The "Know Your Lemons" Story
"Know Your Lemons" is the work of Corrine Ellsworth Beaumont, PhD. She founded the nonprofit "Worldwide Breast Cancer" in 2014. Here's how she explains how it came to be:
What's the problem?
Did you know that one-third of cancer deaths worldwide could be avoided through education and screening? Yet just 4% of women know the signs of breast cancer. This is a problem to do with how we talk about breast health...which is mostly spoken through pink ribbon symbols and general messages of "look for changes" that don't say much.
When breast cancer is found in the earliest stage, the survival rate is nearly 100%. But when it's found in the latest stage, there is no surviving it. This is why being able to spot a symptom of breast cancer at the beginning is so important, and why screening (where available) is key to early detection and lives being saved.
The difficulty with breast cancer is that, well, it's about breasts and it's about cancer. Two topics that on their own aren't easy to have in public. Combine them, and it's even more difficult to talk about, let alone display for all to see.
So the way around this problem has been to describe things not through images, but by using text, a lot of text. This eliminates a large section of the population right away: either because they cannot read it, or they don't have the time to read it. So, not a lot of education happening here.
So the other option is to talk about it. Talking about breasts openly isn't a common thing in many parts of the world and is difficult in many situations. Mostly because of it's close association to sex. So that restricts it to just being discussed in very specific settings, with specific people at specific times. Not ideal.
Talking about cancer is also a subject often avoided. In some places, simply saying it out loud is seen as an invitation for the disease to find you. Which is ridiculous, because talking about cancer doesn't mean you will get cancer, right? (knock on wood)
So how do you educate a diverse, global population without words about a topic they don't want to discuss or embarrass them?
Use a stand-in for the breast that can bypass all of these barriers in a friendly, familiar and engaging way. Create a new way of looking at the breast that doesn't get sexual, or gory or censored. A lemon doesn't have an age, or gender or an ethnicity so it can represent anyone. And that's the genius behind the lemons and why they work in places like San Francisco and Saudi Arabia.
Why do I care so much?
Breast cancer is a personal issue for me. My father’s mother, Lila Beth, died from breast cancer at age 40, leaving 5 young children behind. This disease returned again to the other side of my family, with my mom’s mother, Sandra. She died from breast cancer at age 62 while I was studying a Masters degree in design. When this happened, I wanted to know what I should be doing to protect myself against breast cancer and went to a patient library at a premier cancer center in the area to get answers to what I thought were some pretty basic questions:
“What do I look for? What am I feeling for in a self-exam? When should I get a mammogram? Am I at a higher risk?”
They weren't sure what to tell a 21 year-old asking about prevention. I was given a lot of leaflets, referred to many websites and looked at several books. But not one of them had all of the answers in a simple, easy-to-understand format. I thought as a designer, I could change that and took it on as my Masters project to find a way to visualize breast cancer awareness that was interesting and informative.
I started photographing objects to stand-in for the breast: cones, jugs, melons...and then finally I discovered a lemon. It has a nipple, and the interior looks similar to breast anatomy. And after spending time at an imaging center I discovered a lump was hard and immovable...much like a lemon seed. I knew I had found my metaphor.
I spent a lot of my Masters degree photographing lemons, talking to doctors and nurses, and putting myself in the shoes of the patient which produced the 12 signs of breast cancer image and the breast anatomy poster. But I still felt like it needed more work, so I left my job at age 26 as an adjunct design professor and Creative Director and moved to London to get a PhD in Design. This gave me the opportunity to really dedicate myself to improving, testing and developing a global campaign.
When I moved to London I received some sad news, my childhood friend Suzanne had been diagnosed with metastatic (Stage IV) breast cancer at age 28. Suzanne’s symptom was redness, a thick mass (“tight skin”), an inverted nipple and a child refusing to breastfeed on that particular breast. It was a lesser known form of the disease known as Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). These were all symptoms on my poster, but most of the health professionals she interacted with dismissed several of these symptoms because she was "too young." If it wasn't for an experienced nurse pushing her to get a second opinion, she may have never have known. [Read Suzanne's story in her own words here.]
This then really pushed me to get the message out there that there was a lot more than a lump that women (and men) needed to know.
I continued to fund my “side-project” with my savings, and was an associate professor in London teaching Design Thinking and Business Startups for several years. And after a 7-year battle, Suzanne died leaving behind 4 children and a husband. It was too much for me to bear any longer. So I left the university to pursue the charity full time, as a single mom, so I could educate as many as I could. I found another to join in the work with me, and today we are an incredible force for good!
How many women would you like to help us educate?
Since 2014, we have educated over 200 million people around the world. It’s in over 16 languages. It’s used in over 90 countries. People have reached out to us saying that these lemons helped them to get diagnosed in a way they wouldn't have otherwise. It’s really incredible.
You can be part of this too. Whether it's by making a simple donation, becoming an educator or promoting our campaign as a sponsor. We have so much more work to do, and we can only achieve our goal with you! Have a look at the Membership section to learn how you too can get involved.
Just take peek below at those who have partnered with us to educate in their part of the world. What could you do to educate the women around you?