A few months back, UCHealth shared the story of Deanna Scott and Kathy James who traveled different paths but arrived at the same place – UCHealth Cancer Center in Fort Collins – and decided to work together for the good of others.
Scott started battling breast cancer at age 44 while James, who had lost her mom to breast cancer, made the tough decision to take preventative measures to spare her kids from watching her suffer the same fate as her mom.
The two women joined forces in January 2017 and, a few months later, rallied the local community to support their new mission — Colorado Knitted Knockers – to provide soft, comfortable homemade prostheses to women who have had mastectomies or other breast procedures.
The response was overwhelming, and spawned new Knitted Knockers groups and knit-a-thons across Colorado. Orders and kind words poured in from women across many zip codes. Here are a few of the responses:
“I can’t thank you enough for offering these,” wrote a Colorado Springs women, who said she was ordering them for her identical twin sister, but who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. “(My sister) is having a prophylactic mastectomy tomorrow without reconstruction. I am proud of her for taking the knowledge that she has and making such a tough decision. She was so excited when she found an article about the Knitted Knockers. We are 37 years old, so she is happy that she will have these as an option. We appreciate it beyond words! Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“I am a senior, 77 years old and 10-year breast cancer survivor,” wrote a Loveland women. “Thank you and bless you for making this choice available.”
By September, volunteers had spent nearly 2,500 hours knitting approximately 1,000 knockers; and individuals and organizations supported efforts through monetary and material donations. Scott and James had filled 263 orders for women throughout the Front Range and Western Plains, which did not include those distributed by UCHealth Wellness Place.
On Oct. 14, the movement continues with a Knitted Knockers Knit-A-Thon at UCHealth The Wellness Place – Harmony Campus in Fort Collins, 2121 E. Harmony Road. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers are invited to help the local group continue to stock distribution sites at cancer centers in northern Colorado and gather support and resources to continue the movement. (See box for event details.)
“It’s been an amazing wave of love,” Scott said about her journey with Knitted Knockers. “If you want to see an army at work, just call the knitting ladies.”
James’ hope is that Knitted Knockers will go global – much like TOMS shoes. But for now, the women are motivated to supply Knitted Knockers to the area’s cancer centers and to fill the needs of locals. Eventually, they’d like to create a network of knitters to fill the entire state’s need.
The hope is that grassroots efforts — like the one started by James and Scott — spring up over the country so that each state can take care of their own. UCHealth’s Cancer Center hands out about two to three Knitted Knockers per week, and the demand continues to increase as more women learn about it, Scott explained. She and James mail about eight prosthetics a week in addition to those distributed by UCHealth.
“I’m meeting women who haven’t had anything for 10 years,” Scott said. “You can get away with not having breasts, but it’s not like being flat-chested.”
Knitted Knockers work well for women who enjoy exercising, and the versions made of fast-drying acrylic yarn are even suitable for swimming, she said.
“You cannot tell that they are not real,” James said. “It’s about still feeling like a woman.”
What to help?
People interested in knitting Knitted Knockers can download the pattern at knittedknockers.org. There is a list of tested and approved yarns so that the prostheses can be washed and still hold their form.
One pair of Knitted Knockers — created and mailed to recipients — costs about $10. However, each pair takes about three hours to make. The group welcomes donations of time, materials or money.
Finished knockers can be dropped off at My Sister Knits, 1408 W. Mountain Ave. in Fort Collins; at The Wellness Place, 2121 E. Harmony Road in Fort Collins; or at Medical Center of the Rockies’ volunteer office, 2500 Rocky Mountain Ave. in Loveland. They can also be mailed to: 7115 Pruitt Court, Fort Collins, CO 80526.
To request a Knitted Knocker, visit knittedknockers.org.
For more information about this local group, email [email protected] or call 970.624.1880. Although James and Scott have partnered with UCHealth, the Knitted Knocker program is a community benefit for all breast cancer patients no matter where they receive cancer care.