Student given devastating diagnosis after noticing small dots on skin

Blood cancer: Symptoms explained by healthcare professionals

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A student who was diagnosed with cancer after noticing small “dots” on her skin has spoken out about her horrifying diagnosis. Helaina Hilliard, an athletic biochemistry student from Iowa, US, was floored by the revelation she had B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia – a type of blood cancer. Helaina was diagnosed after being sent for blood tests.

Helaina had felt healthy and was floored by the revelation – but 16 months on she has a fresh perspective on the harrowing experience.

“I am extremely grateful for my cancer – I now appreciate things to a whole different level because not everyone survives this terrible disease,” the student, from Iowa, US, said.

“It sounds crazy but having cancer has made me realize how blessed I am and how much love I have in my life.

“I still have a long way to go before I am back to where I was before, fitness wise, and I’ve come to the fact I may never get back to the level of where I was before – but if I have the ability to do so, I will.

“I am still taking chemo daily and monthly at the hospital, so I am still having multiple side effects from that but I see progress daily in my fitness journey – maybe because I had so much room for growth from what having leukaemia did to my body initially.

“It has been very rewarding.”

She had to take a year off from her biochemistry degree while receiving treatment and saw her hair falling out due to the treatment, but it eventually grew back.

Now, Ms Hilliard is going through the “maintenance” phase of treatment, the final stage, where she will continue with oral chemotherapy and monthly hospital visits until March 2024.

She is set to return to her biochemistry degree in September, and she is also easing herself back into athletics.

She said: “I have been extremely blessed with my treatment. I have had very minimal complications. My doctors and nurses have done an amazing job at managing any side effects.

“There have been some tough days through the past year and a half. It was hard when I lost my hair but I’m happy to say that it is now growing back.

“The toughest part was probably seeing my family and friends worry about me. Seeing the ones you love worry about you I would say was harder than fighting for my life.”

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Despite the ups and downs of the past 16 months, Helaina remains focused on her future and is determined to become a dentist.

She is still taking daily and monthly chemotherapy and has multiple side effects from that, however, she said she sees progress daily in her fitness journey.

“It is crazy to look back at all of the chain of events and how I could have easily died. But I realise that going through cancer has allowed me to have a different perspective on life, which is a blessing,” she said.

The courageous student hopes her story will inspire others to appreciate the value of life and the power of a positive outlook.

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