Goodbyes hurt the most when the story is not yet finished and the book has been closed forever…

I have been asked each day, sometimes many times a day over the past year by those close to me – How I am?  How I am doing? …I admit to having little to no idea.

Losing Coop has left me devoid of any ability to self-assess.  In fact, Cooper’s passing has stripped me bare of emotion as I once knew it.  Each day is simply survival, and with it, a thinly veiled attempt at making every day count as Coop always did, despite the appalling hand of cards dealt to him.  I never lose sight of the blessing I have in Mitch and Colin, who are the only ones that truly understand the depth of this pain, that rarely eases, and never leaves.

Cooper’s passing took our breath away.  There are days one year on, where we still feel it is nigh on impossible to breath, and panic attacks are common.  It is that moment that can strike anywhere, usually prompted by complete unpredictability, where the gravity of this situation will, without notice, hit hard.

The only means I have been able to find to articulate how each of us feels daily, is for those who are parents, to picture that brief but unplanned separation from your child in a department store, in the street, or indeed in any populated and public place.  Your child leaves your side, in that blink of an eye when you looked just the second before, and they were there.

We can each identify with that swift feeling of all consuming terror.  The nagging pit in our stomachs.  The unfiltered fear. The heart that beats out of your chest.  The pure angst which brings with it an inability to breathe, and the cold sweat – until your child is finally back by your side, and you allow yourself to slowly breath again…The feeling of sheer and utter relief you feel cannot be articulated nor replicated.

From the moment I open my eyes each morning, there is a split second where life is perfect again, and Coop is asleep in another room of the house – the way it was always meant to be.   Then reality sets in, and the terror and angst of twelve gut-wrenching months of separation is ever present, until relief finally comes in the form of sleep, and the pain is once again gone – albeit temporarily.

I became a different person when August of 2018 came around – counting each day, as the 24th drew closer.  Each day represented a day closer to the day we lost our precious son and brother, and each was associated with its own bitter sweet memories of the last two Augusts, since the nightmare began.

Each day I wonder what I missed, or I what could have done better.  I ask myself why I could not find the answers.  Parents are fixers.  They fix the problems in their children’s lives.  When the stark reality hits and you cannot fix a dire situation despite your best efforts, the helplessness and complete loss of control is palpable and debilitating, and you live with the guilt on a daily basis thereafter.

People often speak of turning back time in an effort to make each moment count.  Thankfully, we did just that – we lived in the moment, led by the courageous and fearless young man who bore so much pain throughout his brief life, and despite this, fought hard to leave his mark.  The problem is, it is never enough – no-one never wants the moment to end. No-one ever expects it will.  When you are the parent of a gravely ill child, you live with hope, and you never give up. Giving in is not an option.

This form of grief is similar to living two lives – one is where you publicly pretend you are doing well, and the other is where your heart silently screams out in pain.

We have been blessed with wonderful friends and family, as many who walk this road do so alone.  Random acts of kindness from those we have never met, have melted our hearts along the way.

Conversely this journey can be a sad revelation of the strength of true friendship, and it is fair to say there have been some insurmountable disappointments along the way, but very, very few.  It is a sad reflection that even in the depths of despair, people will form ill- conceived judgments about your journey, and how you deal with what comes your way.  You find yourself feeling sorry for those who do this, and often wonder how they would cope given the same hand of cards.

Cooper used the analogy of a train full of passengers pulling out from the station, and by the time it arrives at its final destination, a number of passengers have disembarked – this is the way he saw his treatment, and his declining health, with regards to those close to him.  He knew unequivocally, who his real friends were, and he ensured we knew also.  These friends were by Cooper’s side throughout, and there until the end of his journey.

To those people who have wrapped their arms around our family from afar, and walked this road with us, we are humbled, and will never be able to adequately and properly thank you for your love, thoughtfulness and kindness, the absence of judgment, and the endless support you have provided.  We are truly blessed for your presence in our lives, and each of you knows without doubt, who you are. If I could, I would name each of you individually, but it would take me days, if not weeks to do so.

With the next twelve months looming, we will continue to place one foot in front of the other, all the while, attempting to each day place our best foot forward.  We will make mistakes, we will often be difficult to read, we will sometimes withdraw, we will forget things – often birthdays, but we will never for a moment forget the love and support we have received over the past year, and how blessed we were to have Cooper in our lives, albeit so briefly.

