Knitting new hope for breast cancer patients
The typical prosthetics available to women after undergoing a mastectomy are usually expensive, heavy and uncomfortable—which is not ideal for someone recovering from surgery. But when a nurse in Bakersfield and a volunteer in Hanford decided to take action and join the Knitted Knockers movement, women battling breast cancer had a better option for prosthetics—one that not only aided them aesthetically, but offered hope.
‘Knitted Knockers’ are soft, comfortable, knitted prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies. The AIS Cancer Center at Adventist Health Bakersfield is the only place in Kern County to hand out these handmade prosthetics all thanks to Jacqui Engstrand, a nurse at the cancer center. “One of my patients told me about the Knitted Knocker project. I have been a knitter since I was 7 years old. I immediately looked it up online,” Jacqui recalled. It’s now her mission to bring this worldwide project to every woman in Kern County that needs it.
Jacqui has even joined a local knitting group “What the Knit” to get other skilled knitters to support the ‘knocker' project here. “It’s really a great project for leftover yarns” says Jacqui with a smile. “We don’t always need a matching set.” The ‘knockers’ are given to women who are awaiting reconstructive surgery or double mastectomy patients who may never be eligible for surgery.
Not only do they have a name that makes you smile—what makes these knitted prosthetics so great is the fact they are soft, lightweight, free and most importantly they can be worn just 4-weeks after surgery, where other types women have to wait longer. It gives women who have gone through so much a way to feel pretty again. The knitted knockers are provided free of charge to anyone in Kern County. “It’s something I wanted to do for my patients and other cancer survivors in our community. It combines my two loves: caring for cancer patients and knitting” says Jacque.
The Knitted Knockers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The soft knitted prosthetics can be worn in regular bras and swimwear. The ‘knockers’ are made from soft, durable, washable, non-wool, sport or baby weight yarn. Once a ‘knocker’ is knitted it is filled with a poly fiber fil.
And in Hanford, local superstar Anne Sutton has been busy knitting knockers at Adventist Health Hanford. For over six decades knitting has been a passion of hers, but has recently discovered what a wonderful gift she can give by knitting for breast cancer survivors. “I didn’t intend to be a star knocker-maker,” she says, “so I encourage anybody else who wants to do it to come help.”
Local knitters have been pitching in and helping to knit these much-needed knockers. But the demand is great and more are needed. Want to find a way to help? Go to knittedknockers.org to find knitting patterns, where to donate and how to get involved in your community (non-knitters are welcome, too!).