Alex Cooper relishes a problem. Armed with a New Yorker’s moxie, an entrepreneur’s savvy, and an athlete’s willpower, he has launched startups, has competed in Ironman triathlons, and presents motivational messages in blogs, movies, and social media posts because the “Iron CEO.”
Cooper, 61, lives a lot of his life on bikes, on skis, within the water, and in trainers. “Over a lifetime of endurance sports activities and private challenges, I’ve developed the mindset for enduring by constructing the bodily and psychological energy to beat adversity,” he says.
He attracts on that mindset now as he faces the best adversity of his life – an aggressive brain tumor.
Cooper was recognized in January with glioblastoma, a fast-growing type of mind most cancers. According to the National Brain Tumor Societythe five-year survival charge for glioblastoma sufferers is about 7%, and the common size of survival for sufferers is about 8 months.
A workforce on the University of Colorado Cancer Center has helped Cooper struggle his most cancers via surgical procedure, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
Alex Cooper. Picture offered by Alex Cooper.
Greater than a journey
Cooper, a New Yorker who moved to Colorado six years in the past, is the son of two Holocaust survivors who immigrated from Hungary. His father died when he was 3 months previous; his mom lived with breast most cancers for greater than 25 years. That background “informs my life in quite a few methods, together with my very own expertise coping with most cancers, and has loads to do with my very own mindset as a survivor,” says Cooper.
When he turned 52 in 2014, he graduated from shorter triathlons to an extended, Ironman-distance occasion: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle journey, and a 26.2-mile run. “I completed it, and mentioned, OK, I checked it off the checklist and I’m good,” Cooper says. “A couple of days later, I spotted it simply spoke to me. I actually preferred it. It had some that means for me past all the opposite issues I had accomplished.”
He determined he would try to complete one Ironman per 12 months for 10 years. It took him 9 years; he completed his 10th in Wisconsin on Sept. 11, 2022.
“That entire Ironman journey, it grew to become greater than a journey, it grew to become extra than simply one thing I like doing,” he says. “It grew to become who I’m. It grew to become my model. It grew to become my web site. It grew to become me.”
And Cooper says his Ironman experiences helped “put together me for the journey I’m on now.”
Cooper had already determined that his September 2022 Ironman would most likely be his final “for now.” A month later, he says, “I began to note bizarre issues, a couple of bodily signs. My proper arm felt prefer it didn’t know the place it was. After I was driving, typically I believed my foot had moved from the brake to the gasoline, nevertheless it was nonetheless on the brake.” He had hassle typing.
He went to a normal practitioner who carried out fundamental neurological and blood checks and suggested him to see a specialist, who suggested him to get an MRI examination. Then got here the glioblastoma analysis in early January.
Cooper waited till he and his spouse returned from a long-planned trip in Belize in Central America to interrupt the information to her, after which to his grown children. Two weeks later, he had surgical procedure to take away as a lot of the tumor as attainable.
When he first met together with his surgeon – D. Ryan Ormond, MD, PhDa CU Most cancers Heart member and affiliate professor of neurosurgery – Cooper mentioned Ormond impressed confidence. The surgeon “shook my hand and my spouse’s hand, seemed us within the eye, bought to know us, and that meant every little thing to me. He handled me as a human being.”
Cooper says he readily agreed to remain awake via the surgical procedure on his mind tumor so he might talk with the surgical workforce and bear cognitive checks via the method. “To make a foul pun, it was a no brainer. I believed, right here was my probability to remain actively concerned in my surgical procedure and enhance the probabilities of success. The cognitive therapist was holding my hand and was essentially the most compassionate, understanding particular person. It was an important expertise, it actually was.”
Going above and past
After recovering from surgical procedure, on Valentine’s Day, Cooper encountered Timothy Waxweiler, MDan assistant professor of radiation oncologyand Douglas Ney, MD, a professor of neurology. They put him via six weeks of every day radiation remedies 5 days per week, focusing on the tumor website, together with nightly chemotherapy capsules. That was adopted by upkeep remedy involving every day chemotherapy for 5 days each 4 weeks. Cooper has additionally been given speech and occupational remedy.
“He’s accomplished above and past all of the remedies that we have requested of him, and he is all the time asking, ‘What else can I do?’” Waxweiler says.
In the meantime, Cooper rapidly resumed his train routine. He walked three miles on his first day residence from the hospital, was again on a stationary coach after two weeks, and was snowboarding after six weeks. Typically Cooper would go snowboarding on Friday mornings earlier than his afternoon radiation session.
“Associates have mentioned to me, ‘Lots of people, given what you’ve gone via, would crawl right into a ball on their mattress and prepare to die.’ And that’s simply not who I’m,” Cooper says.
Waxweiler says that Cooper’s case demonstrates the worth of looking for assist rapidly “if there’s one thing uncommon occurring and also you develop neurological signs.”
Alex Cooper (middle) together with his radiation oncologist, Timothy Waxweiler, MD (proper), and radiation therapist Tyler Broom (left) on the Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Nov. 4, 2023. Picture offered by Alex Cooper.
Stoked and amped
Within the U.S., about 80,000 individuals per 12 months are recognized with a major mind tumor. Ney says that of that complete, about 20,000 to 25,000 individuals per 12 months are recognized with a glioma, of which a glioblastoma is an aggressive Grade IV sort. “However although they’re uncommon, there’s loads of morbidity, so it’s a fairly critical analysis.”
“It’s a tumor that finally we anticipate to come back again, and finally is terminal,” Waxweiler says of Cooper’s glioblastoma. He, Ney, and their colleagues have been striving to delay and keep the standard of Cooper’s life.
Each docs describe their affected person as relentlessly optimistic via his ongoing therapy.
“He’s all the time so stoked and amped about life,” Waxweiler says. “He’s insanely spectacular. He is gotten half our workers to run races with him or join races, myself included. He brings all people up round him and motivates us as a lot as we’re serving to him. He’s actually motivated me.”
“He is a really high-energy, gregarious sort of sort of man who’s not prepared to let issues cease him from doing what he needs to do,” Ney says. “It is nice when you may reside like that.”
Able to tackle most cancers
As he faces his future, and as he works on a ebook about his experiences, Cooper has managed to remain upbeat.
“I attempt to not undertaking an excessive amount of into the longer term,” he says. “It doesn’t do you any good. I’m doing nicely, however I’m practical that there isn’t any treatment for this most cancers. The long-term prognosis will not be nice. However most of all, I’m grateful. I name it my little low cost parlor trick that I really feel so good. My high quality of life hasn’t suffered. I’m a person who likes to squeeze essentially the most out of his life, and I’ve loads of pleasure in life. And this has made me respect my spouse, my kids and my household like nothing else probably might. So in that approach, I’m higher off.”
Or as he wrote in a current LinkedIn publish: “My dedication to endurance has taken me to an important place in my life. It has reworked me bodily, emotionally, and mentally into who I’m at present: a person able to tackle most cancers.”
All images at prime offered by Alex Cooper. From left: Cooper competes on the SBT GRVL gravel bike race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on Aug. 20, 2023; Cooper on the Backcountry Wilderness Half Marathon in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Nov. 4, 2023; Cooper on the Loveland (Colorado) Lake to Lake Triathlon, June 24, 2023.