Back in April 2015, Tawny Dzierzek, then aged 27, shared the confronting results of her skin cancer treatment in a selfie that quickly went viral. The graphic image showed blistering red scabs covering her face with a powerful message about sun safety.
“If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go,” she wrote.
At 21 years old, she had her first skin cancer diagnosis. Over the next six years, she was treated for basal cell carcinoma a total of five times and squamous cell carcinoma once.
“This is what skin cancer treatment can look like. Wear sunscreen and get a spray tan. Learn from other people's mistakes. Don't let tanning prevent you from seeing your children grow up. That's my biggest fear now that I have a two-year-old little boy of my own.”
“Skin cancer is not always moles, only one of mine have been a mole. Get any suspicious, new and growing spot checked out. Anything that doesn't heal, possibly bleeds on and off and crusts. The sooner you find it the less likely it will leave a disfiguring scar or grow deep enough to metastasise.”
The post was shared over 100,000 times and was picked up by numerous news publications. And it’s this spread of awareness that experts say has likely saved lives.
A recent study published in Preventive Medicine, found that in the wake of Tawny’s post, Google searches for skin cancer increased by 162 per cent, reaching near record levels.
“We conclude,” the study states, “that an ordinary person’s social media post caught the public’s imagination and led to significant increases in public engagement with skin cancer prevention.”