FORMER South Grafton Rebels hardman Scott Cooper is facing a battle much tougher than any he experienced on the rugby league field.
As a rugged prop forward he turned out for the Rebels over three decades, playing his last game as a 40-year- old. In April doctors diagnosed a metastic melanoma, after Mr Cooper noticed a lump under his arm and he has since had two bouts of surgery.
But the news has not been good.
Since the last operation Mr Cooper has lost the use of his right hand and has learned he has an inoperable tumour in his brachial plexus, which is responsible for the numbness.
His wife, former Rebels president Janita Cooper, said "Coop" remained positive in spite of the setbacks.
"He's battling it all the way," she said. "The doctors have told him to take it one day at a time and stay positive and that's what he's doing.
"He's had chemotherapy and five weeks of radiotherapy, but there's been no improvement with the movement in his arm."
Today the Cooper family is putting all their problems on the backburner to help their father and husband celebrate his 47th birthday.
"Having your birthday on Melbourne Cup Day doesn't happen too often, so Scott is looking forward to having a bit of a punt with his mates," she said. "I have given him the leave pass."
He has taken it with both hands.
"I love a punt and I've got it all picked out," he said "I'll be backing Jameka. My wife's name is Janita and I call her Jete, so that's how I came up with it."
In good news for the family, Grafton's Helping Hands group has a fundraising trivia night planned for November 19.
Helping hands founder Arthur Lysaught said the Coopers had been strong supporters of previous Helping Hands fundraisers.
"Scott and Janita do so much for the community. You have to feel for them with what they're going through now.
"Janita and Scott would never say it, but they're going to find the going tough with all the travel and medical expenses and just one wage coming in.
"I know the Grafton community will get behind the family and help them out."
Mr Lysaught said the trivia night will take the usual format of teams of eight. "It will be $100 a table at the Grafton District Services Club on November 19, 7pm start," he said.
For more information, contact the GDSC on 6640 3200.