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Life’s Firsts

Posted on July 31, 2012, 4:34 PM
Life’s Firsts
Brian Case with his daughter, Madison, on their first trip to the ocean.

By Dawn Case

One could speculate that life is a series of firsts. A first birthday, the first day of school, first love, first heartbreak, a first child. There is perhaps no greater happiness than to share a first while in the presence of others, creating a first memory to be treasured, a gift shared by all. I didn’t realize the depth of a first true love until I met Brian, my husband, my gift. His story could never be summarized, although I will outline some of our experiences. 

Brian had a history of stomach issues, so nothing seemed too drastically different when his symptoms started acting up again. He went in for testing just a snippet in time after our first child was born. Our baby girl, Madison, was a mere ten months old. The hospital advised against taking an infant to the hospital, so I had to be on a conference call with Brian and the doctors when they told us the diagnosis. Stage-four stomach cancer. I remember it well, sitting on the edge of the bed, feeling completely helpless. My mother rushed over to watch Madison. I fled to the hospital. As I walked into Brian’s hospital room, I could see his profile staring out the window. He slowly turned to look at me, his eyes dazed…he was far, far away at that moment. The embrace that ensued felt everlasting. We didn’t want to let go. It was a feeling of complete sadness and powerlessness, the first of many.

Looking back now, there were many blessings that transpired during Brian’s illness and treatments. Friends and family became such a support team. The love was undeniable, as they too experienced the illness alongside Brian. He fought harder, for they gave him strength. It was also a blessing for Brian, Madison and I to spend quality moments at home together (amidst the hospital stays, infections, blood clots, fluid taps). At that time, we cherished the firsts with Madison. Her first words, first steps, first birthday. We even drove from our home in Arizona to Disneyland and the ocean – Brian wanted to be the first to introduce Madison to the waves. Ironically, some of the happiest moments of our lives occurred during the worst experience of our lives. I can remember Madison bringing Daddy her toys after chemo and putting a blanket over him. She wanted him to feel better, just as badly as I did. I believe it taught her the true meaning of love and the tribulations of life. It was a first for us… to experience this awful disease called cancer.

Brian passed when Madison was two-and-a-half years old. Grieving is a very long process, and this is my first experience with it. It is all encompassing. I find it hard to get past the memories of the sickness itself. The haunting images that convolute my thoughts create a barrier. I know there will come a day when my memories will be of the many joyful, fun and loving times we spent together. Until then, I am focused on raising our daughter … a wonderful little piece of Brian, left behind.

What would a life without cancer be like for me? Brian would be with us today, and not have passed at the age of forty-one. He would not have had to endure twenty-four rounds of chemotherapy. Madison would have her daddy. Brian would have enjoyed the many firsts that have transpired over the years since his passing: Madison’s very first day of preschool…and her first preschool graduation… her first day of kindergarten this fall… her first hair cut… her first swimming lesson… the first time she rode her bike…the first time we went to the movies… her first plane ride. We would have joy for every holiday… every birthday… every day…

Madison and I are moving forward. We do find joy and laughter. Every first that Madison experiences brings me joy. Although, I can say that with every event, with every moment that I look at her and see him, my heart feels that familiar tug and my smile fades ever so gently. The reminder of the bittersweetness of destiny emerges. I know there are many more firsts that will be experienced along the way. I know that Brian will always be with us in our hearts. The sadness is that he can’t be here with us, sharing those firsts with us.

We love and miss you, Bri.

Dawn Case is a graduate of The University of California, Irvine. She currently runs her own business, which Brian and she started in 2006. Dawn’s wish is for Madison to grow up in a cancer-free world. Team Case is currently underway on SU2C to help make that wish come true.

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Posted by Yvonne Johnston | July 31, 2012 6:25 PM

I am Dawn’s mother.  I loved everything about Brian. And see his smile in Madison,s lovely face. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. The way he loved and cared for my daugther , the way he laughed, The way he was always ready to help me, and his love for his grand mother and family. My heart swells when I look at Madison, what a wonderful gift we have from him.  I miss that big guy so much.

Posted by Dawn | July 31, 2012 8:29 PM

Thank you for requesting our story.  Dawn

Posted by Bill Nagey | August 03, 2012 12:10 AM

Dawn, Loosing Brian to cancer has been a life altering experpence for you. The heart wrenching grief and sorrow that ensued in battling that dreaded disease can not be denied. Even so, You have come through this terrible time in your life with courage and fortitude. You stood by Brian every step of the way. You never wavered.

Brian was a special person and we all loved him. He will be in our hearts forever. You have honored Brian’s memory by rembering those joyful first times you had together and by looking forward to all the firsts to come with Madison.

I am so proud of you!!!
Your Dad

Posted by Othello Sparks | August 03, 2012 9:09 AM

this story was really touching and inspiring

Posted by Virginia Holmes | August 03, 2012 9:28 AM

I am praying for you and your daughter Madison…I am a cancer patient that just got out of the hospital 2 weeks ago for having a tumor rupture..this was after last august that the dr’s told me no more surgeries or I would die on the table from blood clots as my blood is clotting very badly now..they had to prep me for 3 days before having the emergency surgery as so I would live thru it..they removed the mass the size of a mans fist and found another which i am still waiting for the results to come back…this was my 13th all started when i was 21 and had to have an emergency hysterectomy..i too have had my share of bad times like now..but its the focus of I will beat this one way or another..I dream of one day finding my soul mate like you and adopting a child if possible..i can’t wait for my very firsts to come for me…stay strong and positive when you can..and you and your daughter will be in my prayers daily…I am fighting hard right now to reach my 34th birthday a week before Christmas..stay strong…Virginia

Posted by Bobbie Kollar | August 03, 2012 10:06 AM

This brought me to tears.  Beautifully written, translates to beautiful, sad feelings.  God bless you both.

