Saving the best until last…

Friends were so very important to Cooper. They were the very essence of who he was. This was never more evident than throughout his valiant battle with osteosarcoma.

Cooper was never comfortable with his friends seeing him unwell, he did not want to make them uneasy or scare them unnecessarily, so rarely did he allow them to join him at the hospital. Instead he would save their get togethers for when he was discharged, and they could have some fun together, without the stark reminders of that dark cloud that followed him throughout his illness.

Coops friends represented normalcy. They were his escape back in time when things were so much simpler, and they never let him down.

This group of friends who manifest from The Scots College, and Sydney Grammar School provided Cooper with a lifeline during the really difficult times. They were always up for a game of footy at the park or have a hit of cricket on the good days, and on the bad days, they would be the first to rally around him, whether that was a visit to do not very much at all but to let him know they cared, or something equally as simple as a Facebook message or SMS when he was confined to bed, which never failed to lift his spirits.

We never underestimate the pain these wonderful young men must feel on occasion, since Cooper is no longer in their lives, and yet each of them in their own way, has continued to support our family and the Foundation that bears Coops name, and we are so grateful to each of them for doing so. This road we travel is unchartered territory, and we must never take anything for granted, so to maintain contact with each of these young men who were so important to Coop, is more than we could have ever hoped for.

We are so very proud to announce these outstanding young men as Ambassadors for the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, and can only imagine how proud Cooper would have been of this very important and significant development.

To Gus, Warwick, Joe, Max, Xavier, George, Alexander, Matthew, Adam, Lachie and Sam -words cannot express our gratitude to each of you for the wonderful memories you provided Coop and our family over the years, and the joy you brought to his very brief life.

We are honoured to have each of you join the Foundation to play such an important role in ensuring Cooper’s legacy lives on.

Max Bonic

When I moved to Sydney for the start of year 6, Cooper, also new to the school, was a massive influence in making that transition seamless. It was Cooper and his family who took my brother and me to watch an AFL game for the first time, a sport I had never seen before and it was Cooper who later encouraged me to give the sport a try for myself. It was from these foundations that our friendship was built.

Learning about Cooper’s diagnosis was obviously a shock and a very sad moment, but it wasn’t something I understood the realities of very well. My initial mindset was always one of optimism, that this would be a great challenge but one Cooper would come away from. I think this was largely the attitude Cooper adopted as well. One of the things I most admired about Cooper was his resilience and refusal to ever complain. He much preferred to keep himself busy and enjoy spending time with his mates than feel sorry for himself, which is something that definitely rubbed off on the people close to him.

When Tania asked if I would be interested in being an ambassador for the foundation, it was an easy decision. The work that the foundation has done so far in raising awareness and funding research into Sarcoma is astonishing. Cooper gave me so much through my friendship with him, so I leapt at the chance to help in any way I could. I am immensely proud to represent to foundation and I hope we can continue the great work that has already been done.

Max Bonic

Joe Bonic

As the only other new student in my class when I first moved to Australia as a 10 year-old, Cooper was the first friend I made. This friendship was hardened on the sporting field, a place where Cooper, myself, and all our friends were happiest. This never changed, and, as it was when we started high school, we neared the finish by spending our time throwing the footy around at the park.

Cooper was persistent during our last year together. Even when the treatment and the cancer did their worst to his body, his sense of humour and his spirit were as strong as ever. No matter how low I’m sure he felt, he would never let on to his friends for fear that we would treat him any differently to how we always had.

I had never heard of Sarcoma when Cooper was diagnosed, and that’s a crying shame because I know that it means that so many others will also have never heard of it until it affects someone they love. That’s why the awareness and research that Cooper and the Foundation are helping is so important, and to support that in any way is a real honour. The work that Tania, Colin, Mitch and everyone involved in the Foundation has done is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the wonderful work that can be done in the future.

Sam Isherwood

Sam Isherwood

Matt Jones

Matt Jones

I first met Cooper when he joined Scots and instantly became extremely good friends. We shared a passion for sport wether it was playing it, watching it or discussing it.

