William’s courage shines despite heartbreaking diagnosis
IT'S the heartbreaking news no parent should ever have to hear and sadly something that will change the lives of one Bundaberg family forever.
Like most little boys, William Wheeler has an active imagination, enjoys dressing up and loves Bluey, a cartoon dog and main character of the popular children's show.
But William, his three brothers and parents Lauren and Joe's lives were turned upside down in 2018, when little William, just 11-months-old at the time, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma Cancer.
"William is the happiest little boy and no matter what he's gone through, he always has a smile on his face," Lauren said.
"He absolutely adores his brothers and I don't think there's anything that makes him happier than playing with his baby brother - he just really loves people and he's very social."
It was just before Christmas in 2018 when William's parents noticed he was having trouble breathing and started to develop a wheezing noise.
After taking him to the doctor and emergency department a few times, they were told it was asthma, prescribed Ventolin and sent home.
But things took a turn when the family who had been on holidays arrived back home and William was no longer able to walk, wanted to be held all the time and wasn't his usual bubbly self.
Determined to do everything in their power for their little boy, Lauren and Joe sought out a second opinion.
"We went to a different doctor who indulged me and she sent us to get an x-ray which revealed this huge tumour that was so large that it was actually breaking his ribs apart and we had no idea that he was in so much pain," Lauren said.
"They sent us to Brisbane that same day and that's when they told us it was Neuroblastoma and it was really aggressive."
William was admitted into the paediatric intensive care unit immediately where he remained for an entire month.
During this time, his loving parents watched on as William's condition deteriorated so much that he needed to be incubated because he no longer had the ability to breathe for himself.
The first two rounds of chemotherapy returned positive and unprecedented results, shrinking the tumour by 90%, but devastatingly, just after William completed treatment in August last year, his cancer returned, as the family faced another unexpected tragedy.
"We were actually expecting another little boy and we had little Henry, but he was born still born in the middle of August and about a week later is when we got the news that William's cancer had come back," Lauren said.
"Within one week we had two of the worst possible things that could happen to you, happen to us."
Heartbroken and grieving, the family had no time to process what they had just been through and were back in Brisbane the following week, for William to undergo more intensive treatments including eight rounds of chemo and two consecutive bone marrow transplants.
Half way through immunotherapy this year, William's doctor delivered the news that William's cancer had once again returned, but this time it spread and with no further treatment options available.
"We weren't expecting it … he was doing so well, he was so happy and he was handling treatment really well, but even though he looked so healthy, his body was hiding something really sinister," Lauren said.
"It's starting to get really quite difficult now because the spark that he has always had is starting to go as his health deteriorates, but he's just the most amazing little guy.
"As a parent, your kids always come first and if he can get through all he has been through and still be as happy as he has been, then I'm going to look for the joy every day."
Setting up a Go Fund Me fundraiser page, the family intends to use the funds to fulfil William's wish list.
Through the generosity of others, William's family were able to take him to the Gold Coast theme parks for the very first time, where he fell in love with penguins and stingrays at SeaWorld.
Thanking the community for their support, Lauren said the campaign has gone far beyond expectations and the family is so grateful for everyone's generosity.
Local businesses including Littabella Alpacas and Bucca Retreat have also contacted the family inviting little William to visit the two attractions.
"I set the Go Fund Me up because William is too young for the Make A Wish Foundation, we set it up in the hopes of just getting enough money to try and get one last family holiday in," Lauren said.
"I would just really love to thank the whole community of Bundaberg - even just the messages of support - we really appreciate and remember everything everyone has done for us."
Having never celebrated his birthday outside of a hospital before, family and friends gathered last weekend for William's third birthday.
"He actually turns three on January 31, but at this stage we're not sure if William will live to see it out, so we brought it forward," Lauren said.
"William may not get to live a very long life but he has got to see the very best in people and that's the gift that as parents, we could never ask for anything more."
To make a contribution and help grant William a special wish, click here.