The absence of Cooper’s larger than life presence, his courage, and the very essence of who he was, has created an enormous void for those who loved him so very much.  It is a void that can never be filled.  Our hearts remain broken, as we are forced to once more contemplate life without him.

Cooper will live on in our hearts, and in all we do in his name, for eternity…

Thank you Rob Hao!

On Friday 10th August, 200 passionate classical musical lovers came together, and with the exception of rapturous applause, you could hear a pin drop.  From the moment pianist Rob Hao emerged from the wings, to be seated at the grand piano to begin his recital, the audience were spellbound.

Rob’s recital, superbly set in the commanding presence of Big School Hall, at Sydney Grammar School, delighted all those who were fortunate to have secured a seat, and were transported to another place, whilst listening to  late Chopin works, Bach and Alban Berg, together with an early Beethoven sonata to complete the flawless performance.

The Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, and in particular the Rice-Brading family, wish Rob every success during his time in the UK, where he will commence an undergraduate Bachelor of Music course, majoring in piano performance, at the Royal College of Music in London.

There is absolutely no doubt how bright the future is for this accomplished young man, who is not only a talented musician, but the loveliest young man you could ever hope to meet.

Amazing people doing amazing things….

Heide Middleton and Sarah Jane Clarke are not only the founders of the highly successful Australian fashion label Sass and Bide, they have also lent their highly credible names to improving survival outcomes for sarcoma patients, with their fundraising and awareness initiatives.

It was while Heidi Middleton was staging her own battle with breast cancer, that her friend Kate Boyson was also staging a valiant battle with a Ewings Sarcoma diagnosis. Ewings Sarcoma is a highly aggressive and rare form of primary bone cancer.

Kate passed away in October of 2007, five months after her diagnosis, leaving behind her husband Marcus who now chairs Rainbows for Kate, the Foundation that proudly her name.  Kate and Marcus also had two young children.  Heidi was understandably devastated by the tragic and unnecessary loss of her friend at the age of 32.

Sass and Bide presented a tribute to Kate at New York Fashion Week, 2008, titled ‘Rainbows for Kate’ . This collection was inspired by a bracelet Heidi made for Kate, which contained coloured beads representative of different emotions, which today forms the basis of the Foundation logo. When addressing those at the Sass and Bide show, Heidi’s poignant words remain a strong reminder of all the qualities she admired and missed in her beautiful friend Kate Boyson.

My beautiful friend, tonight we celebrate your incredible spirit… your unbelievable courage, your shining heart…your ‘light any room’ smile…you burst into my life like a beautiful rainbow…” 

This story is a powerful reminder that sarcoma, like most cancer, does not discriminate.  It can affect all ages, despite disproportionately affecting young people.  Kate’s story, put simply, is heartbreaking.

Kate’s story also serves to remind us of the strength of the human spirit.  Her husband Marcus, their children, and her dear friend Heidi Middleton, all worked through their  unspeakable grief, to help spare others from traveling the same road.

The highly successful Rainbows For Kate, (RFK) funds ‘critical research that will bring hope, time and more treatment options to those diagnosed with Sarcoma cancers.’

RFK has contributed more than a million dollars to sarcoma research, and last Saturday night marked their ten -year milestone at The Swifts, Darling Point.  We are in awe of what this Foundation has achieved over a decade, for sarcoma research, and ‘grass roots’ awareness, and their outstanding resilience.

Please go to the website www.rainbowsforkate.com.au to donate or press the link below

 

http://www.rainbowsforkate.com.au/donations.html

Truly beautiful inside and out…

Mama Cax (Cacsmy Brutus) is a Haitian born model , advocate, blogger and motivational speaker, based in New York who holds a BA and and MA in international studies.  At 28 these achievements alone are impressive by anyone’s standards, and her life at first glance, seems to be complete.

But it is not just her stellar professional career that sees this stunning young woman stand apart from others, Cax as she likes to be called, has faced unimaginable adversity in her 28 years. Diagnosed with osteosarcoma which had metastasised to her lungs, and at the tender age of 14, the fight of her life began.

Cax early life was near perfect, in the idealic surrounds of her home in Haiti. Then in a blink of an eye, this all changed when constant pain in her hip was, after many visits to her doctor, finally diagnosed as osteosarcoma. Like most sarcoma patients, the diagnosis simply marked the beginning of a journey that most people would struggle to comprehend.

