In a new interview with People, Witney Carson explains she hid having skin cancer surgery so she wouldn't miss her first season on Dancing with the Stars.
Carson was 19 when she was diagnosed with melanoma, a genetic form of skin cancer she blames on the use of tanning beds when she was younger.
The potentially deadly diagnosis came at the worst possible time. "I finally got this call that was going to just skyrocket my career," says the now-28-year-old dancer of the DWTS opportunity.
Witney recalls, "...of course, being myself, I'm like 'It's fine. I can still go on the show. I think I was embarrassed only in the fact that I was an athlete, and I was supposed to be encompassing everything healthy and fit...and so it was embarrassing for me to be like, 'Yes...I was literally sick.'"
She added, "The producers didn't know. My partner didn't know. I wanted people to think I was perfectly healthy."
Before reporting to rehearsals with partner Cody Simpson, Witney underwent surgical procedures to fight the cancer.
"They took an inch diameter around the mole on my foot as well as all of my lymph nodes in my left hip," she recalled. "It was just spreading so quickly...and there was lots of healing time. I think I took six weeks and then I went straight to Dancing with the Stars..."
Witney took to rehearsals without her doctor's clearance and split her stitches open while dancing. "I looked down and my white tennis shoe is just covered in blood, just covered in blood," she remembers.
Carson is now the healthy mom of one-year-old Leo, who she wants to give a sibling -- sometime after hoofing it the upcoming season of DWTS.