In the past month, a private message has been going viral amongst women on Facebook encouraging each other to post a "❤️️" (red heart emoji) to their timeline, and for other women to comment a red heart on it as a sign of solidarity— in honor of cancer awareness. Although the person behind this thread most likely has their heart in the right place, message trends like these tend to harm the cause they seek to honor.
Cancer survivor Erin Smith Chieze wrote a Facebook post on January 10th that went viral almost immediately. In the post she shares an image (pictured below) that has rippled throughout the Internet. This picture has helped thousands of women identify and self-diagnose themselves with breast cancer. She further goes on to encourage others to be mindful of the "games" they play on social media— she explains;
"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. 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. 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. Do us a favor, stop playing games with my life and start truly helping people. Metastatic breast cancer treatment research and real awareness."
This picture was taken from the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization, a non-profit who launched the #KnowYourLemons campaign pictured above. The campaign looks to increase the amount of available knowledge on breast cancer which they know to be the first line of defense and diagnosis. The Know Your Lemons campaign utilizes simple visuals and analogies that anyone can understand. Such simplicity is key to helping thousands of woman receive the knowledge and treatment they require. However, at present, the necessary information is often drowned out by viral "awareness games". We urge the community to heed the advice of a survivor and an advocate who knows this issue all to well. Next time you see a heart, comment with the Know Your Lemons' image. Spreading awareness might make yourself feel good, spreading knowledge saves lives.