I played with and against Coops in multiple sports Cricket, Rugby and Aussie Rules to name a few, he was such an exceptional athlete which meant it was a lot better to play with him rather than against him. When ever I was around cooper I could guarantee that I could have an uncontrollable laughing fit, he was the funniest person I’ve ever met and that never changed.

When Cooper moved to grammar I was fearful that our friendship would grow distant but thankfully it never did. When Cooper got sick he never complained not once, he was so inspirational the whole way through and showed endless amounts of courage and perseverance. Coops really is a role model, he is an inspiration to me and I am sure to everyone around him.

I am very proud to be an Ambassador for Cooper because he was such a good person and a good friend.

Lachie Kiel

Lachie Kiel

Alexander Magiros

Alexander Magiros

Cooper was one of my closest mates at SGS. It feels like not long ago that we were messing about in our year 10 humanities class.
My fondest memory was kicking around an AFL ball on Birchgrove oval only to be pleasantly interrupted by Tania making sure that we had been well fed.
Throughout Coops’ first year of treatment, he lived as if nothing had changed. He remained the humorous,
enthusiastic and outgoing person that I know. Although he never spoke of his suffering or his Foundation, the work he had put into it was indescribable. His courage in the face of adversity is what was most inspiring.
I am proud to be an ambassador in honour of Cooper’s legacy which he worked so tirelessly to establish.
It is so important to educate our society of such a rare cancer as doctors at Lifehouse are seeing 3-4 new cases a week. I’m eager to help the Foundation progress in any way that I can.
Alexander Magiros
Gus McGrath

Gus McGrath

My mate Cooper has had a big influence on my life. I want to keep it this way, forever.

We played sport which we both loved, mainly cricket and footy, we laughed, we played Poker, and we had fun. Coop never left our Scots group and even in his years and time at Grammar we stayed best mates.

When Coop got sick he never complained.  At first, I didn’t understand what was happening and Coop didn’t want to explain it. I respected that.

My Dad had been sick with Leukaemia when I was young so I knew that Cancer would change things. It didn’t change Cooper. He wanted to be part of everything as it had always been. So we played cricket, we played footy, we played cards, and I sat with him in the hospital when he was having treatment or recovering from it.

Coop was so brave. I wanted to tell him all the time because he was trying so hard to be normal and I wanted to help him. Sometimes in the silent moments nothing needed to be said, only that I would stand by him whatever it took.

When Tania asked if I would be an Ambassador for Cooper, I didn’t really understand what that would mean or what I can add. However, if I can honour Coops courage, his determination, and represent him when asked, I would do my best. Coop is not a memory for me, he is here every day and always will be.

Gus McGrath, September 2018.

Adam Pacey

Adam Pacey

My relationship with Cooper began in our first year of school at Sydney Grammar. Sharing a liking of sport, our friendship soon blossomed in the coming years.

Our friendship was forged in our early years of high school which involved an endless pursuit of evading all school work and figuring out ways to avoid our next detention or homework submission.

But it was when he was presented with his life changing diagnosis that Cooper’s great character became even more apparent. A memory that I treasure was when Coops returned to cricket at Weigall against St Joseph’s College. After months of chemo and an intensive surgery, Cooper managed to train and play cricket at 1stXI standard. Cooper was unlike any person I’ve ever known. In the face of immense hardship, he always remained true to his character and maintained his sense of humour.

I am proud to be an ambassador for the Cooper Rice Brading Foundation, a cause that one of my best mates worked tirelessly to promote at the hardest point of his life, in the hope to save further lives.

Xavier Roche

Xavier Roche

My lasting memories of the friendship I shared with Cooper are of his unique sense of humour, our shared love of sport and competition and the courage he displayed throughout his illness. His personality and strength of character remain influential in my life and are never far from my thoughts.

The enduring impact of Cooper’s life on his friends remains immediately apparent in our Scots friendship group, through both consistent references to hilarious and unforgettable moments we had with Cooper and the decisions and actions each of us make, for which Cooper’s bravery and determination will always provide guidance.

