This was mirrored from the site of a friend of the Mordens, Betsy Bryce. The original can be found here.

Brian's Story

The Mordens: Dawn, Jamin, Fred, and Brian
The Mordens: Dawn, Jamin, Fred, and Brian

Brian Morden, 17 year old son of my dear friends, Dawn and Fred, has been in treatment for Ewings Sarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer since January, 2001. He has been making progress, but it has been a long difficult year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Brian, and a huge strain on his whole family. Dawn and Fred have kept in contact with friends and family via e-mail throughout the entire year. 

Recently they took Brian, his brother Jamin, and Brian's best friend (also named Brian) to visit the Bungie Corporation in Seattle, Washington through the generosity of the Make a Wish Foundation. The story of his visit is very moving and a testament to the fine work of the Make A Wish Foundation. Here is the story of their trip as told by Fred:

"We've experienced a lot of ups and downs since Brian's diagnosis last January, but we haven't been quite as high as we were yesterday at Microsoft Corporation's Bungie division. Bungie is a group of highly skilled and talented video/internet game creators and designers. Brian loves these games so much he knows the name of the individuals who work on the games and what they do. It's a passion for him. Brian's wish was to meet these guys and gals, talk a little shop with them, and see how they do it.

At 9am [August 16, 2001] the white stretch limo picked us up at the hotel and in short order we were standing in front of Bungie headquarters. Meeting as we stepped out of the car were Michelle (from MAKE A WISH), Julie (from BUNGIE), and Rick Ryan, the Project Director for HALO. (HALO is a state of the art game that will be released by Microsoft in October. No one has seen it yet and it is still top secret.)

Back in the limo, we traveled to the Microsoft home of the future. The boys yawned through the tour but it was very interesting.) Next back to the development division to see how they test new games for bugs and design flaws. The boys, Julie, and members of the testing team played some of the new games, found some problems, and discussed some of the positive and negative aspects of the games. "XBOX" is a new gaming system that will be released in early October. The boys had a chance to see the ongoing testing of the system and play many of the games that will appear on it.

Next, we went to lunch with the Bungie team. (This was a biggie on Brian's list.) Brian met personally most of the guys he's only read about on the game covers. They all gathered around the table with their lunches and a hot and heavy discussion began. Lots of laughing, joking, and kidding between Bungie creators, designers, artists, and even a composer. (Yes, I met the composer that writes music for their games. We hit it off immediately and we're going to continue to keep in touch.) With Brian in the middle of the group, the give and take between all parties was magical. (Brian was their first MAKE A WISH visitor and they really made the most of it. They were honored and even thought it was a mistake. Can you imagine these guys asking Brian in the middle of lunch, "Are you sure there hasn't been a mistake. You really wished to visit us?" Brian couldn't stop smiling all morning except when we tried to take a picture.

After lunch, we toured the product testing facility and visited the highly secret research and development division. We all viewed and the boys played some of the games of the future and we could easily see problems that needed to be fixed. But, what was really fascinating was the aspects of the games that the experts observed. In all cases, the boys played the games that we viewed. WOW, some of these games are absolutely incredible. We had to sign the waiver that promised we wouldn't tell anyone about what we saw, but they are really something.

Back to Bungie for a recording session. YES, Brian's voice was recorded, speaking some of the dialogue that will be used in HALO. AND, they said his performance was exactly what they were looking for, so when this game come out, Brian's voice will be on it. (Are you getting a sense of how exciting this tour was? It was "awesome" as Jamin said.) Marty O'Donnel, the composer, played some of the music he was working on and some of the tunes he used in the past. He told stories about how the music was recorded in Chicago with Chicago symphony players, etc.... It was really cool.

Then, things got really exciting. We toured the artistic section and Brian was given original drawings, CD's of music, and special gifts from individuals. We finally found ourselves in the location the boys were looking forward to the most, the multi-player lab where several players can play these game at once. At first, there were only four or five guys playing, but soon, the number grew to seven and guys were changing controllers to get a crack at Brian. Shouting, yelling, screams of delight filled the halls as these guys, legends already in the industry (I mean the project directors, everyone), were cheering and chanting NOT FOR BRIAN TO WIN, but to defeat him. Brian loved it. He fought against the best and held his own.

After the gaming was done (Brian was sitting and playing with his two favorite heroes from BUNGIE) the finale began in Julie's office with members of BUNGIE and the boys. Various members of BUNGIE presented Brian with signed games, hats, jackets, backpacks, folders, trading cards... Marty gave Brian some original manuscript of music. We exchanged business cards all around and promised to keep the team informed of Brian's progress. Lots of back slapping and hand shaking. Suddenly, Brian got a piece of paper and wrote "WP Rulz." On the BUNGIE website there is a picture of the creative team's office that changes every fifteen seconds. Brian slipped the paper in front of the camera which was a signal to all his "W"olf "P"ack friends that yes, indeed Brian was in the BUNGIE office. As usual, the BUNGIE guys gave it their best and left the message on their site for over twenty four hours - as of tonight it still may be there.

We took our leave of almost everyone at the office, Julie and Michelle at the car, hugs all around and jumped back in the limo. During the ride back to the hotel, Jamin talked a mile a minute, Brian Johnson kept muttering "wow, cool," etc. under his breath. Brian Morden, his wish fulfilled beyond his wildest expectations, gazed out the window and over the water of the land bridge...a gaze of wonder and gratitude. He heard very little of Jamin's chatter. He didn't notice his parents who sat silently in the back fighting back their own tears. Brian's mind was replaying the experiences of HIS day. Like hundreds of video tapes flashing images on a common screen, it was all so wonderful and so overwhelming there was nothing to be said, only his gaze and that said it all. And, isn't that the way of every glorious thing, words are simply not enough."

Postscript: Brian was declared cancer free in January but another tumor was detected in his hip in June, meaning that all the cancerous cells were not destroyed during his first round of chemotherapy. He is starting his second battle with cancer and we all continue to hope for a full recovery for him. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

Update 11-12-02 from Brian's Parents:

Subject: A Good Time

 I just wanted to tell you that it's been a good week. Probably the best we've had since Brian's graduation last June. We've received so much good news this week it makes me nervous, but grateful.

*The scan telling us that there is no new cancer anywhere in Brian's body. 
*The blood cultures telling us that the medicine wiped Brian's body clean of the staph infection even during the period when he had no white cells to defend himself. 
*A solid recovery of blood counts after the chemotherapy and AFTER 30 radiation treatments indicating that his body is still vital and producing  enough cells.
*Brian returned to jazz band rehearsals at the campus
*And the icing on the cake was learning that the collaboration concerning Brian's case between the Pittsburgh and Altoona docs has helped, in a small way, improve treatments for their patients. It's the little things that make a big difference.

Of course, there remains a shadow of uncertainty, but this week it has been moved to the corner and lightness fills the air of our home. We can sleep in. We can sleep. There is hope and that's a lot. Thank you for helping us continue the fight.