For Chris Forbes, Christmas and Every Other Day is a Day to Celebrate
Chris Forbes used to feel that Christmas Day was the special day.
Now, however, Forbes, the Rockies manager of player development, knows every day is special.
Nothing like being told that you are about to run out of days to give you an appreciation for every breath you take.
Nineeen years ago, less than three weeks before Christmas Day, Forbes was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a blood-related cancer that attacks the lymph system. On New Year's Eve 1999, he was told doctors discovered what they described as two inoperable brain tumors. He was basically given a death sentence.
"I was given three to six months to live," said the 46-year-old Forbes. "The routine I was getting into was very negative. I had taken a step backwards. I was feeling sorry for myself."
Forbes had always been a battler. Growing up in Monument, Colo., he was considered an overachiever, who made it to Class A only because he refused to quit. He then went into coaching, where he always preached the importance of not giving in to obstacles in life.
Suddenly, he was unable to listen to his own advice. He was giving in to the cancer.
In March 2000, after receiving his regular cancer treatment, Forbes was waiting at a stoplight a few blocks from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City when a carjacker jerked open the door of Forbes' vehicle and stuck a gun in his side. Forbes pressed on the accelerator and pulled away, but not before the gunman pulled the trigger and the bullet pierced Forbes' stomach, missing the stomach lining by an eighth-of-an-inch.
It was a life-changing event.
"I was furious," said Forbes. "My first instinct was to turn the car around and try to run him down, put his body in the back seat and drive us both to the hospital. But my common sense kicked in."
Holding his stomach to limit the loss of blood, Forbes drove to the hospital.
He smiled as he remembered the moment.
"One thing I found out was when you walk into the emergency room with a gunshot wound to your stomach you go right to the front of the line."
Then reality hit.
"That was the point that shakes it up and gives you some fresh air," said Forbes. "It makes you realize you can bend without breaking. That was the best thing to happen to me."
That surgery gave Forbes the drive and desire to beat the cancer. He began researching online. He found a doctor in Los Angeles who removed his brain tumors. He went to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to treat his lymphoma.
And in November 2003, Forbes' lymphoma went into remission.
Forbes was a coach at Johnson County Community College at the time of his battle with cancer, later became an assistant coach at Kansas State University and then with the University of Northern Colorado, which is where he was working when the Rockies hired him as an amateur scout.
His initial assignment with the Rockies had him living in Houston, scouting areas of Texas and Louisiana. In October 2007 he suffered a relapse and was diagnosed with secondary leukemia, a reaction, doctors told him, to the radiation treatment he underwent in his original cancer bout.
"What's funny is I was living in Rice Village, about three blocks from MD Anderson, and I went back there for treatment," said Forbes. "You know, I signed a big leaguer during all that, Tommy Field."
In April 2019, Forbes will have been in remission a second time for 11 years.
Life is pretty normal for Forbes now.
He has made the move from scouting for the Rockies to working in the front office as the Manager of Player Development.
He lives in suburban Denver, along with his wife, Lisa, and their children Taylor Johnson, and Madison.
The birth of Taylor was a virtual miracle.
"He was born Dec. 7, which was 13 years to the day I was diagnosed with cancer," said Forbes. And he conceived and born naturally.
That previous spring, Forbes was living in the Phoenix area, the Rockies area scout. On a March Friday, Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd went with Forbes to see a prospect for the June draft. On the way to the ballpark, O’Dowd asked how Lisa was doing.
Forbes explained Lisa, who was working on her doctorate at the University of Northern Colorado, actually was flying in that night for a monthly visit.
“She’s flying in and you’re going to a game with me?” O’Dowd remembered saying.
Forbes said he had a job to do.
O’Dowd agreed, but his job that night wasn’t being at the ballpark. It was spending time with his wife.
O’Dowd gave Forbes some money and “ordered” him to get to the airport, pickup his wife, and take her to dinner.
“I told him if that was his assignment and if he didn’t do it he was fired,” O’Dowd said with a smile.
That, as it turned out, was the night Lisa became pregnant – the only night the Forbes’ were together in nearly a two-month stretch.
Forbes shakes his head in discussing the path cancer took him down, crediting it with making him a better person.
"I recognize the importance of so many things that I used to take for granted," said Forbes. "And I want to give back to the cancer community. I want to help others."
He climbed Mount McKinley in the summer of 2004 to raise money and awareness for leukemia research.
Most of all, Forbes is there whenever needed to talk to others who are battling cancer, using his experiences to help prepare them, and his survival to inspire them.
"There is not a needle prick or X-ray I wouldn't do over again," said Forbes. "I'm a believer that things happen for a reason. I needed cancer to complete me, to make me a better person.
"You have to take the blinders off and realize there's more than wins and losses, although when [the Rockies] lose ... Well, I'd rather they won."
What isn't debatable is that Forbes is a winner in life, the game that counts the most.