In my 18 years I have known several family members and friends, in addition to Cooper, who have been diagnosed with cancer. Whilst the therapies they have undergone have often been brutal and challenging, thankfully with research and funding there are increasingly successful treatment protocols for many cancers and I have been able to see these family members and friends recover and thrive.

At the time of Cooper’s diagnosis I assumed that this would be the case for him too. I did not realise the aggressive nature of Sarcoma, nor the limited options for successful treatment and survival.

It is with this in mind that I am eager to be involved with the Foundation to assist in any way I can with lobbying for funding and research into Sarcoma.

Xavier Roche

 

 

Warwick Ward

Warwick Ward

“My earliest memories of Cooper are from Year 6 at the Scot’s College. With a mutual passion for sport and an identical sense of humour, we were destined to become really good mates. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until he had left Scots and moved to Grammar that we became so close.

Cooper’s cancer diagnosis was a really confronting experience. One of my biggest concerns was whether Cooper would be able to continue playing sport because he loved it so much. However, Cooper didn’t let his condition stop him, he continued to persevere, insisting he was the best sportsman despite playing one handed. Cooper’s sporting efforts are a testament to his perseverance and resilience.

Cooper rarely discussed his cancer because he didn’t want it to impact those around him. He was so brave and selfless, a true role model. No matter how tough things seemed to be I always believed he was going to be okay because he was so positive and motivated.

I am very proud to be an Ambassador for Cooper because I want others to be inspired by his perseverance and courage, just like I am. While I’m not too sure what being an ambassador entails, I feel very safe in Tania’s hands.”

George Foley

George Foley

My friendship with Cooper was one of real mateship.

Sharing a love for sport, we would waste hours endlessly arguing over things like whether Buddy was a good signing for the swans, is Smith or Slater better in their prime, and where the Aussie cricket teams inconsistency comes from.

A natural connection came and we clicked from the early years of high school. Always laughing and smiling, our friendship meant more to myself than Cooper ever knew.

Getting involved with CRBF seemed a no brainer to me once Coops told me about it. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the foundation, beginning with the year 12 trivia night fundraiser in early 2017.

I look forward to continuing my ongoing support of the CRBF and becoming more involved in the Foundation’s fantastic efforts to beat Sarcoma as an ambassador.

A tribute to Kyle Zandona in the words of his sister Tayla

When Cooper passed away, I opened my email shortly after to find a heart-wrenching email from the younger sister of a patient who had lost his valiant battle with sarcoma. Her name was Tayla Zandona, and her words resonated with me deeply, and could have only come from someone who had lived the unspeakable devastation of sarcoma.

Tayla had lost her much- loved older brother Kyle to sarcoma at the age of 25, at a time when he had his whole life ahead of him. Every day she relives that pain, yet this extraordinary young woman still found the capacity to reach out to our family and to register her support.

Fast forward to a month ago, when Tayla and her equally lovely partner Damon came to visit us in Sydney, and it felt like we had known each other for longer. Certainly for my husband and I, there was an instant bond. The friendship was formed through the commonality of sarcoma, and yet I felt there was so much more – strong family values, a country upbringing, and the determination to succeed no matter what, which I saw so much of in Cooper.

I was delighted and somewhat surprised when I realised some weeks later, this remarkable young lady, was intent on fundraising for CRBF. This was never expected, and a very big part of me felt considerably uncomfortable with the notion, as I did not want our friendship to be based on what Tayla should or could do for the Foundation.

Nevertheless, she forged on and literally weeks after we met, on Saturday December 1, she and her amazing cohort of friends, contacts, and supporters in the Griffith region, raised $4300 for clinical research into sarcoma. This was done by a joint initiative between F45 Training in Griffith, and their trainer Andy Gamble, and the Yenda Diggers who hosted a summer session barbecue lunch with Hidden Temple providing the entertainment. Tayla also arranged a raffle, with all prizes generously donated by businesses in Griffith and Yenda.

Words really do elude me, when I am faced with an example of such pure generosity of spirit. Tayla could be forgiven for simply not wanting to look back, after what she has been through, and yet she is so driven to make a difference in the lives of sarcoma patients, by raising funds for clinical research.

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Tayla’s family, however judging by the wonderful young woman she is, one can only imagine, they must be extraordinary.