An intensive neoadjuvant chemotherapy protocol for twelve months was followed by an invasive twelve hour hip replacement to remove the tumour from the bone, together with a metal implant, which Cax’ body rejected, proved to be unsuccessful. The result was an amputation of her right leg, together with half of her pelvic bone. Keeping in mind all along Cax was the tender age of 16. When I was 16 the biggest issue I faced was what to wear, or how to avoid homework, and I am sure I am not alone.

The toll was indescribable and understandably, severe body image issues began to manifest, as the standard prosthesis that was fitted did not look real, and the reality of the magnitude of surgery set in. This is something rarely considered by those on the outside looking in. If you have your life, then to the outside world – you are deemed one of the fortunate ones. For those living this nightmare, it is yet another bitter blow.

Cax sourced an online community who identified with her concerns, she found Alleles, a company who made “fashionable, beautiful prosthetic covers”, and the shift in her self confidence began. During this time, Cax began her now highly successful Instagram account ‘Mama Cax’ which currently has 141,000 followers, to share her journey of ‘self love’.

By living by her mantra, she was able to “encourage others to feel less insecure and more empowered in theirs.” Adding, “I no longer feel disgusted looking at my scars. I now see them for what they are: proof that I survived, that I’m still here, and against all odds, won a vicious battle with cancer, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Cax, through sheer courage, determination and resolve, has turned the unthinkable, into a vehicle in which she guides and inspires others that walk behind her. She is a highly successful blogger, who is a disability advocate who has earned the right through her experience, to speak about positive body image.

For those of us who have lived this nightmare that is sarcoma, either as a patient or the loved one of a patient, we thank this inspiring, beautiful young woman for all she has done and is doing for those without a voice.

Biosceptre’s Phase 1 Clinical Trial for anti-cancer vaccine BIL06v approved by Ethics Committee

On the 21st of February Biosceptre’s proposed Phase I clinical trial for BIL06v (anti-cancer vaccine) was granted conditional approval by the Bellberry Ethics committee. Biosceptre is now proceeding to take BIL06v into a Phase I trial in late Q2 or early Q3 2018.

Biosceptre has high confidence in the safety of BIL06v, in part as a result of pre-clinical studies and compassionate access patients treated in Australia under the TGA’s Special Access Scheme.

The planned clinical trial will recruit between 20 and 30 patients from a basket of late stage cancers and seeks to confirm safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of BIL06v.  The planned clinical trial will also seek to identify early indications of efficacy in humans.

CEO Gavin Currie said “Having recently closed entry to our Series A fund raising round, we are pleased that this fully funded clinical trial, building on significant preclinical data, has been conditionally approved.  We consider that a successful clinical trial, our first for a systemic therapeutic product targeting nfP2X7, will provide further validation of nfP2X7. We are hopeful for first patient recruitment in Q2 2018.”

 

Read more about the very promising developments regarding the BIL06v anti-cancer vaccine and nfP2X.

http://www.biosceptre.com/technology/

Rare Cancers Australia KnowlegeBase Launch

Rare Cancers Australia have today announced the launch of their online resource, KnowledgeBase.  This resource provides an excellent overview of clinical trials, cancer specific information,  hospitals with , multi-disciplinary treatment teams, in fact a very comprehensive overview of all resources for rare cancers.  Sarcomas fall under the rare cancers category.

The KnowledgeBase is a part of RCA’s wider Patient Support Program aimed at providing patients with a centre of knowledge, guidance, advice and hope. It is a collection of invaluable resources including a Rare Cancer Directory and a list of hospitals that have Cancer Centres. You will also find a list of Multi-disciplinary Teams and clinicians that have a special interest in specific rare cancers.

This new tool provides free, round-the-clock digital access to critical cancer care information and services, which are designed to give rare cancer patients a fighting chance.

To read more press the link below

http://www.rarecancers.org.au/page/1150/about-the-knowledgebase

Elliott Miller. In the words of his mother – Henrietta

To mark global sarcoma month, CRBF will be conducting a series of interviews, and publishing tributes to patients and loved ones affected by sarcoma, in an effort to portray the human side of this insidious cancer.

I met Henrietta Miller late last year, after she took the time to reach out to me, when I was in the depths of despair after Cooper’s passing.

Henrietta is a gentle and quietly spoken woman, with a huge capacity to give to others.   I was pleased I had accepted her invitation to visit, as she is one of the few people who can say they deeply understand the myriad of emotions, and the never ending wall of grief you experience after the loss of a child.

