Will Wise, 30, was diagnosed with a pheochromocytoma, a rare tumour of the adrenal gland, in November 28, 2022 after throwing up blood on his way to work in central London. He had not suffered any symptoms before he suddenly fell ill.
Subsequent tests led to a 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, from Philadelphia, currently lives in Kensington with Australian fiancée, singer-songwriter Alex Hosking. Before his diagnosis, he had played as a professional basketball player in Europe and Australia, most recently playing for the Eastern Mavericks in Australia.
“When the doctor gave us the news, the world just stopped. I paused, turned to Alex and made a joke. It felt surreal. I tried to just take it in,” he told the Standard.
“The tumour caused my body to effectively shut down as it was producing too much 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.”
Will has undergone 14 months of treatment including three surgeries to remove his left adrenal gland, thyroid, parathyroid and 65 lymph nodes, as well as a liver biopsy. He is awaiting removal of the right adrenal gland and liver ablation. Doctors will monitor whether removal of the affected areas is effective or whether he needs chemotherapy in future.
On the night of his diagnosis, Wise recorded a vlog about his battle with cancer and uploaded it online under the name #CancerBae.
Through the account, he aims to reshape perceptions of the disease and spread positivity for those suffering in silence. His posts include updates about his treatment, ratings of his hospital meals and trips to watch the Premier League. To date, he has amassed nearly 6,000 followers on TikTok and another 5,000 on Instagram.
“I’ve always been a positive person so when this happened it was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach. For people like me with Stage Four it is not about surviving with cancer, it is about living with cancer. I want people to feel like they are not alone, and I’ve been feeling the support through trying to create that platform,” he said.
“My cancer might be rare, but the disease isn’t as rare as it once was. My mission is to change what the word cancer looks like to people. I am 6ft 9 with tattoos and I look athletic. When you tell someone you have cancer they give you glossy ‘cancer eyes’. Those who have it know exactly what I’m talking about.”
He added: “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 is fresh and exciting, that takes the eerie stigma away."
Since his diagnosis, Wise has been teaching youngsters in West London how to play basketball. He coaches teenagers at the Richmond Knights and also conducts school sessions across the borough of Richmond upon Thames.
"I'm excited to move the game forward. The game has given me so much, it is so fulfilling to be able to provide that for kids who want to experience it," he said.
Will is backing Cancer Research UK’s campaign to help people live longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer.