The Stories of Fighters: Will Habel’s Story of Cancer, Lacrosse, and Recovery

For this September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month we recognize that cancer is a battle, but it’s a fight that no child should have to fight alone. Follow along this month as we feature the Stories of Fighters.

Each donation means more research poured into finding advanced treatment options. Be a fighter in your own way this month by donating to the cause, or fundraising for us on Facebook. Together we can produce real change in the lives of these cancer fighters.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

Cancer is never expected, especially for 20-year-old lacrosse athlete Will Habel. Keep reading to hear Will’s story of cancer, lacrosse, and recovery, written by his mother, Jennifer Habel.

“A little background on our family…

My husband Bill and I have been married for 22 years and have 3 kids; Will (20), Emme (18), and Addi (14) and 2 dogs Gunner (golden retriever) and Jax (German shepherd) both 3 years old. All our kids play(ed) competitive sports and love going to sporting events. Bill and Will started their sporting event bonding early. We joke that this is how Will learned the National Anthem so young! NASCAR has always been their favorite and a constant topic of conversation at home to this very day.” “A little bit about Will… Will has always been a healthy kid…he didn’t even get covid! He’s been playing lacrosse since he was 8. In 7th grade, he decided he wanted to play in college and in 8th grade he began his workout and healthy eating regimen.  Everything paid off his junior year of high school (Hough High School) when Queens University of Charlotte offered him an academic and athletic scholarship to play lacrosse. Then covid hit. Will’s senior year of high school, 2020-2021 was difficult, as it was for everyone. He didn’t get to really tour Queens and spend time with the lacrosse team to make sure he still wanted to attend.

But in the fall of 2021 Will moved into Queens and by October he knew it wasn’t a good fit for him so he transferred to Coker University in Hartsville, SC in the spring of 2022. Queens released him from his NLI (National Letter of Intent) and he was able to immediately play at Coker for the 2022 season. He was so excited and for the first time in a year in a half he was smiling and thriving. Then came the fall of 2022. During one of his school/lacrosse workouts, he felt a pain and a “lump/bump” in his pectoral muscle. He thought he just pulled a muscle and just took it easy. The nagging pain and swelling would come and go until lacrosse season started in January 2023.  He went to the athletic trainer, and they did some PT but it wasn’t getting better. The team orthopedic doctor ordered a CT scan thinking it could possibly be a lingering fractured rib. The CT scan was scheduled for 3/16 and the day before his CT his lymph node in his armpit began swelling and causing pain. But just like all the days before, he continued playing. 

On 3/20 the CT results came back showing 3 masses in his chest that were correlated with Lymphoma. To say we were stunned, shocked and in tears all at the same time would be an understatement! They immediately scheduled a biopsy for 3/23 and we’d have to wait an agonizing 7 days for results. On 3/30 results confirmed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Will played in his last lacrosse game for the season on 4/1. His teammates and families were so supportive, caring, and compassionate. The night before the game the entire team, including coaches, all shaved their heads to show their love and support! This was a total surprise to Will when he arrived at the locker room. To say his last game was emotional was an understatement!” 

Here is a breakdown of Will’s journey with cancer:

“4/3 @ 8:45am we were in Dr Hinson’s office at the Levin Children’s Cancer Center.

4/11 – PET Scan. 4/12 – Port placement surgery.

4/15-16 – NASCAR Martinsville NOCO race in Martinsville.

4/18 – Bone marrow biopsy and 2nd lymph node biopsy.

4/22 – Last Coker Lacrosse game and Senior Day – spectator only, haha!

4/28 – Taking his sister’s senior prom photos. 5/1 – First chemo treatment.

7/13 – 2nd PET Scan

7/13 – Dr Hinson’s call that Will is CANCER FREE!!!!!! BUT, he’ll need to finish the rest of his chemo treatments to ensure every last bit is gone.

8/12 – Back at school ready for Junior year.

5/9 – 8/11 – Worked full time at Holiday Marina in Cornelius.

Will’s last chemo treatment is scheduled for 10/6!”


Stories like these are what motivate ISF to continue raising money to fund research. The more that we share stories with our friends and family, and take real action, the more recovery stories we will hear. Let’s all aspire for children to make a recovery so that they can live out their dreams. 

Donate to the cause or start a Facebook fundraiser for ISF, and help us take real action this month because we can’t do it without each individual supporter. 


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