Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 14, 2024 ·  3 min read

Woman shocked to discover tiny dots on skin were a sign of something worse.

On a daily basis, we experience small changes in or on our bodies. Usually, these go away almost as quickly as they appear and aren’t overly concerning. If you have a feeling, however, that something should be checked out, you probably should have it looked at. This college athlete decided to have some mysterious dots on her skin checked out. It turns out that these were a sign of cancer.

Young Woman Shocked To Discover Tiny Dots On Her Arm Were A Sign Of Cancer

In November 2021, Helaina Hillyard was a fit, healthy, 20-year-old college basketball player from Iowa. Today, she is fighting a battle against cancer. Specifically, a type of blood cancer called B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Her only signs were tiny, strange freckle-like spots that first appeared on her arms after practice one night. Over the next few hours, those spots grew and began appearing elsewhere on her body. Wisely, she decided to go to the hospital to have them looked at. (1)

Petechiae on Helaina Hillyard's arm
Image Credit: Helaina Hillyard | TikTok

The doctors quickly sent her to the emergency room for blood work. Her results showed she had extremely low blood levels. The doctors then told her that the spots on her skin were called petechiae, which appear as the result of internal bleeding.

Petechiae on Helaina Hillyard's arm
Image Credit: Helaina Hillyard | Jam Press

They then transferred her to another hospital right away. Helaina found herself sitting face to face with an oncologist. That oncologist then delivered terrible news: Helaina had blood cancer. Specially, B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Read: My life was upended for 35 years by a cancer diagnosis. A doctor just told me I was misdiagnosed

Petechiae on Helaina Hillyard's leg
Image Credit: Helaina Hillyard | TikTok

The Spots Were The Only Sign

The news, naturally, came as a huge shock. Helaina was a young, fit, healthy woman. She was an athlete. She did not feel unwell by any means and had zero other signs of illness.

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

Tiny Spots Called Petechiae

Petechiae, or small red spots on their skin, is a symptom that some people with Leukemia might experience. On fairer skin the dots will appear red in color. On darker skin tones, they may appear simply as darker than the rest of the skin and are naturally a bit more difficult to spot. Most often they occur where the blood is most likely to accumulate. These places include (2):

  • Feet
  • Legs
  • Hands
  • Arms

They are caused by tiny broken blood vessels under the skin. This is because when you have Leukemia, your body does not have enough platelets to seal off these blood vessels. Platelets are what clot your blood to stop it from flowing to places it shouldn’t be.

Read: Woman, 27, dies from cervical cancer after symptoms were mistaken for IBS

Immediate Treatments

Immediately Helaina began treatments to try and beat the cancer. The doctors had her doing blood transfusions and chemotherapy. She had these treatments every 10 days. Naturally, her studies and basketball playing are on hold while she fights the illness.

She shared her story on TikTok in hopes that someone else might benefit from it. After all, if Helaina hadn’t gone to the doctor that night, things could have been much different. Hopefully this will prompt someone else who has the same symptoms to get checked. Her TikTok, which has received almost 6 million views, could save a life.

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

Helaina is hopeful about her own recovery. One woman on her video commented that her daughter had leukemia that began the same way when she was 12. Now at 25-years-old, her daughter is completely cancer-free. Helaina’s story certainly reminds us that if something seems suspicious, it is always a better idea to get it checked out. It could save your life.

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  1. Woman shocked to discover tiny dots on skin were a sign of cancer.” Metro. Edaein O’Connell. MAy 6, 2022.
  2. Understanding Rashes and Bruising in Leukemia.” Healthline. Stephanie Watson. January 11, 2022