A woman was left stunned after discovering the innocent-looking “dots” on her skin were actually a sign of blood cancer.
Helaina Hillyard, 20, from Iowa, US, first noticed the freckle-like spots appearing on her body after getting back from basketball practice one evening in November 2021.
Within a few hours, the spots had increased in size and were scattered across her body, covering her arms and legs.
The athletic student initially assumed they were bruises from the sport, but decided to go to the hospital to get checked.
To her surprise, she was sent to the emergency room, where blood work showed her blood levels were extremely low.
The doctor explained the dots on her skin were petechiae – spots that appear as a result of internal bleeding.
She was then transferred to another hospital where she saw an oncologist and was delivered the devastating news that she had B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia – blood cancer.
Incredibly, the only signs of her illness were the strange dots – with the student otherwise feeling fit and well.
“I was in disbelief and shock,” Helaina, who is also a basketball player, told 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.
“I never in a million years could think something like this could happen to anyone in my life let alone myself.”
Helaina immediately started treatment with blood transfusions and chemotherapy – which she currently receives every 10 days.
While she was terrified to receive the shocking news, Helaina had faith that she would get through it and recover.
She has put her studies on hold and says she is currently focusing on taking things one day at a time.
She shared the shocking story of how she came to be diagnosed with cancer on TikTok, showing clips of the dots on her skin, followed by her eventual admission to hospital.
The clip went viral, with 5.9 million views and racking up more than 500,000 likes.
One person commented: “Panic mode – activated.”
“I didn’t know this was something I should be worried about…” another user said.
Someone else added: “This isn’t good for my hypochondria.”
“My daughters leukemia started like that too. She was 12. She’s 25 now and cancer free. Hang in there!” commented another user.
Someone else said: “Me not checking to see if I have dots over my body.”
Despite the scare, Helaina wanted to share her story in the hopes of raising awareness.
She said: “I wanted to show it’s possible to try to keep a positive spin on things no matter how bleak things may seem.
“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.”