‘Made with love and fiilled with hope’
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we learn how an amazing community are knitting prostheses and providing support for thousands of women affected by cancer
You don’t have to look far in Lynne Hawksworth’s house to find bulging stashes of yarn and piles of knitting needles, along with dozens and dozens of knitted knockers, in every colour imaginable, waiting to be shipped to women around the country who’ve undergone surgery for breast cancer.
Lynne (65) is just one of hundreds of women who volunteer their time to knit these lovely cotton breasts, offering an alternative to the NHS-provided silicone breast prosthetics given to women who’ve had
a lumpectomy or mastectomy, following a breast cancer diagnosis.
Lynne, who is now a trustee and order coordinator of the registered charity Knitted Knockers
UK, says, “We wanted to give women a choice because while there’s nothing wrong with the standard silicone prosthetics, they’re not always right for everyone and our knockers offer a lighter, softer alternative as they’re handmade and filled with super-soft polyester filling.”
Since the charity began in the UK in 2014, following the lead of similar groups in the US, the Knitted Knockers volunteers have sent out more than 10,000 cotton prosthetics, all created bespoke for the lady they’re going to.
“When a woman contacts us to ask for help, we take their bra size and use that to adapt the dimensions of our pattern. Once we’ve stuffed it we then leave a little gap so that the lady can add more stuffing, take it away or move around the shape of the knocker to what suits her best. She can choose the colour, whether she’d like a nipple
‘Every package has to be completely personal and individual as it’s a gift from one woman to another’
or not, and we give them as much choice as possible as it’s a way of giving them back control at what is a really challenging time, when it can feel like many other choices are taken away.”
As every knocker is a gift, entirely free to the recipient, the charity take time to approve the standard of their volunteer knitters and check every single knit before it’s sent out in a beautiful package, often containing a card with kind words from the knitter or a treat such as a chocolate bar. “Every package has to be completely personal and individual as it’s a gift from one woman to another,” says Lynne.
And it’s this thought and care that makes all the difference to the women who receive it. Kay Coombes (50) was one of the first-ever UK recipients of a knitted knocker after she had a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. “I had been struggling a bit with the prosthetics the hospital had given me as they were heavy against my scars, which still felt very fresh. But the knitted knockers were such a relief – like putting on comfy joggers after a day in a tight skirt. It was also so lovely to think someone had gone to the effort to make something just for me.”
Since then, Kay learned how to knit a knocker, both for herself and to send to other women, and became an admin for the charity. She also came up with the design for a soft prosthetic suitable for ladies to swim in.
“I was finding it difficult swimming with my young son as the hospital prosthetic wouldn’t fit in my swimsuit properly and the normal knitted knocker soaked up all the water and became heavy. So I created a knocker filled with shower scrunchies so they look the same shape, but you can just squeeze them out and they’re practically dry.”
These ‘aqua knockers’ have become hugely popular and generated some really touching stories as Lynne explains. “I’ve had ladies write to say that beforehand they had embarrassing incidents on holiday or in the pool, but the aqua knocker has given them confidence again.
“Whenever I read feedback from the recipients I have to have tissues by my side as it’s so emotional and amazing that something that’s so easy for me to create can make such a difference to a woman and her family. I always feel very humbled.”
As well as creating the prostheses, Knitted Knockers also runs a Facebook group where members can share their experiences and support one another.
“People post about the wonderful and not so wonderful moments in their lives. We have this phrase ‘in your pocket’ which basically means that however far away you are, we’re with you in your pocket as it were, supporting you,” says Lynne.
“I would say I’ve got so much more out of this than I feel I have put into it and it’s like being part of a family. We now just want to try to spread the word and help as many women who could benefit from the knockers as possible.”
■ If you’d like to receive a knitted knocker, or become a volunteer knitter, call 07850 026264 or visit www.kkukciowix.com
■ You can also donate by sending a cheque payable to Knitted Knockers UK to: PO Box 779, Southport PR8 9QJ
Lynne Hawksworth, busy creating knitted prosthetics for this incredible charity
Each and every knitted knocker is custom made with love and care
Clockwise from above: ‘Aqua knockers’ for swimmers; an individual knocker in its gift parcel and mini knocker keyrings, sold for fundraising