelievable.”

The couple said strangers provided their support during the race, patting him on the back and giving him high fives.

As thrilling as Saturday morning was for them, Chris and Kristen said they know they aren’t in the clear yet.

Although the race provided some normalcy for Chris, the couple traveled back to Houston on Sunday to finish the last two weeks of his six-week treatment.

Chris said he starts a year of chemotherapy in May.

His future is still unclear.

The course Chris was taking at Fort Leavenworth was supposed to lead to him taking command of the Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in July.

That has been postponed.

“We’re waiting to see what happens,” Kristen said. “It might change the rest of his Army career. We might have to come up with a new life for him.”

The attitude they’ve displayed in dealing with this so far will remain, they insist.

Chris said he’s appreciative of the time he has with his family regardless of what happens.

“I’ve always done my best to keep my family first,” he said. “I will continue to do that.”

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