A cancer survivor weighs in on what really needs to be done in order to raise breast cancer awareness.
If you're active on Facebook, it's likely you've seen the type of social media campaigns that encourage users to change their profile picture in honor of a cause. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is no stranger to this phenomenon, and every October, Facebook users share their support for the cause by sharing heart emojis. Like many other social media movements, this is was meant to help spread the notion of awareness. (Read: What I Wish I Knew About Breast Cancer in my 20s)
But while the sentiment is admirable, one Facebook user found herself questioning whether this action was enough to actually help educate women about the early signs of an illness that affects one in eight women. So, she decided to share her own message, and it's going viral for all the right reasons.
"In the past few days, I have received quite a few private messages about a 'game' going around where you post a heart, then you are secretly supposed to state it is for breast cancer awareness. This is my response to all of these messages," Erin Smith Chieze begins.
"Someone once posted a picture on Facebook of what breast cancer can look like... [and] when I saw an indentation that looked like one of those pictures, I instantly knew I had breast cancer. I tried to feel for a tumor, but my tumor was non-palpable. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 days later and with stage 4 the following month." (Read: Breast Cancer Awareness: Inspirational Stories From 8 Cancer Survivors)
By being able to identify what breast cancer can actually look like, Chieze was able to seek treatment immediately—and ended up saving her life in the process. Along with her story, she shared a tool similar to the one she'd seen when she identified her own tumor. The graphic features a carton of lemons, an unlikely resource that's helping women visualize early signs of the disease. The informative image is a part of the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization's "Know Your Lemons" campaign, and was designed by Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont. Take a look:
"I knew all about self-exams, but a picture of what to look for keyed me into knowing I had a terminal disease," Chieze explains. "We need to give REAL information, not cute hearts. Without having seen a picture randomly with real information, I wouldn't have known what to look for." (Read: What Really Works to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk)
While sharing hearts is a beautiful notion, Chieze points out that it may not be the most proactive way to help women get ahead of this disease so it doesn't turn into metastatic breast cancer. By making symptoms more visible and talking about breast cancer in more detail, the organization hopes to help women learn about the early signs, and therefore get a diagnosis in enough time to save their lives.
Take a look at the photo above, and share with your friends and loved ones. If you notice anything unusual in your self-examination, make sure to contact your doctor immediately. Always remember: When it comes to breast cancer, it's better to be safe than sorry.