June 10, 2019
Often times, those helping in the fight against cancer go unrecognized. Yet some of those in the background are the ones that ease the suffering and help those fighting to keep their dignity. One organization that’s made a difference in cancer patients’ lives is Knitted Knockers. Barbara Demorest, creator of Knitted Knockers, has been helping cancer patients with compassion through knitting for over nine years. 21st Century Oncology has awarded Knitted Knockers with the “Partners in Healing Award” as recognition of a charity/business that is a part of the healing process for those battling cancer. They will be receiving this award on behalf of the charity.
What follows is our conversation with Florence Houser, a cancer fighter and volunteer organizer at Knitted Knockers:
Geoffrey Moore: How did Knitted Knockers get started?
Florence Houser: In 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After my mastectomy, I was wondering what I was going to do to look normal and get back to life. I called the local breast cancer support group and inquired as to what could help me aesthetically look like myself. The leader of the support group said that due to my scars, I can’t put anything on the affected area for at least six weeks. This was devastating to me because I wanted to get back to life and get back to some sense of normalcy. Later that week, I went to my doctor’s office, and I picked up a brochure with all different types of prosthetics. My doctor said to me, “Many women are not satisfied with the solutions that are provided.” I asked, “What am I going to do…” and then he asked me, “Do you knit?” I responded with, “Yes!” He told me about Knitted Knockers, and it looked like a great solution. I was unfortunately not in good shape at that point and had asked my friend if she could knit one for me. When I got my first knitted knocker from her- it was life changing for me. I could wear it in my regular bra, it made me feel normal and it was made by someone who cared about me. It was like getting a hug from the person without them being there. I knew right there that we needed to provide these to doctor’s offices for other women that have gone through the same thing that I have. It really helps to pick up their mood, give them confidence and give them some sense of normalcy. That’s when I founded Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, which can be visited at knittedknockers.org
Geoffrey Moore: So how many people are knitting these knockers?
Florence Houser: Knitted Knockers has over 5,000 registered knitters and crocheters from around the country. We equip them with a list of approved yarns that are specially made for sensitive skin and are hypo-allergenic. This is very important because it is a special yarn that won’t infect the area and it can be worn all day. We also give them free patterns that have been downloaded over 1 million times, and we have video tutorials on how to make them. In addition to that, we have over 1,300 medical clinics that are registered with us and providing knitted knockers to those in need. What’s even better is that when they can be adopted by a local group, they can knit for them.
Geoffrey Moore: How do people sign up?
Florence Houser: All people have to do is register with us and we can provide them materials for free. A doctor’s office can register with us or give their patients the information.
We will send out brochures for your patients and links to how your patients can order them online or we can match you with a group of knitters that can adopt you and provide knitted knockers directly for you. That way you can choose your colors and style of knitted knockers. It gives a very personal touch and lets you know that there are people right there that care for you.
What’s ironic is that many women that have recently had mastectomies or had them years ago agree that the knitted knockers are much more comfortable than any other prosthetic that they have tried. We have over 200 people who have agreed to become state suppliers, meaning that they organize and fill orders and take care of people within the state. They’re also the recruiters of the knitters/crocheters. Keep in mind that all of those involved do not get paid and are donating their time. We are a volunteer organization.
Geoffrey Moore: How many knitted knockers do you provide?
Florence Houser: We provide over 1,000 free knitted knockers per month…Not just here but in other countries. We also make chemo caps and other items that are needed.
Geoffrey Moore: How do you pay for the cost of these special yarns, shipping and miscellaneous items?
Florence Houser: We survive on the donations we receive. People are given the opportunity to donate whatever they can. A pair of knitted knocker’s costs approximately $10. And that’s just for materials. It takes approximately three hours to make a pair of knitted knockers. Of course, there are different sizes that may take longer as you can imagine. Our postage alone last year was over $55,000. We were luckily able to meet that because of compassionate people making donations.
Geoffrey Moore: How can people help?
Florence Houser: People that are interested in donating their time, talent or treasure for Knitted Knockers can go directly to our website, knittedknockers.org. They are a 501(c)(3) charity.
For more information about how you can get involved, reach out to Barbara Demorest at https://www.knittedknockers.org