After Barbara Demorest underwent a mastectomy, a silicone-based prosthetic seemed to be her only option, until her doctor asked a question that would change her life: “Do you knit?”
PHOTO: Knitted Knockers
After avid knitter Barbara Demorest underwent her own mastectomy in 2011, she suffered complications and was unable to undergo breast reconstruction. A silicone-based prosthetic seemed to be her only option, but her doctor mentioned that many women find these to be uncomfortable. Then, he asked her a question that would change her life: “Do you knit?”
That’s how Demorest discovered Knitted Knockers — soft, handmade alternatives to traditional prostheses that take the shape and feel of a real breast. Her doctor then showed her how to find the pattern, which she passed along to a friend who created Demorest’s first Knitted Knocker.
“It was perfect,” says Demorest in a video on knittedknockers.org. “It was light. It was soft. It was pretty…I just felt normal.”
Once she experienced the joy of feeling whole once again, Demorest had found her new purpose: To make these Knockers available to any woman that needs them.
To do this, Demorest first wanted to obtain approval from the woman who originally named Knitted Knockers. In an interview with CURE, Demorest explained that a young woman from Maine, who owned a yarn shop first, made a prosthesis for herself after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She and her friends started making them to give away and came up with the name Knitted Knockers,” said Demorest. “After having my mastectomy, I asked her if I could help with distributing Knitted Knockers, and she said she was no longer able to keep up with things. So, I was delighted that we could take up the torch and run with it!”
With this young woman’s blessing, Demorest and her friends created the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation at knittedknockers.org, and began to spread the word to both the women who could use them and the volunteer knitters that could make them in their area of Washington state.
“I started by connecting with my local doctors’ offices and local knitters at a yarn shop,” said Demorest. “They knit the Knockers, and a couple of friends, family members and I met and stuffed them in my laundry room.”
Soon, Demorest realized they would have to expand. “I knew from personal experience that they were so comfortable that it would be too much for any one group to provide.”
To meet the inevitable demand, Demorest and her team focused on inspiring and equipping knitters and crocheters around the country — and the world – by posting the patterns online (which have been downloaded over 1 million times) and creating video tutorials on how to create them.
Non-knitters were also invited to help by spreading the word about the organization or donating.
According to Demorest, “We are all volunteers with no paid employees. Our postage last year alone was over $58,000! But we were able to cover it with the wonderful generosity of people. Every $10 covers the costs of providing Knockers to one woman.”
For a woman who needs a Knocker, the process is simple: After choosing a size and quantity online, her order is placed on a state supplier page for a local knitter to fulfill. Finished Knockers are then mailed out — many times within two weeks – with care instructions and sometimes with a personalized note from the knitter.
The outpouring of love and gratitude from Knocker recipients has been heartwarming, to say the least.
“I knew from the beginning that we would be providing a wonderful physical product that women would find comfortable,” said Demorest. “What I didn’t realize was that it would become a place of healing as well.”
Many women share their stories, challenges and emotions when they reach out to Knitted Knockers. “We found that many used this as an opportunity to talk about things, knowing we understood and cared.”
Also, Demorest continued, knitters found an unexpected joy and sense of purpose in using their time and talents to make a difference in women’s lives. “The love and caring evident from receiving these gifts with no strings attached, just because someone cared, is priceless.”
According to Demorest, the rest of 2018 is dedicated to reaching out to the medical community and providing free knitted knockers to even more patients.
“We have invested significant resources to attend several conferences around the country including the American Society of Breast Surgeons, the National Oncology Nurses Association and the National Consortium of Breast Centers,” explained Demorest. “The reception has been tremendous.”
Partnering with clinics is also on the agenda. “We have over 1,100 medical clinics registered with us and are working tirelessly to connect local providers and groups to provide Knitted Knockers directly to clinics near them for women to select and take home.”
Demorest says the goal is to equip clinics with everything they need to spread the word. “We provide sample Knockers to show patients, brochures, business cards and other materials — all free of charge to the clinics. Any medical clinic interested in providing these free gifts of comfort and dignity can register with us at knittedknockers.org and we will get them started.”