No matter how strong your willpower, no matter how prepared you might think you are, looking down and seeing the landscape of your chest without your natural breasts takes some serious self-talk and time to wrap your brain around this "new normal."
Not all women choose to have immediate breast reconstruction (or any type of reconstruction) after mastectomy. For some, reconstruction is delayed for treatment or other health reasons. And although lots of women are comfortable being flat-chested after mastectomy, many are disappointed to learn that they cannot wear a prosthesis until their mastectomy scars sufficiently heal, usually about five to six weeks after surgery.
If you have a single or double mastectomy in your future and you don’t want to have (or can’t have) immediate breast reconstruction but you want to regain your previous silhouette when you’re clothed, you may be interested in Knitted Knockers, soft contoured prostheses that you pop right into the cups of your regular bra.
Knitted Knockers are the product of an expanding network of generous, caring volunteers who knit or crochet the prostheses and provide them free of charge to women after mastectomy. They are firm enough to provide a natural, contoured shape under clothing, yet they’re soft and light, so they don’t irritate sensitive chest incisions and skin after surgery. The Knockers come in a variety of colors and sizes, and are made with acrylic or cotton yarn (wool is avoided because it is too itchy against sensitive skin). The knitted forms are overstuffed with hypoallergenic polyester fiberfill to accommodate women who end up with a concave chest following mastectomy. Any recipient of a Knitted Knocker, however, can simply remove stuffing and then knot the prostheses closed to customize it to her own size and shape.
Based in Washington, the non-profit organization has about 1,000 volunteers in 30 other states and distributes the soft prostheses throughout the country; other affiliates do the same in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and other countries.
If you’re facing mastectomy and you would like to be the recipient of a Knitted Knocker, visit the organization’s website to request a single or pair.
If you’re someone who enjoys knitting or crocheting, and you would like to do something special for breast cancer survivors, you can view a tutorial, read about preferred yarn and knitting style, and download patterns from the website; patterns are free, but donations are welcome. You can donate your handmade Knocker to a friend, family member or neighbor who is facing mastectomy, provide them to your community cancer clinic or hospital, or send them to Knitted Knockers (see the address and instructions for shipping on the website) for distribution to those who need them (the organization will even reimburse you for postage). Kits that include the pattern and yarn are also available from Apple Yarns, who donate a portion of the sale of each kit back to Knitted Knockers.