Posted by Gaylen Bettiol | August 03, 2012 10:12 AM

Dawn , your story inspires me . Thanks for sharing. As we speak now my husband haa stage four Hodgkins Lymphoma, totally resistant to treatment,nothing has helped or slowed it down , even though he’s been thru it all .he’s 50. Our kids are 11 and 8 . At the rate things are progressing , he probably won’t see Christmas. He’s continuing with treatment ,even though its now hurting him, (IMO) is not able to work , hasn’t for 6 months . Just wish we had the luxury of spending stress free time together .. Like you always hear ..“Spend quality time with your family” reality it never works like that , we are so busy trying to survive , each day is a mission to get thru. So hard on the kids too , seeing dad getting weaker by the day , losing his sense of humour. It shouldn’t be like this. But it is. Tough times ahead. I take my hat off to you and Madison. Xx

Posted by Cindi Krueger | August 03, 2012 10:13 AM

This blog is one of the most touching and meaningful things I have read in my life since cancer struck in our family.  My sicerest condolences to you and your Maddison.  Our daughter was diagnosed, with what we had thought was aa sport’s injury, with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a muscle and soft tissue cancer.  She went through over a year of chemo and in that time, also had her left shoulderblade and all the muscles and nerves amputated. 
However, that is our story and what I wanted to convey to you, Dawn, is that we felt so much of what you, as a family, felt during Brian’s treatment and illness.  The all-encompassing love and support of my daughter’s school, family and friends wwere blessings that I cannot even explain near as well as you did.  Thank you for sharing and know that you have one more family now that will continue to have you and Madison in our thoughts.

My daughter is now 17 and not considered cancer free for at least 10 years.  She is a brilliant and loving young woman who is the strongest person I know.

Much love being sent your way from our family to your’s.  Take care.  Hold onto those memories.

Posted by Lynda | August 03, 2012 10:27 AM

A beautiful story of your love and strength.  As well a positive guide of your child knowing her daddy.  My husband is currently in the fight, he had a reoccurrence when our son was 2 months old.  I have a similar picture of my son and his daddy on the beach.  The bond is great and we do enjoy and engage in every first together.  My husband is in hospice and there is no cure or other treatments for his cancer.  But he does fight for us, friends and family.  Thank you for sharing.

Posted by Becky landers | August 03, 2012 10:46 AM

Your story really touched home for me.  I also lost my husband to cancer when he was 46.  Leaving me with two young daughters ( 7 & 3 ).  I also have had to exp. all the firsts without him by my side.  At the same time I lost both my parents to cancer all within a year.  Thank you for summing up my feelings to a tee.

Posted by Lisa Ragan | August 03, 2012 10:49 AM

What a awesome story to read, I to watch someone i Loved dearly go through a similar thing,My Cousin called on me after being diagnosised with stage 4 colonrectal cancer on her 46th birthday it was a sad time but her determination and will to fight was remarkable she made me see life different. She lost her battle after 2 yrs and 15 days from the day she found out, watching someone you love die was the hardest thing i think i’ve ever gone through but would gladly do it again to be able to make as many memories as possible, I’m grateful for everything everyday and alot of that is owed to my beloved cousin Leslie. Always remember and cherish the memories of your Husband, Best Friend and Father of your child, your story has touched me so just know I’m praying for you and Madison that Gods presence gives you the strenght to live on, we know he doesn’t give us more than we can handle so your in great hands.

Posted by Karla Broadus | August 03, 2012 1:52 PM

My name is Karla Broadus, and my dad had liver cancer and we didn’t know until the doctors told us he had was at his 4th stage of cancer. Me and my heart stop beating for a moment it felt like, cause I knew what that meant. My mom didn’t really didn’t know and neither did my dad, they had told him he had gulstone had first. I was their for him everyday as he slipped away everyday. I talked to him about when I was little and how much fun we had when he take me fishing or when he took me to the go cart track and all the candy he brought. We sang together old songs. It was perfect, we didn’t really tell him he was dying…. Even though I know deep down in my heart he knew, we had family come down to see him and pray for him. He look at me with his eyes glassie and in a daze it was far gone from here as if he was looking right through me. He even called out to his mom which she passed away in 2002. My dad passed away may 2008 it’s not a day I don’t cry for him I miss him so much. Cancer took him away I look forward to be seeing him again that’s what keeps me together I live u Fred Broadus…. Rip.

Posted by Trish | September 21, 2012 1:40 PM

Dawn your story resonates with me as I just lost my husband 4 months ago to melanoma. He was 43.  Neither you or I should be on this site telling our stories.  It could have been me writing your story.  I have the exact same feelings, thoughts and struggles.  I have 3 childeren..2 boys 10 and 8 and a baby girl 18 months.  We found out my husband had cancer when I was 8 months pregnant. She is our angel as I truly believe she was sent to us to help us through our grief.  Nothing like waking up to a smiling baby..they are pure joy as you know.  I am right there with you experiencing all her ‘firsts’ without my best friend. He should be here for all of them and the firsts of my boys as well.  I too pray for the day where we live in a world without cancer.  My husband took part in many clinical trials, that although they did not help him, they may be the cure for others. This is my wish.  I too try so hard to live my life to the fullest, wake up everyday and CHOOSE to be happy….for myself, my children, and everyone around me.  My husband would want that.  Stay strong and now there are so many praying and pulling for you!

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