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 and champion for thousands of other women.
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.
“We are sending out well over 200 Knitter Knockers a week free to women all over the world and can only do it because of the wonderful volunteers willing to make them.”
After securing the woman’s permission and blessing to carry on the labor of love she started, Barb officially founded Knitted Knockers 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.
“The site is a one stop destination where anything you want to know about knockers can be found,” Barb explains. 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 free download, along with videos and resources on how to knit or crochet them. There’s also a knitting group and provider directory, so you can find them in your local area.
To date, the patterns have been downloaded over 325,000 and the videos have been viewed a quarter of a million times. Barb tells us, “It just blows me away when I think about it!” What’s equally mind-blowing is that Barb, one woman on a mission, has grown her organization to include 250 volunteer knitting (and crocheting) groups registered with Knitted Knockers in 50 states and 12 countries. “We are sending out well over 200 a week free to women all over the world and can only do it because of the wonderful volunteers willing to make them.”
Now, six 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
Inspired To Help? Here Are 3 Ways You Can…
- Make knitted knockers… if you knit or crochet… or learn how for this worthy cause.
- Like and share Knitted Knockers on Facebook and Twitter. This helps us Barb and her team reach out to the hundreds of thousands of women living in the U.S. right now that have not been reconstructed after mastectomy.
- Donate. Knitted Knockers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is 100% volunteer run and survives by donations.