Surviving breast cancer often means losing part of yourself. Mastectomies are almost always required, and they can make a woman feel uncomfortable as she loses something she's had her whole life.
Of course, the trade off is absolutely worth it, but that doesn't make coping any easier. Most women will end up getting silicone falsies to replace the breast they've lost, but cancer survivor Shirlee Sullivan found that the replacements weren't that great.
"I decided, "˜I'll go flat,'" Sullivan recalled. "But some of my clothes looked just ridiculous."
That's when she heard about Knitted Knockers, a non-profit organization that gives breast cancer survivor free pairs of soft, hand-knit, washable prosthetic breasts.
The company was created by breast cancer survivor Barb Demorest, who underwent a mastectomy in 2011. She was hoping to have reconstructive surgery before going back to work, but it wasn't an option. Demorest had wanted to have the surgery in order to avoid telling people what had happened.
Through chatting with her doctor, Demorest found out that some people had knitted themselves breasts that worked well to fill the void. Curious by this suggestion, Demorest enlisted the help of her friend from her church. After a battle with cancer, Demorest finally felt like herself again.
"It was life-changing for me," she said.
Demorest knew there were other women out there who needed the same type of
"The demand is huge," Demorest said. "There's 50,000 mastectomies done a year in the U.S. and about 90 percent of women have to wear a breast prosthetic for a while."
Volunteers from all over the country offer up their knitting services to create these prosthetics for cancer survivors. Each set gets mailed out to a woman who needs them, and includes a handwritten note of support.
Sullivan said receiving her knitted knockers was like "a gift of love."
"They're warm in the winter, cool in the summer, they're lightweight, you just put them into your regular bra and away you go "“ it looks like you have normal boobs again," Sullivan said.
The knitting pattern for these knockers has been downloaded over one million times, and the company is always looking for people to help produce them. If you'd like to help out, you can click this link to get more information.