An athletic student was in for a shocking surprise when she found frecklelike spots suddenly appearing on her skin — and soon discovered she had blood cancer.
Iowa resident Helaina Hillyard, 20, first started to notice the splotches after she came back from basketball practice one night in November 2021. However, within just a few short hours, the spots became larger and spread throughout her body, according to Jam Press.
At first, Hillyard believed that her markings were bruises from playing hoops, but she decided to go to a nearby hospital—and found herself in the emergency room. After shown bloodwork, her blood levels were to be extremely low.
Her doctor revealed to her that the specks on her skin were in fact, petechiae, which the Mayo Clinic describes as a series of “round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding.” The petechiae can appear red, brown or purple in color and can show up in clusters or even look like a rash.
After seeing an oncologist, Hillyard was told she had B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also known as blood cancer, a type of leukemia that affects one’s white blood cells that grow in the bone marrow.
Despite the questionable flecks appearing on her skin, the student felt healthy and fit.
“I was in disbelief and shock,” she recently admitted to Jam Press. “I could have nearly died if I waited a few more hours to go to the doctor. The doctor in the ER said I was extremely lucky I hadn’t played basketball [since that day] because I could have easily suffered a brain bleed or internal bleeding.”
She immediately began blood transfusions and chemotherapy after visiting the medical center.
“I never in a million years could think something like this could happen to anyone in my life, let alone myself,” said Hillyard, who receives chemo every 10 days.
Hillyard decided to put her health first and opted to put her studies on hold. Amid her diagnosis, she even posted a now-viral TikTok video describing her condition.
The video documented the “turn of events” in Hillyard’s life as she panned the camera all over her body to showcase the small, red dots covering her arms, legs and chest.
It has since reached almost 6 million views and topped 530,000 likes. Commenters were astonished by her health admission from her and did not hold back their shock — and fear.
“I didn’t know this was something I should be worried about,” one user said. “Me not checking to see if I have dots over my body,” another added.
“My daughter’s leukemia started like that too. She was 12. She’s 25 now and cancer free. Hang in there!” wrote one person.
However, Hillyard still has faith that she will get better and hopes to raise awareness by sharing her story.
“I wanted to show it’s possible to try to keep a positive spin on things no matter how bleak things may seem,” she noted to Jam Press. “I received lots of different reactions. I unintentionally scared some people and worried some that their spots might be cancer, and they reached out to me with questions.”
“But I also received so many nice supportive messages—and I couldn’t be more grateful,” Hillyard concluded.