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A healthy young woman diagnosed with rare blood cancer after ignoring fatigue symptoms for months and developing red spots on her skin: “I had never had an overnight stay in a hospital before and I’ve always taken good care of myself…”

woman diagnosed with rare blood cancer
woman diagnosed with rare blood cancer image credit: DAVIDA S/ SHUTTERSTOCK

Regular medical checkups, according to health experts, are the most crucial thing to perform in the prevention and early identification of many ailments.

In recent years, an increasing number of young people have been diagnosed with serious diseases, including various types of cancers, owing to a combination of factors, including a “busy modern lifestyle,” as well as skipping regular medical checkups and ignoring various types of “mild” symptoms for an extended period of time.

The 20-year-old Helaina Hillyard, a young woman, and a dentist-to-be was one of those who chose to ignore several symptoms for months until she was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer, and her life was turned upside down.

She chose to share her story with Newsweek a few days ago in an effort to raise awareness and encourage everyone to visit their primary care doctors on a regular basis to prevent or detect major diseases.

Hillyard had a busy schedule last year and didn’t get enough sleep, resulting in a lifestyle that left her tired every day. She had to combine her pre-dental courses and basketball training almost every day as a basketball player.

She ignored her swollen lymph nodes, constant cold feeling, and repetitive bruises on her body for months, blaming them on her hectic schedule and the fact that she is a basketball player.

When two of her out-of-state relatives arrived to watch her first home basketball game in November 2021, she had bruises on her legs for weeks and felt fatigued.

As per Thecharlestonpress, that’s when she noticed petechiae for the first time in her life on her skin. They were on her legs and arms, and she described them as “dots under her skin.”

Her sister forced her to visit an urgent care facility the next day, and she had a blood test the next morning, a day after she first noticed the red dots.

She was requested to wait for a doctor when the blood test revealed low platelet levels, and she was asked to explain if she had been suffering any other symptoms recently.

Hillyard told the doctor that her gums had been bleeding when she flossed them, a symptom she had been experiencing for some time.

The doctor promptly referred her to an oncologist, and she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a kind of blood cancer, before the end of the day.

Hillyard was in complete disbelief as her life altered dramatically in a matter of hours, despite having her sister at her side.

She is grateful to her sister for pressuring her to see a doctor since if she waited any longer, she would risk a brain bleed and death, according to the physicians.

Hillyard has been now undergoing a two-and-a-half-year long treatment. According to her, she had to go through five eight-week chemo treatments in total.

She has two more rounds of chemo left, after which she will have a block of maintenance chemo, which is when you may return to a more “normal” life. She won’t need to stay in the hospital as an inpatient, but she’ll still have to take chemo drugs orally.

“I went into it pretty positively. I had never had an overnight stay in a hospital before and I’ve always taken good care of myself. I thought I should be able to get through it.

There have been people with ALL who have been in remission for years and years with no signs of cancer, though everyone is different,” she said.

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