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‘My sporting pro days are over, but I’m teaching the next generation’: Will’s story

Lynn Daly
by Lynn Daly | Personal stories

9 February 2024

2 comments 2 comments

Basketball player Will Wise wearing a Cancer Research UK t-shirt
Will Wise


At 6ft 9ins, Will Wise is a striking figure. In his sports kit and size 15 trainers, he looks ready to take on the world. 

But appearances can be deceptive. At 30 years old, Will has a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer. 

Will’s cancer diagnosis was shocking and devastating, changing his life in a split second. He describes the last 14 months as “shocking, scary, spontaneous and amazing”. 

While going through tough treatment, he has founded #CancerBae, a movement focused on reshaping perceptions of the disease. 

“My aim is to not only raise awareness but also provide unwavering support to those, like me, who are on what is a formidable journey,” Will says. 

“Cancer isn’t just a word to be whispered in hushed tones. It affects each of us in some way, so it’s time to redefine the narrative.” 

Will playing basketball for the Eastern Mavericks
Will playing basketball

From a normal day to a diagnosis

Until late 2022, Will was a professional basketball player, travelling throughout Europe and Australia, most recently playing for the Eastern Mavericks in Australia.  

But that all changed overnight when, without warning or any symptoms, he collapsed, and doctors found all his major organs were shutting down. 

His day started in the normal way – a workout in the gym, a run, a shower, then off to work. But on the journey there, he began sweating; he was getting out of breath, and he developed a pulsing headache.  

When he arrived, he was throwing up blood. His colleagues got him to hospital and by the time doctors examined him, his body was shutting down. 

“My heart was operating at under 10%, my lungs had failed, my kidneys had failed, and it was looking dire,” he says. 

Tests and scans revealed Will had a rare tumour known as a pheochromocytoma, a tumour of the adrenal gland. This led to a further diagnosis of a rare condition called multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2).  

This can cause tumours in the thyroid and parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, lips, mouth, eyes and digestive tract. Will’s cancer had spread to his thyroid gland. 

Will during his treatment
Will during his treatment

The prognosis did not look good. But thanks to treatment, Will has fought back. 

He has undergone three surgeries so far – to remove his left adrenal gland, thyroid, parathyroid and 65 lymph nodes – as well as a liver biopsy. He is awaiting more procedures to remove his right adrenal gland and kill cancer cells in his liver using heat (liver ablation). 

“Right now, the plan is to try to remove the affected areas via surgery, then monitor and gauge if I need chemotherapy further down the line,” he says. “But for now, I’m doing OK, I’m living my life and aiming to make a difference.” 

“Knowledge is power”

With research as the bedrock of treatment and survival, Will is also backing Cancer Research UK’s aim to help people live longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer.   

“Having stage four cancer is far from ideal and it’s daunting. But knowledge is power and the more openly we talk about these things, the better. 

“I want people to know you can live a good life with cancer. It doesn’t have to define you. I’d like to create a new, vibrant, colourful movement that’s fresh and exciting, that takes the eerie stigma away. People like me don’t want those ‘cancer eyes’ – that look people give you when they discover you have stage four.” 

Will lives with Australian fiancée, singer-songwriter Alex Hosking, 28. Alex says their goal is to remain upbeat about life. 

“For us, this isn’t about fighting cancer or even surviving it – it’s about living with it.” 

She admits that, following the diagnosis, there were lots of tears. But, once they got over the initial shock, they were able to look beyond the diagnosis and see there was so much more life to be enjoyed. 

“It was a shock and scary, especially at such a young age when you’re feeling invincible,” she says. “But even with words like ‘cancer’ and ‘stage four,’ you realise you just have to keep moving. Although it’s difficult, we try to stay positive and upbeat.” 

Will with his fiancee Alex
Will with his fiancée Alex

#CancerBae

That ethos is reflected in their honest and upbeat social videos, which came about shortly after Will’s diagnosis. They started to see the positive and even the humour that can be found amid a life-changing diagnosis.  

The experience has given them both a new perspective on life. They’re learning to cherish every moment because they know time could be limited. 

“This experience has taught us to live life to the fullest,” says Alex. “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can make the most of today. So, our plan is to stay present, embrace new experiences, and appreciate the beauty of life. 

“Positive things we’ve found through this experience include how resilient our love is, and how far we will go to be there for each other.

“We also learned how precious life is and how important it is to laugh and not be too serious.” 

#CancerBae has nearly 6,000 followers on TikTok and another 5,000 on Instagram. Will, originally from Philadelphia, has also had media coverage in his native US, including in Newsweek and twice on ESPN. 

Will’s now back on the court, but this time teaching youngsters all over West London how to play basketball. And he is on a mission to be a stage four cancer warrior, to change the narrative and be a beacon of hope to those navigating the challenging terrain of the disease. 

    Comments

  • MARY B SEEMUELLER
    19 February 2024

    Love this wonderfully positive spin on advanced MEN2/medullary thyroid carcinoma. More power to you Will! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Harps
    9 February 2024

    Such an inspiring story! What a modern day superman.

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    Comments

  • MARY B SEEMUELLER
    19 February 2024

    Love this wonderfully positive spin on advanced MEN2/medullary thyroid carcinoma. More power to you Will! Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Harps
    9 February 2024

    Such an inspiring story! What a modern day superman.

Tell us what you think

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