RAYTOWN, Mo. -- A young Raytown woman is in a fight for life against a rare and aggressive cancer. She and her family want to make others aware that it can happen to people who have sickle cell trait or disease.
Shawniece Wilmore should be with her friends at Jackson State University of Mississippi. Instead, friends are sending her video messages of support.
Wilmore had lower back pain for six weeks or so. In early October, she heard the diagnosis that was hard to absorb.
"Then it finally like downloaded in my brain -- did you just say cancerous tumor?" recalled Wilmore.
The 23-year-old is now at home in Raytown, using a walker because of the pain of a very rare kidney cancer that has spread.
Almost all cases of renal medullary carcinoma have been in young adults who have sickle cell disease or trait. One in 12 African-Americans has the trait.
"I would never think that just me having sickle cell trait would cause cancer, you know," she said.
Wilmore is undergoing chemotherapy and cannot be at her graduation in December, so Jackson State sent her cap, gown and stole to her this week.
"It meant the world to me," she said.
Wilmore and her family want people with sickle cell trait or disease to be aware of the cancer and talk with their doctors about it. They're pushing for screening guidelines, too.
"Because we don't want any other family to go through what we're going through," said Melissa Wilmore, her mother.
Shawniece Wilmore says she is relying on faith.
"I know God is going to heal me. I know I'm already healed. Just waiting on the manifestation," she said.
Melissa Wilmore is on unpaid leave from work so she can care for her daughter. A foundation has been established to help with medical expenses and raise awareness of the cancer, you can learn more by clicking on this link.