Know Your Lemons: The life and legacy of breast cancer campaigner Dawn Wilson


Seven weeks ago, on the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, mother-of-two Dawn Wilson passed away. She was just 38 years old. 

Her story has been followed by Wales This Week since her breast cancer diagnosis back in 2017, along with her efforts to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease.

In 2014, Dawn discovered a lump in her left breast and sought advice from her local GP. At the time she was just 32 years old and as she had no known history of breast cancer in her family, she was considered to be low-risk and told that her discovery was nothing to worry about.

Dawn was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer

It soon became clear that wasn’t the case for Dawn, who was later diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer - a very aggressive form of the disease.

After a variety of treatments, Dawn and her family were hopeful that the cancer had been cleared, but in 2017 she received the news which every parent dreads - the cancer had returned, and her diagnosis was terminal.

But rather than focus on this devastating news, Dawn’s attention shifted towards helping others to avoid being in her position in future. She wanted to launch a campaign as a legacy for her two girls.

“It’s an absolute sin that people just don’t know how many signs of breast cancer there are", Dawn said.

"I can’t change that overnight. I can’t one person make a difference but I can empower them to be confident enough to seek out advice and if they are not happy with the response to have the confidence to stand there and say, ‘I'm not happy with this - I want to be seen today by someone because I have these symptoms'”.

Her chosen campaign was the Know Your Lemons campaign created by designer and charity founder Corrine Beaumont. It shows twelve lemons in an egg box, which each have a different indicator of breast cancer.

Having first seen the campaign online after her diagnosis, Dawn often wondered if her life may have been different if she had seen the posters sooner, and had been more aware of the symptoms she should have been looking out for.

Just a few months later, the Know your Lemons Campaign was officially endorsed by NHS Wales. Posters were sent to over 400 GP practices and schools began to share the importance of self-checking for symptoms. Dawn’s campaign was also launched by the Welsh Government.

And now, in the year of her death, due to a pause in screening appointments because of Covid and a reduced turnout at sour GP practices, that self-checking message may be more important than ever.

“She taught over 5,000 people in person which is pretty incredible” Corrine Beaumont from the campaign said.

The charity has since set up a fund in Dawn’s name, which will be used to train others in Wales to pick up where she left off.

Close friend Maria Farrelly is one of a number of people who’ve pledged to become an ambassador for the campaign so that Dawn’s dream can live on, in the work of those who she mattered to most.

“I never met anyone who was so passionate about something, you know and this was something that had a real impact, this was something that saved people’s lives. You can’t not carry that on. You can’t let that go” Maria Farrelly

Maria, along with Dawn’s family, hope that the continuing work of the charity can offer a legacy for Dawn. And most importantly, help others to avoid the potential of such devastating loss in the future

“Preparation and knowing it's going to happen doesn’t always mean that when it happens you are ready. So if we can encourage discussion and awareness then all the better”  Stephen Wilson

For more information about the campaign, go to knowyourlemons.com.