Chris Battle, a former Capitol Hill and administration aide who went on to a career in the private sector, died Thursday morning at age 45.
A partner with the Adfero Group since 2007, Battle fought kidney cancer for four years. He and his wife, Dena, a principal at the lobbying firm Capitol Counsel, detailed his struggle with the disease in a blog called The Kidney Cancer Chronicles, which was at times funny and irreverent and also heartbreaking.
“It’s true that the last two months have been rougher than expected. Last month I noticed that the slice in my golf swing was back. The dancer I wanted to win on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ didn’t win,” Chris Battle deadpanned on the blog on Sept. 21, 2012. “The cancer stuff hasn’t been great, either, but all we can do is keep pushing forward. I’ve finally completed my rounds of radiation therapy. There appears to be a hole burned in my back ... it looks like a deformed Krispy Kreme donut.”
Taking a serious tone at the end of the post, he reflected on his wife and daughters: “Love holds us all together as we struggle through this as a family.”
Chris Battle’s former boss, then-Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., remembered his aide as a pioneer in digital communications, an innovator who brought his knack for humor-infused storytelling to his fight against cancer.
“He has been very open in sharing his struggles, his battle and what his family has been going through and has touched thousands upon thousands who have followed his blog,” Hutchinson said Thursday. “That is a real lasting legacy: his personal strength and sense of humor he demonstrated at a very difficult time.”
Hutchinson said Battle, then a newspaper reporter in Arkansas, covered his congressional campaign. “When I got elected, I said, ‘You wanna go to Washington?’” Hutchinson recalled. “He was just so incredibly talented as a writer and communicator.”
Jeff Mascott, Adfero’s managing partner, agreed that Battle’s gift with the written word had made him a celebrity of sorts in the kidney cancer community.
“Because Chris is such an amazing writer, and he and Dena have done so much research on their own, his blog has had a much larger impact than anybody realizes,” Mascott said.
Last year, while awaiting treatment at Johns Hopkins, Battle attracted the attention of other patients when a nurse called his name. “They had been reading his blog,” Mascott said.
Bringing people together, virtually, was nothing new for Battle.
On Capitol Hill, working for Hutchinson, Battle organized online town halls for the lawmaker. “This was before blogs or before social media,” said Mascott, who at the time worked for then-Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma at the House Republican Conference. “It was pretty revolutionary.”
After serving on Capitol Hill, Battle, like his boss Hutchinson, headed to the Drug Enforcement Administration, where Battle was director of congressional and public affairs.