She’s now in remission from her stage-four metastatic breast cancer, but Erin Smith Chieze wants the world to know the important way she discovered her illness. Turns out, she only realized she might have cancer after she discovered what breast cancer looks like, rather than feels like.
After all, we all know how important breast self-exams are to detecting breast cancer early. But for Smith Chieze, it was the appearance of her breasts that led to her life-saving discovery.
And the strange thing that helped her do so? Lemons. (Don’t worry, we’ll explain!)
The young woman posted a picture created by the Worldwide Breast Cancer group that she believes saved her life. In the picture is an egg carton filled with various lemons of different shapes and textures, along with words to explain the unusual changes to the breast–indentations, dimpling, redness–that might mean an urgent trip to a doctor is in order.
It’s a smart idea to spread awareness–and it’s effective.
“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 five days later and with stage-4 the following month.”
“I knew all about self-exams, but a picture of what to look for keyed me into knowing I had a terminal disease,” wrote Smith Chieze, who believes that without that picture, she wouldn’t have known what to look for on her body.
While a “lemon test” to check your breasts is important, it’s no replacement for crucial self-exams and for an exam by a medical professional. Still, we’re happy that lemons can help serve as a good reminder to pay close attention to our bodies in order to protect our precious health.
NEXT: See 11 celebrities you never knew were cancer survivors.
Edie Falco: Breast cancer, 2004 Falco kept her treatment a secret from her Sopranos co-stars. “Surviving cancer has a way of making you re-prioritize," she's said. In her case, it meant starting a family.
Kathy Bates: Ovarian cancer, 2003; breast cancer, 2012 The actress kept her cancer a secret but after her double mastectomy, she told People magazine: "Breast cancer runs like a river through my family.
Fran Drescher: Uterine cancer, 2000 It took two years and eight doctors before the Nanny star was finally diagnosed. After the experience, she wrote a book and started a cancer foundation.
Rod Stewart: Thyroid cancer, 2000 The rock icon got lucky when his cancer was discovered during a routine scan. He lost his voice for three weeks, and now sings an octave lower than he used to.
Carly Simon: Breast cancer, 1997 After a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, the singer told the New York Daily News she was "stronger than ever. I've always thought of myself as a warrior."
Sheryl Crow: Breast cancer, 2006 The singer, then 44, had just broken up with Lance Armstrong when doctors discovered a tumor. After treatment, she adopted two boys.
Sharon Osbourne: Colon cancer, 2002 The reality TV star had one foot of her colon removed. After discovering she carried the gene for breast cancer, she had a double mastectomy.
Hugh Jackman: Skin cancer, 2013, 2016 Jackman was filming X Men when a makeup artist pointed to a red mark on his nose. It turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. He now gets skin checks every three months.
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro: Prostate cancer, 2003 De Niro, then 60, credited his complete recovery to early detection.
Christina Applegate: Breast cancer, 2008 The actress was only 36, but she had the BRCA gene mutation--her mom was a breast cancer survivor. She opted for a double mastectomy.
Michael C Hall
Michael C. Hall: Hodgkin's lymphoma, 2010 Hall used a break during Dexter to go through treatment. Getting a Golden Globe two-thirds through it gave him a "shock of positive energy."