“I loved that I could plop it into my bra and go back to work or get a hug and feel ‘normal.’”
– Barbara Demorest, Knitted Knockers Founder
As Hurley Medical Center’s Breast Health Nurse Navigator, it is Marsha Schmit’s role to educate, advocate and support women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Most of all, the navigator’s role is to help women to be more comfortable while undergoing treatment and after surgeries. After undergoing a mastectomy, Hurley patients are offered an alternative breast prosthetic called Knitted Knockers. These hand-knitted prosthesis provide a soft, comfortable and lightweight alternative to the traditional prosthetics, which are usually expensive, heavy and uncomfortable, Marsha explains. Knitted Knockers can be adjusted to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven, and easily adapt for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing. “Placed in a bra, they take on the shape and feel of a natural breast. This is really a nice tool to have on hand for our patients,” Marsha says.
The Knitted Knockers’ movement was started in the United States by Barbara Demorest, a cancer survivor from Washington State. After having a single mastectomy, she was unable to undergo reconstructive surgery due to complications. When she was told by her doctor that it would be six weeks before she could be fitted with a prosthetic, she was devastated. So, one of her friends knitted an alternative for her. Barbara was so happy with the results that she founded KnittedKnockers.org, a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteer knitters to create the softer, more comfortable prosthesis.
“Knitted Knockers benefit not only the women who can use them, but also those who make them,” Barbara says. “With one out of every eight women having breast cancer during their lifetime, we all know someone who has had it. This is a practical, loving way to use our gifts and talents to make a difference.”
About three years ago, a couple of women got the ball rolling to make Knitted Knockers for breast cancer survivors in the Flint area. A woman from Hurley’s breast cancer support group created her own pattern and the Medical Center helped provide funds to get the project started. Unfortunately, the women are no longer in the area, says Marsha. “Now, we need knitters.”
Marsha has the pattern available for individuals or groups who might be interested in helping make a breast cancer patient a little more comfortable. Knitted Knockers can also be requested online at KnittedKnockers.org, where the organization connects cancer patients with volunteer knitters. There are Knitted Knockers groups all over the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom – 197 groups in all.
Barbara adds, “We are currently sending out up to 1,000 pieces a month from inquiries on KnittedKnockers.org. Our patterns have been downloaded over 190,000 times, so there are a lot of knockers out there!”
“Women have been so grateful for this option!” says the Navigator. “It is an opportunity to help breast cancer survivors feel confident and whole again.”
Knit Some Knockers! If you want to lend your talent to Hurley’s Knitted Knockers project, call Marsha Schmit at 810.262.7207.
Photos provided by Barbara Demorest