Comeback Kid: Chris Duncan heads back to the microphone after brain tumor setback
By: Warren Mayes
Chris Duncan is back behind the microphone as a co-host of 101 ESPN’s “The Fast Lane” evening drive time sports-talk show.
The ex-Cardinal, who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor, returned to his duties on Jan. 28, joining Randy Karraker and D’Marco Farr on the highest-rated local sports-talk show in the St. Louis market.
The former outfielder, who was a member of the 2006 World Series Cardinals, said, “Things are going good.”
“I feel good. I’m a lot stronger now. Right after the surgery, I wasn’t that strong. I had some trouble talking. I was mispronouncing some words. Each week I got away from that surgery the more and more I realized how much better I was getting. I feel great.”
Duncan was hired in 2011 as a baseball analyst for the station. His frank commentary helped him earn a regular spot early in 2012 on the afternoon show with talented Karraker and Farr, a former Super Bowl winner with the St. Louis Rams.
But last fall, he was dealt a horrible setback. After not feeling himself and having various symptoms, Duncan learned he was suffering from glioblastoma, a malignant cancer.
The 31-year-old Duncan knew what he was dealing with. His mother, Jeanine, already had been diagnosed the same cancer. It was to help her that his father, Dave, left his job as pitching coach with the Cardinals.
“Going through it with my mom, I was more familiar with the process so I was able to attack it quicker,” Duncan said. “I knew where to go to have the right treatment.”
Duncan underwent a long surgery at Duke University Medical Center. His surgery was performed by Allen Friedman, a 63-year-old Chicago native and respected leader in the field of neuro-oncology. Friedman, an internationally known tumor and vascular surgeon, is responsible for more than 90 percent of tumor resections and biopsies at Duke.
“It’s incredible what these doctors can do. The guys are phenomenal,” Duncan said. “Being able to go to Duke and having this done by Friedman, one of the best in the world … every morning, I’m so grateful that he did what he did.”
The craniotomy surgery on Duncan lasted six and a half hours. A craniotomy is a surgical operation in which a bone flap is temporarily removed from the skull to access the brain.
“It was a serious surgery. Where the tumor was, it was a tough spot,” Duncan said. “It makes it a tough recovery. Coming back from that, I had to get my legs underneath me. I had to speak better. My writing was all right but I was misspelling a lot of words at first and little stuff like that. The mispronouncing of the words was something that was happening more frequently than I’d ever done before.”
He has those early challenges pretty much behind him now. Duncan speaks clearly. His opinions on baseball and sports in general remain sharp, and he is excited about his future.
His mother also is doing well now. Duncan said he talks with her on the telephone every day.
A good attitude is a must.
“I think it’s what life’s all about – staying positive,” Duncan said. “I think people that are positive and optimistic, they have the right outlook on life and do better. I mean if you get a little pity party going, it’s not good for you.”
There’s no pity in Duncan.
“For me, I’m fortunate for everything that I’ve been able to accomplish in my career,” Duncan said. “I think about being 31 and I think I’m too young for this, but you look at all the young kids down at the cancer hospital who are under 10 years and they’re dealing with the same thing, it makes me feel lucky I’ve been able to do everything that I’ve wanted to do in life.
“No one is guaranteed tomorrow. Nobody. I think it makes you really change your outlook on life. Every day, I try to live life to the fullest and make sure I get the most out of each and every day.”