Knitted Knockers wins Best Mastectomy Product prize at Live Better With’s Spotlight Awards
Non-profit organisation Knitted Knockers has been awarded the Best Mastectomy Product prize at the inaugural Spotlight Awards by Live Better With.
Founded by cancer survivor Barbara Demorest in 2011, Knitted Knockers provide special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast – for free.
We spoke to founder Barbara to find out more about this incredible organisation:
How was the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation founded?
I founded Knitted Knockers Support Foundation after having a mastectomy in 2011. Due to complications, I was unable to be immediately reconstructed. My doctor indicated that I may not tolerate a traditional breast prosthesis that could be hot, heavy, sticky, expensive and not worn for awhile after surgery and asked if I could knit. I can knit, but I wasn’t in the right headspace. So I went home, called a friend and told her the doctor said a knitted breast worked well for one of his other patients.
My friend found a knit pattern online and knit a beautiful knitted knocker for me and it literally changed my life. I contacted the woman in Maine who had posted the [knit] pattern and who had named the knit prostheses “Knitted Knockers”. But I found that she was no longer able to provide them. I asked the woman if I could help her get them out to other women that could use them and she was delighted by my idea to share them.
After your own diagnosis and surgery, why did you want to help others in your situation?
When my friend made this wonderful gift of comfort and dignity it literally changed my life. I took that beautiful, soft, huggable knocker and plopped it in my own “regular” bra and literally reengaged with life. I knew immediately these needed to be available to women everywhere at their doctors’ offices or online so at their most vulnerable time they can receive these gifts of comfort and dignity made by someone who cared.
How many people have you helped with Knitted Knockers so far?
I don’t know for sure. We know we have been at it for over six years and most recently have been giving out 1,000 per month. We support 450 medical clinics nationwide and have thousands of knitters and crocheters registered at Knitted Knockers making knockers for the women of their own communities. We know that the patterns have been downloaded over 600,000 times. If even half of those were used to make a knocker (many have made hundreds) you do the math… it’s a lot!
How does it feel to know you are helping women take back their femininity and regain confidence?
It is life changing to me. My adult son asked me, “Mum, if you could go back and not have had breast cancer would you?” My answer was, “no, because I now have a passion and purpose in life I did not have before”.
Bringing comfort and dignity to so many women that can use knitted knockers is so heartwarming. But also, as so many volunteers have found the knowledge that putting our time and talents of knitting to good use can make a real difference in someone’s life is just priceless. Reading the comments from women that have received these gifts as well as the joy it brings to the ones making them makes all the hard work worth it.
How can women order their Knocker?
Women can order their free Knitted Knockers online. They order their bra size (38C for instance), their color choice, (Neutral, bright or dark) and whether they need a single or pair. If they wish them for swimming they can request them too.
As treatment can make skin sensitive, do you use a special type of material?
We have a list of approved yarns most of which are cotton. Anyone with allergies can let us know and we try to accommodate that. We do not use wool and acrylic is only used for swimming knockers.
How many countries are Knitted Knockers available in?
We have groups providing knockers in 16 countries but we mail all over the world. We don’t want to turn anyone away.
How many knitters do you have?
We have over 1,800 knitters and crocheter groups registered with us. They can register with us online and we send out information on ways they can help.
Why is it important that you provide the Knockers free of charge?
The caring factor is an important part of Knitted Knockers. I have been asked if we could manufacture the knockers and sell them for a reasonable cost since the demand is so huge for them. My answer is no, they are so much more than a physical device to help you appear normal. They are a vessel of caring and love given to women at a vulnerable time. Knowing that a complete stranger cared enough to make something so intimate for them for no personal benefit except because they care is too valuable.
Do you receive any funding to help run Knitted Knockers?
We are a non-profit run completely by volunteers. We have no paid staff. We do it because we care. We survive by the generosity of people donating to help us with the costs. The knitters and crocheters provide their own yarn and many groups fundraise as best they can. Our postage runs from $3,000 (£2,200) to $5,000 (£3,700) per month and so it is all appreciated.
How does it feel to win the first ever Best Mastectomy product Spotlight Award?
We are so honored to be selected and recognised as a Best Mastectomy product. We love every opportunity to spread the word about knitted knockers reaching out to the thousands of women that can use them as well as those that can help make and provide them! Thank you so much for that!
How can people help support Knitted Knockers?
There are three ways people can help if they want:
- If you can knit or crochet, make them!
- Share on social media about Knitted Knockers. With 1 out of 8 women getting breast cancer in their life we all know someone who could use them, or make them
- Donate, we survive by the generosity of others.
The first of its kind, the Spotlight Awards shine a light on the achievements of truly remarkable people, products, and services in the cancer community. Nominated by the public, and voted by a panel of expert judges, the winners are from all walks of life, of all ages, and from across the world.
The Spotlight Awards have been organised by Live Better With, an award-winning online platform where cancer patients and their loved ones can find products and information to help with the symptoms and side effects of living with cancer.
See the full list of Spotlight Award winners here.