Barbara Demorest Is Knitting Knockers to Empower Women With Breast Cancer
Apr 14, 2017
After being healthy her entire life and not experiencing any unusual symptoms, Barbara Demorest was shocked by the findings of her routine mammogram, which detected early signs of breast cancer.
To her dismay, her mastectomy caused complications that left her unable to be reconstructed. She began looking for options for things to wear so she could return to work, and regain the confidence she lost throughout the process.
Finding few satisfying solutions, Demorest was inspired by her doctor who showed her a sheet on how to create her own knitted knockers — plush, handmade bra inserts, which act as alternatives to breast prosthetics.
So, with the help of her friend Phyllis Kramer's knitting skills, Demorest's life was changed. She then made it her personal mission to give this gift of confidence to others going through the same thing.
At that moment, the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation was founded to offer "women who have had mastectomies gifts of comfort and dignity."
Check out Demorest's Q&A with MAKERS below to learn more about her journey, the Knitted Knockers mission, and how you can help.
Q. You were healthy all your life up until you were diagnosed with breast cancer. Is there anything you would encourage women to look for or do?
A. I would strongly encourage women to get their mammograms annually. They noticed changes from the prior year so I had a biopsy. If I had not been having annual mammograms they may not have discovered it so early.
Q. Describe how Knitted Knockers was created? How did the idea first come to you?
A. When I was looking for what to do to appear "normal" after my mastectomy my doctor told me that many women were not happy with the traditional prosthetics as they could be hot, heavy, sticky and expensive requiring special bras. He asked if I knit and suggested I try a knitted knocker. My friend, Phyllis, made we one and it was amazing. Soft, light, beautiful, huggable and made by a friend, I knew immediately we needed to make these available for doctor’s offices to provide to women when they are trying to decide what to do as I was.
Q. After you used your first pair of knitted knockers, when did you decide this was something you had to do for others?
A. The moment I put mine on. It was literally life changing.
Q. Your knitted knockers helped you regain confidence in your body. How do you hope they help empower other women?
A. For me it gave me a sense of "normalcy." I did not want to be known as "Barb, the breast cancer patient," or see the averted glance at my chest when they found out I had breast cancer. I hear from hundreds of women who laugh and/or cry when they find that there is this wonderful simple solution to help them re-engage in life. Knitted knockers also work great for swimming, exercise, et cetera, by the way.
Q. If you could tell other cancer patients and survivors one thing about confidence and remaining empowered, what would it be?
A. Going through cancer there are a lot of decisions and choices to be made, each with their own issues. Knitted knockers empowers women by giving them an alternative to breast reconstruction surgery or heavy prostheses, or going flat. Whatever a woman chooses for herself, it is nice to know that someone cared enough to do this for them for no personal benefit except that they care.
Q. How many customers have you had to date who have requested and/or made their own knitted knockers?
A. I don’t think of these women as “customers” they are more like sisters with a common experience. The knockers are provided for free just for the asking. It is impossible to tell how many have been given out. We give out over 1,000 per month, in addition we have hundreds of groups making them and providing them directly to medical clinics in their own communities. I can tell you that our patterns have been downloaded over 430,000 times and videos viewed a quarter of a million times. That is a lot of potential knockers being made! With over 50,000 mastectomies done a year in the U.S. alone and over 90% wearing a prosthesis, at least for a while, there is a huge demand for them.
Q. If you could write a memoir, what would you title it?
A. "Nothing Wasted: Passion and Purpose Arising from Breast Cancer"
For more information on Knitted Knockers, visit knittedknockers.org. Want to help? Here are 3 ways you can:
1. Register to help knit by visiting the website.
2. Help spread the word on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera). An estimated 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, reach out to women who can use knitted knockers as well as potential volunteers.
3. Donate. Knitted Knockers is 501(c)3 so all who knit the knockers are unpaid volunteers who work entirely off of donations for postage and supplies.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Knitted Knockers/Suzanne Bair Photography