Barbara Demorest had been healthy her whole life, so she was shocked when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Unfortunately, her biggest fear – having a mastectomy – became part of her new reality. Due to complications, immediate reconstruction was not an option. She thought about a breast prosthetic but was told by her local cancer society, “Oh honey, you can’t put anything on that scar for at least six weeks.” That was the first time Barb cried since being diagnosed and those tears were the start of her path from tragedy to triumph.
Feeling self conscious and embarrassed post-mastectomy, Barb also talked with her doctor about a traditional silicone prosthetic. He told her that most women are not very happy with that as a solution. “It’s too hot, heavy and expensive.” She was defeated. Barb didn’t know what she was going to do. That’s when her doctor asked, “Do you knit?” She replied, “Yes.” He then showed her a picture of a “Knitted Knocker” with a link to a pattern. Her outlook immediately changed upon seeing the handmade, breast shaped, knit prosthetic.
Not physically or emotionally able to knit for herself just yet, Barb asked her dear friend Phyllis, a super knitter, if she would make a Knitted Knocker for her.
“That Sunday I stuck a sock in my bra and wore a jacket and ventured out to church. Phyllis delivered two beautiful Knockers to me in a Victoria’s Secret bag. I took them right into the bathroom stall and stuck one in my bra. It was FABULOUS! It was light, pretty, soft, and fit in my own bra perfectly.”
With her newfound confidence, Barb took off her jacket, and, at that very moment, decided her new life’s mission: to make free Knitted Knockers available to any woman going through what she was.
So Barb set out to learn more about the knit prosthetics, how to make them, and how to use them. After several dead ends, she discovered that the woman who started Knitted Knockers was no longer making them. That gave Barb an opportunity to simply pick up her altruistic torch and continue running with it.
After securing the woman’s permission and blessing to carry on the labor of love she started, Barb officially founded KnittedKnockers.org in her hometown of Bellingham, WA where, every year, 200 women are diagnosed with breast cancer (of those roughly 50 have mastectomies). She got to work lining up friends to help knit, making Knockers, and distributing them to local women in need through her breast cancer doctor and plastic surgeon’s offices. That was just the start.
Building off her own successful local model, Barb then expanded her mission and redesigned her website to be a digital portal for other regional networks of women helping women… kindhearted knitters willing to volunteer their time and talent to handcraft these beautiful gifts of inspiration and compassion for breast cancer survivors everywhere.
“No one group can meet that kind of demand so the purpose of this site is to have a one stop place where anything you want to know about knockers can be found,” Barb explains. She describes the site as a work in progress, but it’s essentially a Knitted Knockers Central already. It includes info on how to set up a Knitted Knockers volunteer group, how to approach doctor’s office, clinics, and locations to distribute them, how to request a knocker, as well as ideas on how to recruit knitters. She’s also got the Knitted Knockers patterns available for download, along with videos and resources on how to knit them. There’s also a knitting group and provider directory, so you can find them in your local area.
Today, three years after her own life changing diagnosis, Barb says one of her greatest joys is getting a call from a doctor requesting more Knitted Knockers. She shared, “One of the nurse’s said to me, ‘I sure wish you could be there when we have a woman who is dejected, wondering what she’s going to do and we bring out the bag of Knockers. They always bring a smile to their face at a difficult time, and sometimes tears.'” To that Barb replied, “I don’t need to be there to see it. I know, because I was one of them.”
This testimonial, which is just one of many Barb has received, beautifully sums up how incredibly important her mission is…
“I am the happiest I have ever been since my Mastectomy because I have been given this wonderful gift of soft, pillows of clouds they call knockers. I have suffered extreme pain caused by nerve damage and cannot wear the traditional prosthesis so now I can fit these soft pillows into a normal bra and boy!!!! Do I feel GREAT. Thank you all for this generous gift.” – Knitted Knockers Recipient, September 2014