Knitted Knockers bring comfort to breast cancer survivors
UPPER DUBLIN >> If you want something done, ask a busy woman to do it — ask Anita Strainick.
In addition to a full-time job as a 401(k) administrator, the Upper Dublin woman spearheads Knitted Knockers, a project benefiting breast cancer patients at Abington-Jefferson Health’s new Asplundh Cancer Pavilion, which happens to dovetail nicely with a knitting group she runs at the Upper Dublin Public Library.
Knitted Knockers are described as soft, comfortable breast prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies, lumpectomies and radiation and/or are undergoing reconstruction.
In the past 2½ years, Strainick and some helpers have provided 175 of the free, polyfiber-filled, knitted cotton prosthetics to the cancer center.
“This was something I could do for a cancer patient, help them live a normal life,” she said.
Many patients find them preferable to traditional breast prosthesis, which are hot, heavy and expensive and don’t breathe, she said.
“These are breathable; they’re light. A lot of people use them in between reconstruction; some don’t go through reconstruction.”
Strainick, who was born and raised in Abington, was taught to knit at age 7 by her grandmother. The needles have been clacking in her hands ever since.
A desire to “give back” at Abington Health began nine years ago when she was successfully treated for a brain hemorrhage and more recently when her husband, Michael, received cancer treatment. The couple have since become major donors.
“Because of his cancer, we became involved with the new cancer center,” Strainick said. “We donated a linear accelerator suite, specifically for cancer patients” undergoing radiation.
Breast cancer affects one out of every eight women in their lifetime and leads to more than 50,000 mastectomies in the United States annually, according to KnittedKnockers.org.
Knitted Knockers was founded by breast cancer survivor Barbara Demorest, whose doctor directed her to a woman in Maine who created them for herself and was willing to allow Demorest to “use the name and share them freely with others.”
Strainick, who had read about Knitted Knockers, started knitting them after she met Demorest at a trade show three years ago and was “very impressed with her and the program,” she said.
“When the cancer center opened here, I realized they didn’t have that here,” Strainick said, so she showed Abington-Jefferson Health President Meg McGoldrick some samples, and “she thought it would be a wonderful project.”
Strainick, who spearheads the project, then presented the Knitted Knockers to the oncology physicians, who provide them to their patients.
“The doctors come to me and ask me for Knitted Knockers when they have patients who they know could benefit from having them; they are grateful that we have them on site and can immediately provide them to our patients,” said Betty Cummings, a nurse navigator at the Asplundh center. “Patients who have used them are most appreciative as well; they are comfortable and easy to work with.”
The Knitted Knockers website, where Strainick is listed as a provider for Abington Health, supplies the patterns for the fully washable prosthetics, which must be made of approved yarns that “don’t irritate the skin and hold up well,” she said.
Strainick uses Cascade Pima cotton in nine different colors she bought from a yarn shop in Emmaus owned by a breast cancer survivor who sold it to her at cost, she said. The polyfiber was obtained through a grant from the Abington Health Foundation.
The knockers come in different sizes and can be adjusted by adding to or decreasing the amount of fill, she said.
It takes about three hours to make a pair of knockers, six hours for a larger size, she said.
Strainick currently has a group of five knitting the knockers, three of whom are in her Thursday night knitting group at the library. “I always wanted to have a little knitting group and noticed the library didn’t have one,” she said. “I asked if they would consider an evening program for knitters a little over three years ago.”
“What I love about the weekly knitting group … is how impactful it is,” UDPL Director Cheri Fiory said. “On one level, the people who attend learn and share the art of knitting and crocheting. But Anita and the other knitters took this program to another whole level when they turned their talents to those in need.
“We are just thrilled to be a part of it.”
“Breast cancer is so prevalent, it’s sad,” Strainick said. “[Knitted Knockers] was something I could give back. A lot knit blankets for preemies; this was something different.”
Anyone who would like to help knit or make a donation toward the supplies should contact Nicholle Lawyer, gifts coordinator for the Abington Health Foundation, at Nicholle. [email protected]ferson.edu or 215-481-2011.
Anita Strainick has spearheaded the local knitted knockers effort, which provides breast prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies, lumpectomies and radiation and/or are undergoing reconstruction.