William was a happy, active and kind young man who enjoyed sport and spending time with his friends and family. He played hockey for his school and it was during one of these matches that he hit his hand and, we have subsequently found out, this was the catalyst for his primary tumour.
However, the first sign of trouble was when Will noticed a lump under his armpit. By then the cancer had already travelled from his hand to his armpit and after an examination and a later biopsy, it was confirmed to be cancer. Our world imploded and, while Will found it hard to deal with, he bounced back with a renewed sense of purpose and determination to fight. This was the beginning of a four-year battle with rhabdomyosarcoma.
Unfortunately, the primary tumour in his hand wasn’t identified until much later as it was ‘hidden’, or as explained by one of Will’s medical team an ‘occult tumour’ that wasn’t showing much activity, so wasn’t obvious on the scans. This meant we missed the chance to directly treat the primary site and made Will’s fight all the more difficult.
Over the course of four years, we worked with the teams at UCLH in Euston and later the team at the Royal Marsden. They all worked hard to hold it back with multiple different chemo / radiotherapy combinations but early successes were always followed by repeated relapses.
In late 2020, we were running out of treatment options and the outlook was bleak. None of us wanted to give up so we looked into alternative treatments outside of the NHS and found a new and cutting edge immunotherapy treatment via a specialist clinic in Mexico that looked very promising. The team at the Marsden were fully supportive of this approach and helped us in early consultations with this clinic. Thanks to a huge fund raising effort from friends, family and Will’s school we raised the money necessary to travel to Mexico and start the treatment.
The initial results of the treatment looked to be positive with Will’s immune system seeming to recognise and attack the cancer. We returned to the UK with cautious optimism and held our breath in hope of a miracle but this didn’t last long. Soon the cancer bounced back even more aggressively than before.
With a heavy heart we realised it was only a matter of time and Will focused on doing what he could in the time he had left. Will passed away at 2:50am on the 21st February. He battled so hard for so long but in the end, he was too weak to fight and the cancer just took over his body.
So much of his teenage years were blighted by treatments and the physical impact of his illness – In the end however, he had somehow managed to come to terms with it, even come to terms with the possibility of death. He would often say ‘While I’ve not beaten this physically yet, I feel I’ve beaten it mentally’. He was quite proud of that. The battle he had with the demons in his mind took years, but it gave him a unique and spiritual perspective on life and unexpected wisdom for someone of his age. He has left a huge void in our life that can never be filled.