A 21-year-old student who once sang the national anthem for former President Barack Obama was given five months to live years after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Destinee McEwen urged other young people not to miss warning signs after she was given less than six months to live because of a rare terminal heart cancer, reports the Daily Mail.
In 2011, McEwen collapsed during a high school performance, but doctors gave her pain medication and sent her home.
The incident sparked the young singer's desire to pursue her dreams, which led to her singing the national anthem for Obama in 2013.
In 2014, she began vomiting blood before a college class at Bethune-Cookman University.
Within weeks, the young woman from Detroit, Michigan, was diagnosed with cardiac sarcoma. Now, the cancer has spread to her brain and doctors have given her only months to live.
"I never thought at 21 I'd be planning for a funeral," she said.
McEwen told the Daily Mail she had experienced heart pains since she was 15. She said she knew something was really wrong when she collapsed during a school performance when she was in 10th grade.
"I was singing, with pains that I've had before," she said. "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."
Doctors believed at the time that McEwen had pulled a muscle in her chest wall, causing fatigue. She was sent home after being given pain medication.
But McEwen continued having heart pain.
"[My family] believed that I would be OK," she said. "It was hard convincing them that I wasn't OK. It was almost like whatever the doctors said overrides how I felt, regardless of the pain it had caused."
Eventually, she convinced her family to take her back to the hospital for more tests. Doctors then noticed that her heart was "a little larger" than normal. She was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, which is typically considered a symptom of another condition.
Despite her condition, McEwen finished high school, and earned a scholarship to Bethune-Cookman University.
When she began vomiting blood, she knew things were worse that she initially thought.
"I really thought that I was going to die," she said. Soon after, she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer.
In 2017, the cancer spread from her heart to her brain, In December 2017, she was given five to six months to live.
"It made me value every day," she said of her prognosis. "I was chosen to be an inspiration, so my outlook on life is to simply inspire."
According to Fox News, in 2016, McEwen attended the Wish Upon a Teen's Evening of Dreams Prom, a special event for young people battling illnesses. McEwen described the event as "magical."
"I don't feel pretty all the time," she said at the time. "So to be able to get dressed up and get my makeup done -- I just feel so excited, so happy."