MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG)– A young woman diagnosed with Stage 4 skin cancer is now cancer free, and she now spreading an important message to you.
She discovered her cancer while trying a skincare routine she saw online. She was diagnosed with Melanoma ten months ago and wants others to get to the doctor and not ignore checkups.
The last ten months have been the happiest and the hardest for twenty-six-year-old Helen Bender. She got engaged to her sweetheart, Alec Bailey, and they are getting married next month, but she also has been fighting cancer. Bender is no stranger to Melanoma. She was first diagnosed with it when she was 19.
The scary-looking mole was removed and she has a scar a couple of inches long on her upper shoulder blade. After that diagnosis, she got check-ups every three months, then every 6 months, then every year. At age 26, she was getting checkups, once a year.
In the spring of last year, she was due for a check-up, but put it off for a couple of weeks because she was busy. Then, during her beauty routine, she discovered that one of the lymph nodes on her neck was sore. She was testing out a product she saw on TikTok called a Gua Sha. A Gua Sha has been around for hundreds of years and is used to reduce swelling in the face. The user runs it up and down the face and neck.
“I started using it willy-nilly,” Bender said. “Five minutes in the morning, three minutes at night, and that is what led to me finding the first tumor.”
Bender said she felt the tumor before she could even see it.
“I think I was more adamant to make that appointment because of using that tool,” said Bender.
Bender says her doctors immediately ordered scans and discovered twenty tumors all over her body. The tumors were in her pancreas, lungs, bones and lymph nodes.
Bender says she was shocked when she heard the news. Her doctors in Mobile immediately partnered with a team at MD Anderson Cancer Institute and got her on a regime called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy helps her own immune system fight the cancer. After just ten months, the treatments are working. The tumors have disappeared.
“The doctor came in after I got all the scans and said there was active cancer in the body,” Bender said. “Nothing. She had to say it to me eight times in eight different ways. She couldn’t see my expressions, just my wide eyes.”
Bender has now turned to social media to encourage others to stay up-to-date on their checkups. She also wants people to see a dermatologist for regular skin cancer checks. She has already been told that three people have heeded her advice and found early-stage cancer.
“If I could save people from having the past 10 months I have had, get them to catch it early, that is what I would like to come out of this,” Bender said.
She has made a few videos on TikTok sharing her story. She has gotten around 100,000 views. She says the more eyes seeing her message, the better. Her fiancée, Alec, is proud of her.
“She has already had a couple of people come to her and say they got checked and caught it early,” Bailey said. “The more the better.”
Bailey and Bender are looking forward to their wedding next month, especially with Helen’s recent positive report from the doctors.
“Even in the darker times, I have something to look forward to,” Bender said. “It reminded me that there is a future to be had and that I would have it.”
Bender wants to make sure everyone knows what to look for when it comes to a mole that may be dangerous. Here is a link to the American Cancer Society’s page showing the signs of Melanoma Skin Cancer.