It was back in 2015 when Tawny Willoughby, now Dzierzek, was 27 years old and was being treated for skin cancer. Her treatment, which left her with burns and scabs all over her face, was posted on her Facebook in the form of a selfie. And according to the journal, Preventive Medicine, the study showed that there was a direct correlation between Tawny’s post and the 162 percent boost in Google search terms for “skin” and “cancer.”
It was a little over five years ago when Tawny’s selfie sparked more than 300,000 additional Google searches in a single week.
During the height of Tawny’s story, there were record-high levels of the word search for “skin cancer” with more than 229,000 searches for that term in just one week.
Tawny admits that back when she was in high school she would use the tanning bed (which she had at her home) two times a week but also as much as four times a week.
She was first diagnosed at 21 years old and over the next six years, she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma five times and squamous cell carcinoma once.
She decided to post the results of her skin cancer treatment on her Facebook. Her face, which was covered in red scars and scabs, was the result of a treatment that was supposed to cure her.
Her caption read: ‘if anyone needs a little motivation to not lay in the tanning bed and sun here ya go! 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.’
The native of Kentucky said that she did not have melanoma, however, non-malignant skin cancer can still create scars and disfigurement in the face. At the time of this writing, Tawny’s post has been liked more than seven thousand times and shared more than 100,000 times.
John Ayers, who is the co-author of the study that showed the increase in Google searches in Tawny’s post, said that he hopes the study will encourage more health experts to engage in social media.
‘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.’