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Amanda trades aide work to make late son Cooper proud

PAYING IT FORWARD: Amanda Christensen is training to become an enrolled nurse at the Hervey Bay TAFE campus.
PAYING IT FORWARD: Amanda Christensen is training to become an enrolled nurse at the Hervey Bay TAFE campus. Valerie Horton

MAKE Cooper proud.

It is a simple three-word mantra that serves as Amanda Christensen's inspiration as she approaches two months as a Diploma of Nursing student.

"I want him to be watching, and I'm sure he is, but I want him to go 'yeah, that's my mum, go mum!'," she said. "In some small part I want to continue to make him proud, and I think I'm definitely on the right path."

It has not been an easy near-two years for Amanda and Michael Christensen since son Cooper passed.

Diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) as a four-year-old, Cooper bravely, and heartily, fought for 21 months - beyond the expected 9-12 months period flagged by doctors -before the inoperable brain tumour claimed his life on July 25, 2015. He was six.

"It's difficult," she said.

"It's not something I think we will ever get over.

"You do what you can to survive, because each day it's just another reminder of what we don't have. We have to find little things, and sometimes it's the smallest thing to keep you going."

Five-year-old Cooper Christensen, pictured with parents Michael and Amanda, had terminal brain cancer and was the face of a Woolworths campaign to raise funds for Hervey Bay Hospital.
Five-year-old Cooper Christensen, pictured with parents Michael and Amanda, had terminal brain cancer and was the face of a Woolworths campaign to raise funds for Hervey Bay Hospital. Valerie Horton

One of the things to keep Mrs Christensen going was to go back to school.

Mrs Christensen went to Xavier Catholic College as a relief teacher and volunteer after her son's passing, but admitted she found it hard to return to Cooper's school.

"I found that being in a classroom and seeing where Cooper went to school and his friends continue to play and learn, it became quite difficult," she said.

"I gave that away and took some time to think about what it was I could then give myself for the rest of my working career."

After some searching, and a number of heart-to-heart discussions with husband Michael, she settled on following a dream of which she had had for some time.

There was the obvious concern of going back to study ("I thought I was too old for that") but she put that thought aside and pushed on.

Hervey Bay Hospital patient Cooper Christensen was the face of the local Woolworths’ fundraiser.
Hervey Bay Hospital patient Cooper Christensen was the face of the local Woolworths’ fundraiser. Contributed

Her goal is to become a nurse, not only to help others, but to use the experience she gained in her numerous visits to hospitals as a mother, and apply it to the profession.

"I can use that experience. I want to be able to pay it forward," she said. "My experience with nurses has been amazing and I want to help other families not only through the hard times, but as a nurse.

"I want to give them the same level of compassion and care we were granted, and I also want to make Cooper proud."

The short-term goal is to continue her work with children, but the long-term goal, which she said could be a decade away, was to work in an oncology department.

Study has not been an easy ride so far but she draws her motivation and drive from the memory of her young son.

"Cooper had this little thing, he always said 'it's okay, we won't give up, never ever give up' and I take that constantly, all the time, never ever give up," Mrs Christensen said.

"If he can go through what he went through, and always with a smile on his face, then I can certainly do this."

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