Michelle Velez, an anchor for NBC News 3 Las Vegas, has received outpouring support as she currently undergoes chemotherapy to kill off the cancerous tissues in her body.
“I’m not exactly sure how to do this so I’m just going to give it to you straight,” Velez wrote Thursday on Instagram. “As many of you know I have been having some health issues the past few months. Honestly, we didn’t exactly know what was wrong until now. Last week, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that was caused by an abnormal pregnancy.”
A molar pregnancy is an abnormality of the placenta and is caused by an issue during fertilization, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It’s also called gestational trophoblastic disease and occurs in about 1 out of every 1,000 pregnancies. The condition causes abnormal tissue to grow within the uterus and may cause malignant growths that require chemotherapy, as is the case for Velez.
“It’s extremely complicated so I’ll try to make it as easy to understand as possible,” Velez wrote to her followers. “Before I do – I want you to know that my kind of cancer is treatable. We have every reason to believe I will recover free and clear – just getting to that point is going to be tough.”
“What I had is called a molar pregnancy,” she wrote. “It’s a pregnancy that is not viable – meaning a fetus never formed – but instead of miscarrying, the pregnancy continued to grow and produced invasive placental tissue. Since the placenta is still there, the body mimics a pregnancy and spikes the pregnancy hormone (hCG) to astronomical levels. Essentially it was as if I was pregnant with 5 babies at once.”
Velez said the spike had made her extremely sick and caused heavy bleeding.
“Normally this can be treated with a surgical procedure to clear the tissue and then we just monitor the hCG levels until they reach zero. However… In some very rare cases that tissue can turn into cancer… and spread to other organs in the body,” she wrote. “That is what happened to me. No good reason, just unfortunate dumb luck.”
Velez said that she has already started chemotherapy, and that she will likely lose her hair but that she already made it through two treatments. She said the plan is to continue receiving treatments until her body’s hCG levels return to zero.
“I can’t really put it into words what it is like to find out you have cancer… devastating… shocking and terrifying for starters — but there’s so much more to this I never understood,” she wrote. “I plan to be as open and transparent about this journey as I can because it’s the only way I know how to be.”
Over the weekend, Velez shared a video from her hospital bed and explained that she needed a blood transfusion because her hemoglobin count was down and that she needed it to rise to continue with treatment. She said that while she hasn’t had a chance to respond to every comment she has received, she is taking the time to read them, and appreciates the support.