Lifestyle

Cooper's race against time with rare brain cancer

Amanda and Michael Christensen with their son, Cooper in front of their vehicle being entered into the Dunga Derby.
Amanda and Michael Christensen with their son, Cooper in front of their vehicle being entered into the Dunga Derby. Brendan Bufi

LIKE any other six-year-olds, Cooper Christensen loves playing with Transformers and his Wii.

But the Nikenbah boy has been struck by a debilitating and extremely rare brain cancer, which affects only 10 children a year.

His condition has rapidly deteriorated in recent weeks, and his parents Amanda and Michael Christensen have been told there is a 0% survival rate for their son.

THE couple have watched Cooper's motor skills deteriorate since he was diagnosed at the age of four with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), on October 30, 2013.

In simple terms, DIPG is an extremely rare paediatric brain tumour that typically strikes kids between the ages of five and seven.

But there's nothing simple about Cooper's illness.

No advancements have been made in the 30-year search for a cure for DIPG.

When Cooper was diagnosed with the tumour at the age of four, the prognosis wasn't good - doctors told the family he had just nine to 12 months.

But yesterday, at the family's Nikenbah farm, Cooper's dad Michael said the little boy had recently passed 19 months since that date.

"He finished prep at Xavier College last week - they had a gathering for him," Mr Christensen said. "Walking is now a challenge, he'll get a wheelchair this week."

If his current health continues to decline Michael says it's most likely Cooper won't celebrate his seventh birthday in December.

"His life's going to be cut short," he said.

"Not one child has survived this in the world."

The only way to combat the disease is research.

One organisation driving that research is the Brainchild Foundation, an organisation with the full backing of the Christensens.

The Brainchild Foundation's fundraising co-ordinator, Belinda Brunoli, said funds were desperately needed to continue to fight the debilitating disease.

"We're fighting to keep these kids alive so we don't have the choice to stop," she said. "If we don't keep at it and persist and stay positive then what do we have?

"It's traumatic, it's quick and it's very hard for families to come back from that."

Ms Brunoli said brain cancer was one of the least-funded cancers for research. She said money was the key to a future of finding cures and helping people affected.

"We're here to support families like Cooper's - it's not fair," she said.

Cooper is one of the faces of the Fraser Coast's Dunga Derby rally in August.

The rally raises money for local people with major illnesses who need help, and it and will leave from the Boat Club on August 21.

WHAT IS DIPG?

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a type of brain tumour on the brain stem near the top of the spinal cord.

DIPG makes up 10-15% of all brain tumours in children, with 10 diagnoses a year in Australia.

Fewer than 10% of children with DIPG survive two years from diagnosis.

Help by joining the Dunga Derby - go to http://www.dungaderby.com.au.

Topics:  cancer research, cancer treatment, dunga derby



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