Tayla, words really cannot express our gratitude to you for our kindness, and thoughtfulness, especially given the hand of cards you have been dealt. It goes without saying – you set the bar very high for all of us.

Your precious brother Kyle would be justifiably proud of your courage and determination, and the difference you are making in the lives of young sarcoma patients everywhere.

Tayla’s deeply touching tribute to her brother Kyle, written in her own words, appears below.

Kyle’s story starts in August 2009, returning home a little sore from a weekend trip to the snow. For only a couple of tumbles while skiing the pain was not subsiding almost a week later. All of that was put on hold when we got the devastating news that Kyles best friend had passed away. He took it upon himself to look after everyone else thinking it was only a pulled muscle. Until Kyle could no longer hide the pain as he started limping and his thigh started to swell. It was then we decided it was not a normal muscle tear despite what one of the local doctors were saying and treating it as.

Four months later on the 16th December 2009, Kyle found himself sitting in Sydney doctor’s consulting room being told at the age of 18 years that he had a tumour the size of a deflated football growing on his right femur, Osteosarcoma.

His treatment began Christmas Eve 2009 three rounds of chemo, major leg surgery that followed in February 2010, doctors had planned to remove right femur, radiate it, then to return it back. Two days prior to surgery there was a change in plans as doctors had revealed that chemo had not worked as well as we all hoped. They then decided to replace 70 percent of his leg with a titanium prophesises (just below the hip to below the knee). After surgery another three rounds were planned until the second sent him into renal failure and he was left fighting for his life.

18 months later October 2012 a PET scan revealed our worst nightmare, it had returned in his left lung which doctors immediately removed, which lead to an extremely painful recovery, Agony with every breath he took. Five months later March 2013, another lung surgery as it has return again in his right lung this time. Three months later June 2013 with chemo to commence again in July an inpatient for three weeks straight.

August 2014 another lung surgery but this time the cancer had attached itself to two ribs which doctors had to remove and rebuild his diaphragm. April 2015 another surgery. June again for his 5th lung surgery another two ribs were taken and more diaphragm rebuilt. August 2016 it had returned again protruding and growing at a rapid pace. Doctors then tried chemo injections. October 2016 more chemo then returned home.

December 25th 2016 at the age of 25 Kyles seven year battle came to an end.

Even though osteosarcoma took up a large part of Kyle’s life, he never let it define him. As soon as you stepped off the hospital grounds you were forbidden to speak of it, “what happens in hospital stays in hospital”. He wouldn’t simply just walk out of hospital it would be a sprint even though doctors had said he “would never be able to run again”.

The man we remember was an old soul with a heart of gold, the definition of brave, courageous and selfless, a country boy. The only thing he wanted was to follow his father’s footsteps and take over the family farm. He showed this at the age of 18 months old, he would climb out of his cot, pull a chair to the door to unlock it, head out onto the farm at 3am in his little bananas in pyjamas gumboots, a nappy and a singlet ready to help with the harvest.
At the age of nine he was driving the tractors begging mum and dad to stay home from school so he could help as there wasn’t anything important happening at school. Two weeks after major leg surgery you would most likely find yourself resting and doing your exercises. Not Kyle, he somehow he had snuck out of the house for us to find him climbing up backwards into the tractor because he just wanted to go for a drive.

If you couldn’t find Kyle out on the farm you would find him with his mates creating “engineering master pieces” as he would say. Until dad got the phone call saying “your son built on council land again and he had to take it down”.

As he matured he started showing his love for the community. He was one of the youngest men to ever join rotary Australia, it was his way of thanking god at a second chance of life. He also got nominated for young Australian of the year and turned it down as there were others who deserved it more than himself.

He was able to live his dream of hiring a big RV and travel across the US not once but twice.
The infectious smile he wore all day when he ran out screaming he was going to godfather to a beautiful baby girl. That smile continued when he got the chance to humiliate his mate in front of everyone as it was his job to, being best man and all.

That smile will be forever be engraved in our hearts.

Like so many others, another life that
was cut short.

Kyle Zandona

27.10.1991 – 25.12.2016