NINE-YEAR-OLDS can be quite assertive when it comes to birthdays, coming up with entire lists of their desirable gifts.
But for Cooper Zerk's ninth birthday in three weeks' time, he only wants one simple thing - to be home in Chinchilla for it.
Since being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour on September 10, Cooper has been in Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane, and although he has his mum, dad and older brother, Jed by his side, according to mum Lyn Zerk, he just wants to go home.
"All he wants to do is be home for his birthday," Mrs Zerk said.
"He's just amazing; he take's everything in his stride in and it makes me wonder whether he does it to make it easier for us."
The tumour, which is sitting in the vital centre region of Cooper's brain, is estimated to be about the size of a golf ball, and is additionally, so rare the family's oncologist said she only encountered it about once every 18 months in children.
Cooper, who had been at school in Chinchilla, had become progressively worse at the remaining half of the last school term so his family took him to Brisbane where they received the diagnosis which would change their lives.
"When we came in (to the hospital) we were told to pack up and not go home for eight months," Mrs Zerk said.
Since then, Cooper has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy, the last one being carried out just last week, and quite miraculously, his tumour has already begun to shrink.
Mrs Zerk admits Cooper and his family aren't quite out of the woods yet, but none of them are letting it get them down.
"I refuse to let it have any power over our lives," she said.
As for Cooper, he's already looking ahead to the Chinchilla Bulldogs' upcoming football season, with whom he plays for the junior league.
"He's already started going for jogs to get ready for the footy season," Mrs Zerk laughed.
The dedication appears mutual too, with the Chinchilla Bulldogs wasting no time in getting a fundraising page set up for Cooper and his family so they could stay together through his ordeal and getting Jonathon Thurston to sign a Bulldogs jersey for him which the club plans to auction off to donate the proceeds to the Zerks.
"When I told him about Thurston signing the top for him, he was so excited," Cooper's mum said.
"The support we've had back home has been absolutely amazing.
"There's going to be more than a few on the (Bulldogs Club) committee I'm going to be deeply indebted to."
If you would like to help Cooper and his family, visit https://www.mycause.com.au/page/112843/care-for-coop.
Or ,donations can be made through the Chinchilla Bulldogs Rugby League Club by contacting treasurer, Jodie Manuel on 0439595235.
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