How A Woman's Brutally Honest Selfie Saved Lives

Whether you're a serial Snapchatter or a regular on Insta stories, for many, selfies are a daily part of life - an easy way to document a fresh trim, some new clobber or to tell the world that you 'woke up like this'.

But while selfies can get a little bit annoying sometimes (seriously, no one gives a shit about your outfit of the day, just like they didn't yesterday), for this one woman, taking a brutally honest selfie has actually helped save lives.

Tawny Dzierzek (formerly Willoughby) was 27 years old when she posted a graphic photo on Facebook depicting her severely scabbed skin during cancer treatment. It went viral and has been shared over 105,000 times at the time of writing.

Her 2015 post began by saying: "If anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go!"

She continued: "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."

Later edits on the post also say that she had done most of the tanning in high school and that she had had her first skin cancer diagnosis aged 21.

"Now, at 27, I've had basal cell carcinoma 5 times and squamous cell carcinoma once (excluding my face). I go to the dermatologist every 6-12 months and usually have a skin cancer removed at each checkup," she wrote.

She also added that skin cancer does not always manifest itself as moles - she did not have melanoma, which can be deadly - and that only one of hers had been a mole.

"Get any suspicious, new and growing spot checked out. Anything that doesn't heal, possibly bleeds on and off and crusts," she added.

The viral selfie prompted record high Google searches for prevention of the condition, as revealed by a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

According to the study, Tawny's post generated a 162 percent boost in Google searches of the terms 'skin' and 'cancer', and at the peak of its news coverage there were record levels of 'skin cancer' searches - with 229,000 searches of the term in just one week.

"We conclude 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," the study states.

According to Live Science, co-author John Ayers, public health researcher at San Diego State University, also hopes that the study will encourage public health experts to engage much more in the role of social media.

"It gets the public back into public health," he said.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist at LADbible. Jess graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

Next Up

arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up camera clock close comment cursor email facebook-messenger facebook Instagram link new-window phone play share snapchat submit twitter vine whatsapp logoInline safari-pinned-tab Created by potrace 1.11, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2013