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Knockers For A Cause – Artificial Prosthesis

Cancer Health and Wellness Innovation Inspiration June 2019 Patient Care Supportive Care

Knockers For A Cause – Artificial Prosthesis

Jun 2019 - Innovation - Knockers for a Cause (1)

Barbara Demorest’s Knitted Knockers give hope and happiness to breast cancer survivors, who often struggle with silicon and other artificial prostheses

By Anila Mathew Vivek

In addition to the trauma accompanying the diagnosis of cancer, the pain and side effects of treatment, women who suffer from breast cancer have to deal with the double whammy of losing their breast. Unlike the agony of losing hair during chemotherapy, the removal of breasts is permanent and affects women on emotional and psychological levels, too. Lumpectomies and mastectomies take a huge toll on patients. Women are often crushed at the sight of misshapen or uneven breasts after lumpectomies. Many resorts to wearing baggy clothes in order to hide the absence of breasts. Sometimes, the prospect of going under the knife again for breast reconstruction surgery is just as frightening for patients struggling to get back to their normal lives.

And this is precisely why Knitted Knockers—a simple but highly effective solution—by breast cancer survivor Barbara Demorest becomes a lifesaver. Knitted knockers are soft and comfortable, and can be worn under regular bras.

Jun 2019 - Innovation - Knockers for a Cause (3)

Made by volunteers using cotton yarn and soft toy stuffing, the prosthetic is generally custom made according to individual requirements. It can be made with or without the nipple and comes in different colors, shapes, and sizes. An exciting development is the creation of Aqua Knockers, a type of prosthetic that will be filled with shower scrunchies so that they can be used in water as well. Aqua Knockers can be wrung dry after use.

Demorest wanted to provide women with a safe and viable alternative to silicon and other artificial breast prostheses. When Demorest underwent surgery for breast cancer, she was devastated to realize that her scars wouldn’t allow her to wear anything for at least six weeks. She was also advised by her doctor that silicon prostheses may not always be comfortable, as many users reported feeling sweaty and heavy. It was he who suggested the idea of knitting.

Meanwhile, a young woman who owned a yarn shop in Maine had already begun knitting the soft, handmade prosthesis. She too had come up with the idea after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. Though the survivor and her friends had begun distributing the prostheses under the name Knitted Knockers, she was unable to continue doing so and was only too happy to help Demorest in her mission. Her friend Phyllis Kramer was the first person to assist her in knitting perfect breast prostheses that helped her get back into her old clothes and regain her confidence.


A Knitted Knockers recipient

Demorest began a non-profit organization, named the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, in her hometown in Washington, to help meet the surging demand for the prostheses. While she began with a small group of friends and local knitters, Demorest ensured that more knitters and crocheters across the US were able to join the movement, by making the knitting and crochet patterns available online. Various groups now support the cause with volunteers knitting the prosthetic and supplying them to women who are recuperating after treatment.

Non-knitters pitch in with donations and raise awareness about the product. Knitted Knockers aims to partner with more than 1,100 medical clinics so as to link-local providers and groups. Women who come to the clinics for therapy will be provided samples and brochures to help them select free breast prostheses. The recipients have warmly praised not only the product but the thoughtfulness behind each handmade breast that conveys love and support in a very trying time. As one happy recipient says: “I am the happiest I have ever been since my mastectomy because I have been given this wonderful gift of soft pillows they call knockers. I have suffered extreme pain caused by nerve damage and cannot wear traditional prostheses. Now I can fit these soft pillows into a normal bra and boy, do I feel great! Thank you all for this generous gift.”

Jun 2019 - Innovation - Knockers for a Cause (2)
Phyllis Kramer & Barbara Demorest

“While I was incarcerated, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” says another user. “I ended up with a mastectomy with no chance of reconstruction. While I was healing from the surgery, I read an Ann Landers column with information on Knitted Knockers. Since I could not receive one in prison, I got the directions to make one. There are lots of knitters and crocheters in prison. One lady volunteered to make me one and ended up making two. I was able to walk around and no one ever knew that I had had a mastectomy. It made me feel good. When I was released, I still had no contacts to get a prosthesis. My knockers were all I had to feel ‘normal’. I just want to say thank you! Thanks to all the people who make these wonderful ‘knockers’! You are all such a blessing!” Knitted Knockers groups can be organized in any country or area. Support and assistance for such efforts is provided via the website, http://www.knittedknockers.org

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