Henrietta’s son Elliott had tragically passed away prior to Cooper, and was treated within the confines of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse as Cooper was, and treated by many of the medical team who had also treated Cooper.  It was indeed not lost on me our commonality was borne through deep seated tragedy, and at times throughout our conversation, and through the tears, I found myself wondering why it was we were brought together by circumstances that really should never be?  Our boys were bright shining lights at the very beginning of the wonderful lives ahead of them.

I will never forget Henrietta’s serene manner, and the selflessness, and kindness she showed our family, by reaching out to us at a time when we were at our lowest ebb.  It must have been very difficult to do so, knowing that it would undoubtedly open wounds of the past, yet this amazing woman put her own emotions aside to help others.

Today we celebrate the essence of Elliott Miller, in Henrietta’s words…

 

 

Elliott John Miller 27/12/94 – 01/03/16

 

Elliott was a second year arts student at Sydney University majoring in performance studies. His was a fairly typical lifestyle for such a student, many late nights with the occasional burst of essay writing to just about keep things on track. Taking every opportunity to perform, he spent the better part of 2014 concurrently rehearsing at least five shows and dedicated 2015 to his burgeoning career as a director. The only complaint anyone could ever make about Elliott was really a complaint about a lack of hours in the day in which to gain an audience with him.

In August 2015, Elliott had been complaining of a sore jaw when he ate, but trips to his dentist and x-rays had not shown anything untoward. In mid September though, a specialist dentist finally ordered an MRI scan which revealed a tumour. Following a biopsy his initial cancer diagnosis was Ewings Sarcoma, but this was later changed to an embryonic Rabdomyosarcoma; an incredibly rare form of childhood cancer, one that only affects about seven adults a year worldwide.

In October 2015, with all our lives inextricably changed forever, Elliott began chemotherapy  and radiotherapy at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, under the care of Professor Tattersall. Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best medical efforts, nothing could halt his tumour rapidly spreading from his jaw to his lungs where it continued to grow.

Elliott died on 1 March 2016, a little over four months after his diagnosis. He was 21 and on the cusp of an incredible future. Elliott performed right to the end, and never lost his sense of humour or the ability to saunter onto any stage, own it and make people laugh. Whether as a stand-up improv comedian, actor or director, Elliott never failed to impress.

He and his enormous potential are deeply missed by all his family and his extraordinary number of friends.

ACRF & The Centenary Cancer Research Centre provide much needed hope for sarcoma patients

ACRF together with the Centenary Cancer Research Centre provide hope for sarcoma patients

 

On the 30th May, I had the pleasure of attending an Australian Cancer Research Foundation function, where key speaker, was Professor Phillip Hogg, Director, Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Centenary Cancer Research Centre, Centenary Institute, spoke at length about PENAO, which is an experimental anti-cancer drug which he invented.After searching the globe for experimental treatments for our son Cooper, which showed signs of efficacy for rare cancers such as sarcoma, it was indeed a relief to finally hear there has been headway made in this crucial and much needed area of research.

PENAO has recently completed a Phase I clinical trial in patients with solid tumours at three hospitals in Australia.  It inhibits an enzyme central to sugar metabolism in tumour cells called mTOR, and combines very well with another mTOR inhibitor, everolimus.  Everolimus is an approved cancer drug.  Together, these drugs deplete cancer cells of mTOR.

A Phase I/II trial of PENAO in youths and adults with sarcomas that have an activated mTOR pathway based on mutation analysis is being planned.

mTOR pathway aberrations include PIK3CA mutation, biallelic PTEN loss, TSC2 mutation, Akt mutation, etc.  The Phase I component is 2 x IV PENAO dosing per week to define the Phase II dose.  The Phase II component is PENAO + oral everolimus.

ACRF funding helped establish a world class Centre for Basic and Translational Cancer Research on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital site. This state-of-the-art facility houses the basic and translational research components of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre (only the second in Australia). The new centre extended the reach of basic biological research on cancer and its translation into cancer prevention and control.

The Centre was officially opened in March 2016.

Grant applications - ACRF this year will include:

  1. 2018 $10M Major grant
  2. 2018 Annual grant

The Cooper Rice-Brading are proud to provide our continued support the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

Trump signs ‘Right to Try,’ says it will save ‘tremendous number of lives’

Please take the time to read this very relevant development in the United States, which will make a quantifiable difference to those patients who have exhausted mainstream treatment options.

This process in Australia, can take many weeks to facilitate, and this is time a terminally ill patient does not have.

Despite our political persuasions, this is a positive step forward for a marginalised group currently without a voice.