Lifestyle & Human Interest

Athlete Discovers Tiny Dots on Her Skin Are Sign of Deadly Cancer


A 20-year-old college athlete got the shock of her life after being diagnosed with deadly blood cancer during a routine hospital visit to check out some faint freckles on her skin.

Helaina Hillyard of Burlington, Iowa, first noticed several benign-looking dots on her arms and legs after returning home from basketball practice in November 2021, according to the New York Post.

At first, Hillyard, a freshman at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, thought nothing of the splotches because they were tiny and didn’t hurt — she just assumed they were mild bruising from basketball practice.

Within hours, however, the dots got bigger and spread across her body.

Hillyard shared a TikTok video showing the freckles on her arms and legs.

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@helainahillyard Turn of events :// #fyp #ope #didnotexpectthat #leukemia #godsplan ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

To be safe, she went to the hospital, where she was given blood tests in the emergency room.

The tests revealed that the college student’s blood levels were extremely low.

The doctor told Hillyard the dots on her arms and legs were petechiae, or spots that appear as a result of internal bleeding.

Upon seeing an oncologist at another hospital, she was stunned to be diagnosed with a deadly form of blood cancer called B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The star athlete, who was otherwise healthy and well, said the only symptoms she experienced were the odd freckling.

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Amazingly, the young woman came close to death without even realizing it.

“I could have nearly died if I waited a few more hours to go to the doctor,” she told Jam Press, as reported by the Post.

“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.”

Understandably, Hillyard was “in disbelief and shock” when she first learned she was silently battling a deadly form of cancer.

“I never in a million years could think something like this could happen to anyone in my life, let alone myself,” she said.

Hillyard immediately started treatment, which included getting blood transfusions and undergoing chemotherapy every 10 days.

She has since put her studies on hold as she focuses on getting better. She’s optimistic that she will recover and be able to return to college at some point.

Hillyard’s TikTok video sharing her health journey immediately went viral, racking up more than 5.9 million views and hundreds of thousands of “likes.”

She tagged her video with the hashtags “God’s plan” and “did not expect that.”

Despite the terrifying health scare, Hillyard said she wanted to share her story to raise awareness and to encourage others to stay optimistic.

“I wanted to show it’s possible to try to keep a positive spin on things no matter how bleak things may seem,” she told 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.”

Overall, Hillyard is happy she went public because she has received so many touching messages of support and “couldn’t be more grateful” for it.

Thankfully, it appears that her story will have a happy ending, since her cancer was detected early and is being treated. Her admirable attitude in the face of devastating news offers a useful lesson to us all.

It reminds us how precious and fleeting our lives are and that we should appreciate the good times while they’re here. But even if you’re struggling through some bad times, counting your blessings can put everything in perspective.

While fame and fortune may be desirable, nothing is more important than good health, a great attitude and a sense of humor.

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