A college athlete who discovered red dots on her skin that turned out to be a sign of rare blood cancer is sharing her story to spread awareness and help others.
Helaina Hillyard, who was used to juggling a grueling class schedule and college sports at Nova Southeastern University, was not alarmed when she experienced recurring headaches and fatigue.
"I was not taking care of myself, I didn't think anything of it," she told "GMA."
In November 2021, while having dinner with her sister who was visiting, she noticed tiny dots on her arms.
"I'm getting these dots all over me like my arm, my whole leg, like I don't know what it is," she recalled.
Her older sister was concerned and brought Hillyard to urgent care where a doctor told her to go to the emergency room. There, Hillyard got her blood test back and found her platelets were low. Hours later she got the diagnosis that she had ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a blood cancer that affects nearly 6,000 people a year in the U.S.
"I was just kind of in shock I guess," Hillyard said.
The Iowa native began chemotherapy and her platelet and blood clot numbers have continually improved.
"I feel great -- I have started up running again and working out, so that was a big step for me," she said.
Now, she's sharing her story to help others.
"I just want to raise awareness because I just was naive and didn't think that something like this could happen to me," she explained.
Now, more than halfway through her chemo treatment, Hillyard has a good support system including her older sister as she continues her collegiate career and dreams to become a dentist.