Name: Hunter Cooper
Parents: Amy and Brad Cooper
Tell me about the moment you find out about the diagnosis?
Hunter: I had been active, I ate healthily. It was one of those moments where I thought it couldn’t be me, it had to be somebody else. This is how we all felt, it was just shock.
Amy: It was shocking because we thought that he had a sports injury from soccer. He ran track, played soccer, ran miles every day and was healthy. We never really dreamed that would happen. After we did get the diagnosis, Hunter would say “that can’t be me, but then it shouldn’t be anybody else either.” It’s a tragedy, no matter who it is. It was shocking, scary. You hear cancer and your mind automatically goes somewhere really dark and the worst case scenario.
What we found is we grew around our faith and our love for each other. This is our new reality and we just have to find a way to live day by day and keep going.
Sometimes you couldn’t look too far in the future because one day had enough worries of its own. We pulled together.
What has been the hardest part of this experience?
Hunter: Physically, it was when I had my first port on my left side. I had a collapsed lung and blood clot from it, which is already a 1% chance of happening. It was a double whammy. That was one of the worst physical experiences. Emotionally, someone I had gotten close to passed away during treatment. He was right behind me in treatment so we were in the hospital at the same time. He got a rare lung infection and passed away from it. I think that was very hard on everybody.
Amy: The reality is you want to hope and believe that we are going to overcome this. The reality is some do and some don’t, there is no rhyme or reason to that. It was hard reconciling the reason that he was not going to have that same outcome. It was gut-wrenching watching our friends family go through that.
Hunter: You almost get the survivor’s guilt. You know you shouldn’t have it, but you do. You’re glad to be alive but then you feel like they should be celebrating with you.
How has DanceBlue impacted you?
Amy: We can not say enough about our Adopt-a-Family (Theta Chi) guys. They are so much fun to talk too. They have become older sons to us. It’s a community that you immediately are a part of. It doesn’t matter what you have been through or what diagnosis you have or whether you have cancer or not. It is this community that is inspiring, uplifting. We didn’t think Hunter was going to get to go the DanceBlue marathon this year because he was in an intense phase of treatment at that point. Theta Chi made these great shirts for us. We, low and behold, got to go. His blood counts were high enough. We got to go for a little while and it was truly amazing to see all the people that were dedicating their time and energy. Everyone was just so enthusiastic for these kids. It’s influenced Hunter; he wants to do that when he is older. He has walked through this experience and he wants to relate to other kids going through it. He can’t wait to dance with DanceBlue someday.
Brad: That’s what amazes me is the time you all put in at your age. I never would have thought about doing that at your age.
Hunter: The whole DanceBlue, in general, has become a whole new family to us.
What DanceBlue programs have you participated in?
Brad: Hunter got to go out on the field for the UK soccer game with another survivor.
Amy: Just some of the financial benefits, UK gave us parking passes, food vouchers and things like that since we were spending so much time in the clinic.
Is there anything that has provided you comfort during this time with your treatment?
Brad: Our faith.
Hunter: Our faith and from the very beginning. I had a little saying that we ended up putting on t-shirts. It was “Fearless at the foot of the cross”. When I was first diagnosed sitting in a hospital bed, my mom’s close friend, who is a breast cancer survivor, was in the room and she wanted to talk to me. I told her “I am going to try to stay fearless at the foot of the cross.”. She put it on Facebook and the saying kind of exploded. We had people in other countries that wanted to buy my shirt. Shirts have been in Colorado, Seattle, and even Africa.
Amy: Our community has been amazing, the support from people we know, people we don’t know. Prayers and thoughts from all sorts of people in the community. All of the staff and volunteers in the clinic, everyone we have had the privilege to be with has made us feel uplifted and like we can do this.
Hunter: I play soccer, play Fortnite, and I like to fish in a little reservoir near our home. My dad and I go fishing out there a lot. We got to go deep sea fishing this summer. It ended up being more sightseeing because we saw a lot of different animals. This past summer, I went to a big camp in Montana. I think 18 kids in all of the U.S. are selected and two came from Kentucky. Dad and I got to go white water rafting, horseback riding, and got to see Yellowstone.
Amy: It’s amazing to think that June 2017 Hunter was diagnosed and June 2018 he was flying home from this awesome trip. It was cool to see how far he’d come and it be full circle. What all happened and overcome in one year.
What would you all like for the University of Kentucky campus to know about your family and what you all have experienced?
Amy: If anyone is going through this journey, we are always available. We want to encourage other families to hang in there. It is hard- I’m not going to sugar coat it. Cancer is hard and treatments are terrible, but there are so many amazing things that have come from this. An appreciation for life and the little things that we so often take for granted.
It gives you a whole other perspective on what is precious and what is valuable in this life. To learn to let go of the small things.
Live for the day and appreciate every moment. The marathon was amazing and to see all the kids yelling “For The Kids” and seeing the money raised was emotional.
Hunter: I’m sure most DanceBlue people know this but if you come to my room we will probably talk for hours, just putting that out there.
Amy: That’s another thing throughout his treatment he is a talker and loves to just hang out and being stuck in the hospital for weeks on end, waiting for the number to rebound. All the great folks that come in got him through. We cannot say enough great things about the UK hospital, clinic, DanceBlue, and the entire experience.