This world-champion ballroom dancer in Fort Wayne didn’t let cancer keep him down

For Christopher Spalding of Fort Wayne, a world champion ballroom dancer, a brain tumor could have been devastating to his life and livelihood.

On April 28, 2020, scans revealed that he had a brain tumor bigger than his fist. At one point, Spalding was told he may never walk or talk again.

Today, he’s back to dancing on the competitive stage.

“Before my cancer diagnosis, I lived a pretty healthy, happy life,” Spalding says. “My wife (Kelly) and I own the Fort Wayne Ballroom Company, so we are living the dream being able to work together every day and doing what we love.”

All that changed when, after several months of suffering from headaches, Spalding had a stroke at home. Kelly took him to the emergency room at Parkview Regional Medical Center, where he learned he had a rather large tumor.

His first thoughts were about how he would afford care.

“My wife and I, as small business owners, we had lost the ability to carry insurance,” Spalding says. “That first night in the emergency room, I was in a pretty dark place because all I could think about was what this was going to mean for my wife and I.”
The next morning, while Spalding was still in the hospital, he got a call from Parkview’s financial assistance team. They saw he was admitted without insurance and wanted to help.

“They told me, ‘We want you to know you don’t need to worry about money right now,” he says. “You need to worry about getting better.’” Chris Spalding says Parkview saved his life twice, helping him beat and recover from cancer.

The team soon discovered that Spalding qualified for Medicaid—something he didn’t realize was an option before. He was enrolled in a matter of days, which provided him and his wife with an incredible amount of relief, allowing them to focus on his treatment and recovery. 

Because of the size of his tumor, Spalding was referred to IU Health in Indianapolis for surgery. They removed 90 percent of his tumor, and a biopsy confirmed Chris had a grade 3 glioma, which is a fast-growing cancer that would require aggressive treatment. He was sent to Chicago for six weeks of proton radiation and chemotherapy.

Eventually, Spalding got to come home and returned to Parkview for his occupational, physical, and speech therapy. His therapists were amazed at his progress and determination.

By December, he was able to dance for a fundraiser at the Embassy Theater. And in March, he returned to the competition stage.

Today, Spalding continues to receive services through Parkview Cancer Institute’s Survivorship Clinic, which helps guide patients through the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of navigating life after diagnosis.

“I got to talk to them about how I was feeling medically and physically,” Spalding says. “But then, also, I got to talk to them about how I was doing emotionally and psychologically. And they talked to my wife and helped her deal with the things she was feeling…. They looked at what I needed, they looked at what my life was, and they built such a specialized program for me, so I say that Parkview has saved my life twice, and they gave me my life back.”

In addition to returning to the stage, Spalding is training for his first Ironman Triathlon. He wants to use his new lease on life to inspire others and to help fellow cancer warriors see they can defy the odds.

To see more of Spalding’s story, watch this video.