A performing art student from Michigan, who has once sung before Barack Obama while he was the US president, is counting her days. Destinee, 21, has a rare terminal cancer — cardiac sarcoma.
Speaking with the Daily Mail, the aspiring singer shared her pain and trauma of fighting the incurable disease, which has left her very few days to live. "I never thought at 21 I'd be planning for a funeral," the young woman told the news outlet.
She said that she first felt pain in her chest in 2011 when she was just 15. The ache occurred during a high school performance, but doctors dismissed it as harmless, she noted. However, the pain recurred and by the time her cancer was diagnosed it was at a critical stage.
"I was singing, with pains that I've had before. I suddenly began to get too hot. I was able to finish the songs, but [when I was] walking to change into the next dress ... [I] collapsed," she said, recalling the incident, and added that doctors gave her medication for the pain and sent her home.
She then continued her studies and singing performances, and even won a contest in 2013 to perform the national anthem for Obama.
In 2014, when she convinced her family to take her to the doctor as the pain kept coming back, doctors found her heart was "a little larger" than normal — which is usually a symptom of another condition.
Days later, the freshman at Bethune–Cookman University, started vomiting blood and that is when several tests, including a biopsy, showed that she had cardiac sarcoma — a rare type of tumour that occurs in the heart, which by then had affected her brain too.
However, the devastating news did not leave Destinee disheartened as she is set to share her story with others so that no one else suffers from the same ordeal due to lack of timely diagnosis.
The disease has "made me value every day. I was chosen to be an inspiration, so my outlook on life is to simply inspire", she reportedly told the UK daily. She added that she is writing a book on her experience, titled Destiny Vs Destinee Stage 4: The Fight of my Life, in which she will share her greatest achievements in life, from singing at Carnegie Hall to meeting Obama.
"I wanted it to be something that I can leave behind so it can be passed along and when people see it they say, wow she fought a Hell of a good one," the woman with high spirits said.
What is cardiac sarcoma?
A rare type of tumour that occurs in the heart is medically termed as cardiac sarcoma. These kinds of tumours generally occur on the outer surface of the heart — either within one or more chambers of the heart (intracavitary) or within the muscle tissue of the heart.
However, Destinee's case was a little different and more complicated as her tumour was inside her heart.
Symptoms include obstruction of the inflow or outflow of blood, heart rhythm problems, weight loss and swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, and/or abdomen, and enlargement of the neck veins.
How cardiac sarcoma can be diagnosed?
Depending on the stage and type of the disease, cardiac sarcoma can be diagnosed by a thorough study of the patient's medical history as well as a physical examination of the body. Other technologies such as echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance imaging and chest X-ray are employed in the disease's diagnosis.
Prognosis for people suffering from cardiac sarcoma depends on various factors, including age, overall health, and medical history. Also, degree and location of the disease, tolerance for specific medications, procedures, therapies and the patient's opinion or preference determine the life expectancy.