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Local group looking for help to provide comfort for breast cancer survivors
Heather McNeil, left, a member of Island Breast Friends, and Joe Ann MacKinnon of River Ryan, both breast cancer survivors, hold up knitted knockers which are an option for anyone needing a prosthesis. Island Breast Friends is looking for people to help knit the knitted knockers for breast cancer survivors.
©Sharon Montgomery-Dupe/Cape Breton Post
NEW WATERFORD, N.S. - The Island Breast Friends are appealing to the public to help put a little comfort into the lives of breast cancer survivors.
Heather McNeil of New Victoria said their group is working on a knitted knockers project.
The knitted knockers are special handmade breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast.
McNeil said last summer her cousin Joe Ann MacKinnon of River Ryan was recovering from breast cancer and had just gotten a prosthesis.
“It was heavy and it was hot.”
McNeil, who is also a breast cancer survivor, wanted to help her cousin and heard about the knitted prostheses.
“I went online and found a pattern. It took very little time, it only takes a couple of hours to make one.”
McNeil said her cousin was thrilled with it.
“She said it was amazing, not heavy, you don’t even know it’s there.”
McNeil said Island Breast Friends put a note about the knitted prostheses in comfort baskets they put together for breast cancer survivors.
“If they required a prosthesis (we said) to let us know and we’ll get one to them.”
McNeil said a regular prosthesis is expensive, where these are not.
“Five dollars will buy a ball of yarn and make four or five.”
McNeil said she uses a soft baby yarn that shouldn’t be itchy to the skin. They can be knitted or crocheted and are stuffed with material used for making pillows. They can be made to accommodate any cup size and can be worn with a regular bra.
“You can wash them, they are not heavy, you don’t sweat with them.”
MacKinnon, diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2015, said following a mastectomy she was told not to get a prosthesis for at least four months because it would irritate the surgical area.
“I had to go the whole summer of 2015 with nothing there, one breast. I was very self-conscious of that and didn’t go many places. If I had what Heather had made I could have worn it right after my surgery because it’s so light, there’d be no irritation from it around the area.”
She said her regular prosthesis was about $350 and uncomfortable.
“It’s just a form and looks like a breast but you wouldn’t believe how heavy it is,” she said. “It bothered me, I knew it was there.”
MacKinnon said the knitted knockers are not the same as the prosthesis but it’s comfortable and great with loose-fitting clothes.
She said the Island Breast Friends are amazing.
“They say they give out a comfort basket, it’s a huge basket with everything in it from pens, to mugs and things to write on, inspirational things, a crocheted afghan. It’s amazing what these ladies do for us breast cancer survivors.”
MacKinnon said she is really doing well now and has started to ease back into work as a dental hygienist at the New Waterford Dental Clinic.
Island Breast Friends was organized in 2002 with a focus of raising money for breast cancer. For the first few years the group held a Ladies Night Out, then fashion shows and the past few years, they hosted a tea in October.
The group donated the money raised at first to the Atlantic chapter of the Breast Cancer Foundation, then became affiliated with a group in Halifax called Tits and Glitz, which offers support to breast cancer survivors. They have also donated to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre comfort fund.
But the big thing for the group at this time is the comfort baskets they put together for breast cancer survivors
“We have a breast cancer survivor — she’s 80 years old — who crochets throws to put in there. There could be creams, lotions, hot chocolate, a book or a little note pad, a candle. Things that could be comforting.”
Joan Chiasson-MacDonald, also a member of Island Breast Friends, said they have even put together a comfort basket for a man going through breast cancer.
“We knew he was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan so we put in a Toronto Maple Leafs fleece blanket, a mug and some candy and soap.”
McNeil said now it’s hoped people will come forward to knit knockers.
Interested people can go online at https://www.knittedknockers.org and the group will send them knitted knockers free of charge.
“They also say if you can, make them for people but they never want people to be charged for them.”
Anyone wishing to help Island Breast Friends with the knitted knockers project is asked to telephone Heather McNeil at 902-563-6364 or Joan Chiasson-MacDonald at 902-862-8732.
• Knitted knockers can be knitted or crocheted and made to fit any women’s bra size.
• Baby yarn, which is soft to the touch, is used.
• A pattern for knitted knockers can be found by visiting www.knittedknockers.org.
• The six members of the Island Breast Friends are Heather McNeil, Val Carrigan, Joan Chiasson-MacDonald, Agnes Martell, Patsy MacDonald and Wanda MacDonnell.