One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime — frightening statistic for any woman to hear. We all know the importance of getting mammograms and self-checking our breasts, but do we know what to look for?
Erin Smith Chieze, a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer in Dec. 2015, didn’t until she saw a photo shared online. Recently, the 38-year-old noticed a trend on social media where women were sending each other heart emojis as a reminder to get their annual mammograms. Chieze didn’t think these types of campaigns did enough to educate men and women on breast cancer, so she posted a photo of lemons on Facebook and shared her personal breast cancer journey.
“Someone once posted a picture on Facebook of what breast cancer can look like. Not feel, but look like. In December of 2015 when I saw an indentation that looked like one of those pictures, I instantly knew I had breast cancer,” she wrote. “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. A heart did nothing for awareness. I knew what breast cancer was. I knew all about self exams, but a picture of what to look for keyed me into knowing I had a terminal disease.”
The photo Chieze posted wasn’t the exact same one that helped her, but she found it to be very similar. The graphic, which comes from the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization’s Know Your Lemons campaign, shows the many different ways that breast cancer can look and feel. It aims to help both men and women perform more informed self-examinations.
“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,” Chieze continued. “So if you truly want to help people WITH cancer, or those who will GET cancer, share photos like this one.”
Chieze’s post has since been shared more than 47,000 times. Many people commented on the post to thank her for the photo and to share their own breast cancer stories. Some people did find that Chieze’s criticism of breast cancer awareness campaigns such as the emoji hearts trend was unfair. They argued that they helped to remind people to get or perform monthly exams.
Regardless of whether you agree with Chieze’s stance on that, one of the best things you can do to help in the fight against breast cancer is to educate yourself and others on the statistics, signs, and symptoms. Sharing a graphic like these lemons may just help someone get diagnosed earlier.
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