AT A TOWERING 6ft 9ins, and is his sports kit and size 15 shoes, Will Wise is a striking figure – he looks super-fit and ready to take on the world.
But appearances can be deceptive. At 30 years old, Will has a rare and incurable stage four cancer.
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 after, without warning or any symptoms, he collapsed and doctors found all his major organs were shutting down.
Shockingly, 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.
The prognosis did not look good. But thanks to treatment, Will has fought back.
He is 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.
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.
With research as the bedrock of treatment and survival, he is also backing Cancer Research UK’s aim to help people live longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer.
Research breakthroughs mean every day, people are being diagnosed earlier, have access to kinder and more effective treatments, and some cancers are prevented completely. This all adds up to more moments that matter for people affected by cancer and their loved ones.
But around 36,500 people are diagnosed with the disease every year in London alone, so the charity is calling on people to help them go further and faster in the fight against the disease by donating to help fund new discoveries.
Will lives in Kensington with Australian fiancée, singer-songwriter Alex Hosking, 28.
The American-born basketball player said: “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.
“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.
“Having stage four cancer is far from ideal and its 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.”
Alex, who is from Adelaide, and is currently back in Australia, said it was their goal 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 body blow, 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 said. “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.”
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 couple met six years ago while Will was playing professionally in Adelaide.
Alex, who earned a gold record in the UK singles chart with her hit track Fake Friends, also has a substantial following on TikTok and Instagram. She shared a video on her TikTok account (@alexandrahosking) detailing the everyday fun things they are learning to appreciate.
The experience has given them both a new perspective on life, learning to cherish every moment because they know time could be limited.
“This experience has taught us to live life to the fullest,” said 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 cancer had no symptoms at all until November 28th 2022. 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. By the time he arrived, he began 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 have failed, my kidneys have failed, and it was looking dire. It was such a whirlwind because I literally never get sick, and I’m always in the best shape so it was mind-blowing. It went zero to 100. When they finally got me under control, they diagnosed me with a pheochromocytoma – a tumour on my left adrenal gland, which produces an abnormal amount of adrenaline.
“My adrenal levels were 50 times what they should be. The doctors had no idea how I was able to survive such a crisis,” he said.
But in another area, Will was massively unlucky. Most Pheochromocytomas are benign, his was not.
He has undergone three surgeries so far, to remove the left adrenal gland, thyroid, parathyroid and 65 lymph nodes, as well as a liver biopsy. He is waiting removal of the right adrenal gland and 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 said. “But for now, I’m doing OK, I’m living my life and aiming to make a difference.”