As we learned more about the 100,000th member, Bret Cantley, we discovered that he was fighting stage four liver and colon cancer.
"I was admitted to the hospital on the day of Super Bowl XLVI for chest pains," Cantley said. "I came out of the hospital with a diagnosis of cancer."
Cantley, a native of Wickliffe, attended a Lake County Captains game in June 2012. Little did he know that when he signed up to become a Browns Backer at the game, he would be the 100,000th member.
On June 7, 2012, Cantley received a phone call from Browns Backer manager, Michele DeScioli informing him that he was the 100,000th member of the Browns Backer community. As part of the celebration, Cantley was invited to dine with Browns front-office employees, received tickets to a home game, attended and celebrated at a press conference, and his story was turned into a Browns Insider exclusive. Listen to the full story by clicking here.
Shortly after Cantley was celebrated as the 100,000th member of BBW, he became an active member of the Burnt River Browns Backers, based out of Mentor, OH, and led by "Burnt River" Bob. Bob said "Bret was friendly and outgoing, and he quickly got to know a lot of our members."
Cantley and his then girlfriend, Joan, attended the Browns-Bengals game on Oct. 14, 2012 at FirstEnergy Stadium, Home of the Cleveland Browns. As part of his prize, he was welcomed on the field to watch the players warm up during pregame. Cantley had a little surprise up his sleeve when he got down on his knee and proposed to Joan. She happily said "yes!" To top off their special day, the Browns defeated the Bengals, 34-24. Bret and Joan were married on April 27, 2013.
Just weeks after their marriage, Cantley's cancer started to spread and his health began to deteriorate rapidly.
Along with FirstEnergy Stadium, one of Cantley's favorite places has always been Sandusky Speedway. Upon hearing the news of his failing health, the speedway stepped in and made Bret's wish of riding in a car a reality. Justin Hamilton of the Sandusky Speedway gave Bret a victory lap as a passenger. Cantley also gave the command to fire up their engines. A speedway representative said there wasn't a dry eye in the house after hearing Cantley's story.
Today, at 43, Cantley is home on hospice surrounded by his wife, Joan, and their children. "Bret is in good spirits. I've spoken with him a few times this week and he sounds very strong, just like the Bret we all know," says DeScioli.
If you would like to reach out to Bret Cantley and his family during this difficult time, you may do so by sending well wishes via Facebook. Fans can select the 'message' button to send a private note.