William Wheeler has spent more time in hospital than out and now his family’s one wish is to cherish every moment as the toddler’s fight for life comes to an end.
Described by his adoring parents, Lauren and Joe Wheeler, as William the warrior, the two-and-a-half-year-old has courageously battled cancer for most of his life.
Lauren said she and Joe were so proud of their brave boy who finds happiness in everything he does, whether it’s sitting in hospital connected to life-saving machines or running around with his older brothers.
“He really is the most lovable, wonderful kid – he enjoys life and is constantly smiling,” she said.
“William loves trucks and cars, and imaginative play and pretending he is a rocket ship, he is very energetic. Strangers who see him really wouldn’t think he has cancer.
“Although he doesn’t understand the cancer, he calls it his ‘sick lump’.”
From the moment he was born, looking up at his parents with his curious deep blue eyes and a placid nature, William was the perfect bundle of joy.
And with two older brothers, Ryan and Sam, Lauren knew she would have her hands full right from the start with the trio of best mates.
But nobody expected the journey would be quite so tough or heartbreaking.
At 11 months of age, William became ill and his life took a drastic turn that has left the family cherishing every breath they take together.
Treatment no longer an option for William
On Monday, doctors told William’s family there was no longer any treatment available to help him fight his cancer, and they should put end-of-life plans in place as the youngster’s health deteriorates.
Now Joe and Lauren are busy capturing life’s little moments to hold on to because they know it won’t be long until they can no longer hold their son.
A fifth generation Bundaberg family, now they are asking for help from the community to make William’s Wish come true.
It’s a simple dream – to enjoy life away from a hospital bed, to see William play with his siblings at a water park, before it’s too late.
William’s fight for life began in January last year when Lauren said they thought William had asthma, but scans of his lungs showed something more sinister and he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Cancer.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer often found in the small glands on top of the kidneys. It can develop in the stomach, chest, neck, pelvis, and bones.
Children aged five or younger are most commonly affected. William has a tumour wrapped around his heart, down his spinal column and the cancer has now spread throughout his little body.
In his short life William has endured 16 rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, a stem cell harvest, two bone marrow transplants , three central line infections and an intensive ICU stay, along with countless procedures that are a regular part of fighting childhood cancer.
Long battle separates family
As the long battle to fight the Neuroblastoma began, it separated the family as William and his mum moved to Brisbane while he underwent treatment for eight months.
“Joe stayed back in Bundaberg and gave up work to become a full-time single dad, looking after the boys, doing the things I couldn’t be there to do; he was just so wonderful,” Lauren said.
During this time, and to their surprise, Lauren said they found out she was pregnant with her fourth son Jack, and the family missed sharing the pregnancy milestones because of the separation.
Lauren said at the tender age of two, William has shown more kindness than others do in a lifetime, and he dotes on his new brother Jack.
“William adores his little brother, and although we had a fight on our hands, we are really blessed Jack came into our lives because there’s special bond between them,” Lauren said.
“We are heartbroken, and our attention has now turned to giving William the best end-of-life care.
“We are trying to make the most of it, capturing family photos and making memories we will cherish.”
Lauren said they hoped to raise $5000, but if they received enough to take little William to a water park with his brothers, that would be a blessing.
“Because of the treatment William had a central line and was not able to get it wet, so he has never been to a water park and it’s our goal to take him to one,” she said.
“It’s the little things in life that he has missed out on that we want him to experience while he still can.
“It’s heart breaking, you don’t think as a mum you’ll ever hear the words that your child has cancer and then to find out you are going to have to say goodbye.
“William’s Wish is to go to a waterpark – my wish is that I hope he makes it to be here with us for Christmas.”
The family has started a GoFundMe page to make William’s dreams come true. To help the Wheeler family secure William’s Wish click here.
On Saturday morning the campaign had raised more than $6000 from 92 donors.