The West

Disease Dr Harry didn t have answer for

Television veterinarian Harry Cooper has spoken out about the death of his daughter in the hope of inspiring greater vigilance against cancer.

Dr Cooper could not hold back tears as he told _The Weekend West _ how his eldest of three children Tiffany died in March last year after a 13-month battle with bowel cancer.

She was 37 years old and has left behind two small children.

After fending off his own fight against prostate cancer in 2008, where a tumour had grown "bigger than an orange", he was shattered by his daughter's plight.

"I remember walking on to the veranda of my old house and every time I looked at the sky I'd sort of think about it," Dr Cooper said.

"I remember just screaming - and probably everyone within a kilometre would have heard me - 'Why not me, why not me?' Your children are supposed to outlive you, not the other way around.

"I can still see her there, mate. I'd give up my life for hers."

Dr Cooper, who was a guest at the West Live expo in Perth a fortnight ago, said he knew instantly the gravity of his daughter's problems when an X-ray revealed a "fuzzy" area at the top of her femur.

It came soon after the birth of her son in December 2010 and was later diagnosed as a secondary cancer that had by that stage spread to other parts of her body.

Doctors would later find the aggressive primary source in her bowel. There have been few days since that the phrase "fuzziness around the head of the femur" has not echoed through his thoughts.

Despite a brave battle that embraced radical cancer treatments, the aggressive nature of her tumour and its advanced progress, left her with little chance of surviving. She had originally complained simply of soreness in her right hip when resting. Dr Cooper, who turns 70 next February, said he had adopted a role of unqualified support as his daughter and her husband Peter had mapped out their cancer fight plan. He chose never to reveal his full fears for her based on his acute understanding of medical issues. "I knew in myself that we couldn't win, but I never, ever said that," he admitted.

Dr Cooper said his attitude towards enjoying his life had been sharpened by his daughter's death as well as two previous divorces. But he said he could not have coped with his latest sorrow without the support of his partner Susan Sheeran.

"She's a great backstop and straightens me up sometimes," he said. "She's been my rock and I couldn't have done it without her."

He also urged people to undertake routine cancer screenings at least every three years to enhance their chances of a potentially life-saving early detection.

"Certainly with bowel cancer, if you have any family history there, go and have it looked at," he pleaded.

"But particularly with prostate cancer, there needs to be more awareness. The biggest problem with men is that they're frightened someone is going to shove a finger up their bum.

"Blokes have to get over it, it's no big deal. I shove my whole hand up a cow's bum."

Dr Cooper said his closest friend, from his budgerigar breeding days five decades ago, had advanced bladder cancer.

He said his daughter and her husband, whom he praised for his "doing the most amazing job" in looking after their two young children, had held a strong Anglican faith.

His own religious faith had been a constant source of strength and he often saw flashes of his daughter in his two grandchildren.

"There's lots of happy memories of good times and I've got stacks and stacks of photos from when she was a child.

"They're all there and I'm getting to that stage now where I'm going to start to reminisce.

"But she's done the job down here. It's time to go up there."

The West Australian

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