HomeCherry Hill NewsKnitters have mastectomy patients covered

Knitters have mastectomy patients covered

Volunteers hand make soft pads as alternative to traditional prostheses

Emily Liu/The Sun
Denise Weinberg (left) and Nancy Shubach founded the South Jersey branch of Knitted Knockers to craft, collect, stuff, package and distribute the hand-made pads.

If you recently had a mastectomy and sought alternatives to breast implants or prostheses, the Knitted Knockers of South Jersey have you covered.

Cherry Hill residents Denise Weinberg and Nancy Shubach have been hand making what they call knitted knockers – or pads that serve as prostheses – since they founded the local branch of the Knitted Knockers in 2017. Their goal is to help those who’ve recently had a mastectomy and want a free alternative to heavy, expensive devices.

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“Before launching the Knitted Knockers project locally, we consulted with MD Anderson Cooper University Hospital and Virtua Health System breast surgery offices to confirm they would approve the use of knitted knockers for their patients,” Weinberg and Schubach noted in a press release.

“We must credit Susan Bass Levin, past president and CEO of the Cooper Foundation, and Cooper breast surgeon Dr. Kristin Brill (now at Jefferson) for giving us two enthusiastic thumbs up from the onset.”

Breast cancer Nurse Navigator Angela Frantz at MD Anderson’s outpatient cancer center explained that the knitted knockers are suited to patients – especially the elderly – who’ve had mastectomies but can’t or won’t have reconstruction since it involves another surgery.

“It just helps them have a homemade prosthesis that they can apply into their bra, so they feel normal, look normal and feel comfortable in clothing,” she noted.

Frantz also pointed out that traditional prostheses can be heavier and more uncomfortable than the airy, light and cotton knockers, and that the latter can also be less irritable for those who have swollen chests or tenderness.

For mastectomy patients who want to look somewhat similar after their surgery, there are external prostheses as well as reconstructive surgery that utilizes tissue expanders, described as being like collapsed basketballs that are filled up with saline. Doctors can also make a breast out of belly fat.

“It’s such a nice thing that this is free for these patients, that they (volunteers) do this on their own time and they aren’t asking for anything back, and it’s something to offer our patients who aren’t able to get reconstruction,” Frantz said of the Knitted Knockers of South Jersey.

“When you tell them they’ve been homemade and knitted by women who do this, it makes it extra special.”

The knitted breast pads are made locally by volunteers who adhere to the pattern guidelines found on the Knitted Knockers website, then are stuffed to mimic breast tissue. The pads can be made in different sizes and colors and either knitted or crocheted.

Emily Liu/The Sun
The pads are made by local volunteers who adhere to pattern guidelines, then are stuffed to mimic breast tissue.

The knockers do take a bit of skill, as they are made using three double-edged needles to create the spiral and rounded shape and require a thinner yarn. Weinberg shared that for her – as she knits and watches TV at night – it takes around three days to make one.

It was at a knitting class that Weinberg and Shubach first met and heard of the knitted knockers.

“I was newly retired,” Shubach remembered. “I was looking for ways to expand my life and thought knitting would be fun for my grandkids, another skill. I didn’t really know what direction it would take, so when I saw this and saw that it could go in such a beneficial way, I thought it was a wonderful thing to be able to do.”

The knockers first began meeting seven years ago at the Katz Jewish Community Center (JCC), which offered a space for the crafters to gather once a month. They continue to be sponsored by a grant from the JCC that pays for materials and supplies.

“We don’t need to sit around the table and knit,” Weinberg said. “People take the yarn, they take it home, they knit, they brought it back and then we had a stuffing party.”

Although things slowed during the pandemic, the Knockers of South Jersey are gearing up again. Frantz wants to restock free pads across the Camden, Voorhees, Egg Harbor Township and Moorestown locations of MD Cooper Anderson Hospital. Those who would like to try the knockers must specify size, choose a color and decide to either pick up an order or have it mailed

For orders or to volunteer with the Knitted Knockers, reach out to southjerseyknockers@gmail.com. For more information about the national organization, visit knittedknockers.org.

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