Fact: about one in eight American women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. That’s why one woman is trying to help others know what to look for when it comes to early warning signs of the disease.
Erin Smith Chieze, a mother of four from California, took to Facebook on Tuesday, January 10, to share a photo that shows the many symptoms of breast cancer using 12 lemons. The citrus diagram — designed by Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont for Worldwide Breast Cancer Organization — offers a guide to the physical signs people should keep an eye out for, such as dimpled skin and leaking nipples.
“Someone once posted a picture on Facebook of what breast cancer can look like. Not feel, but look like,” Chieze wrote. “In December of 2015 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.”
Five days later, at the age of 37, Chieze was diagnosed was stage 4 breast cancer. “I knew what breast cancer was. I knew all about self exams, but a picture of what to look for keyed me into knowing that I had a terminal disease,” she shared.
In her post, the 38-year-old nursing student vented her frustration over breast cancer awareness games on social media (those red heart emojis that are filling your Facebook feed are a reminder to get your breasts checked for lumps). “We need to give REAL information, not cute hearts,” she wrote. “Without having seen a picture … With real information, I wouldn’t have known what to look for.”
Her post has been shared more than 33,000 times.
Chieze, who is battling invasive ductal carcinoma that has metastasized to her the lymph nodes and lungs, will continue receive treatment. “Stage 4 breast cancer is not curable. I do have a terminal disease,” she tells Us Weekly. “However by sharing this information with others, there is a chance someone will have a far better longterm outcome then I will.”
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