Educator of the month: Raquel Rodrigues Peres

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This month’s Educator of the Month is Raquel, who after only a few months as a Global Volunteer Educator with us, volunteered her time to help translate our entire campaign into her native tongue – Brazilian Portuguese. This means that now over 210 million more people can view our campaign in their own language which – to us – is incredible! We are so very grateful to Raquel for the hard work she has put into this project and the time she is now volunteering as a Lemonista. Read her story below. 

“Hi, my name is Raquel and I am from Brazil. I’m a Research Biologist and have a PhD in Health Sciences. I have mainly been working in Breast Cancer Genomics research since 2007, when I started my Masters in the Women’s Hospital of the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in São Paulo, Brazil. 

I had been aware of many people suffering from cancer and how devastating this was to their families and friends. My paternal grandmother died of colon cancer a year before I was born. Since I was a teen all this made me want to research cancer, hoping that one day my work would have meaning and would help people’s lives. When I was about to start my Masters, I chose to study Breast Cancer because it was the kind of tumor that affects women the most in the world. The statistics were shocking to me and I wanted to be able to help as much as possible.

A couple of years later, the mother of my best friend from high school was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42. Fortunately, she identified the disease early and the treatment was successful. Then, in 2015, I found myself having to face this awful situation of having a family member with the disease. This time, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. Despite the treatment, she only lived another 5 months after diagnosis. It was devastating to the family.

After all the experiences I had with hospital patients, my friend and finally with my grandmother, I decided that I should help raise awareness about the importance of early cancer diagnosis more intentionally. 

Raquel giving a “Know Your Lemons” class in Brazil.

Raquel giving a “Know Your Lemons” class in Brazil.

Several acquaintances asked me about breast cancer, because they knew I worked in that field, and wanted to clear up some of their doubts. In Brazil, the low education level of a large part of the population, economic difficulties and poor access to the health care system are issues that have a major impact on early diagnosis in various types of tumors, including breast cancer. Although I live in a part of the country where access to information is vast and where there are more cancer hospitals, this is unfortunately not the case for other regions.

A few times I was called to give lectures on women’s health in low-income neighborhoods in my city. While I researched to prepare for my classes I found the Know Your Lemons Foundation. 

I found it amazing how the graphics could clearly explain the symptoms of cancer in a playful and at the same time assertive way, which is perfect for the Brazilian public. This is when I decided to become a volunteer educator!

  

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In the past, I have given some lectures in my community. People received it very well and found the breast cancer signs easy to understand because of the visual communication. They also shared stories about past diagnosis and mammography campaign tips. In social media, some have doubts or get amazed by the signs they didn’t know.

The pandemic has been quite limiting in terms of educating people. However, I believe that now is the time when learning about breast cancer symptoms is crucial, as women have had less access to hospitals and screening. 

So, my strategy has been to spread the Know Your Lemons images on social media which are particularly popular. The response has been great. Brazilian people are so keen on Instagram and Facebook. I guess this is the most effective way to get their initial attention. I also teach and answer questions online.

The Know Your Lemons campaign helps me put my medical knowledge into visually simple language for everyone. It is so creative and relevant for early diagnosis.  

I hope to be able to make a difference in the lives of women through Know Your Lemons and in some way have an impact on the public health of my country.”

You are truly an inspiration, Raquel. Thank you for your commitment to educating the people in your country and in your native language! 

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If YOU want to help us make the material accessible to more people you can do so by donating – having educational material in your native language can make all the difference and help someone detect breast cancer earlier! www.knowyourlemons.org/donate

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