As Suzy Woolam worked with breast-cancer patients, the one thing she heard most often was the way the disease sometimes took away, not just flesh and tissue but the very essence of their female identity.
“You can go through treatment, you can get your life back, as it is, but you never feel like a woman again,” Woolam said patients told her.
She’s a massage therapist and preferred provider with Mary Washington Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Program at the Regional Cancer Center. The program combines standard cancer treatment with complementary therapies, such as reiki. That’s a technique in which Woolam uses light pressure to help a patient relax and feel a sense of harmony.
Woolam also is an avid knitter, and as she pondered ways to help women who’d lost a breast to cancer, her thoughts turned to needles and yarn. Not all women who had mastectomies opted for reconstruction surgery, for medical or personal reasons.
The breast prosthetics that women slipped into their bras were heavy and hot against the skin. The ones made for swimsuits felt like they were filled with sand.
Woolam wondered if a handmade version, lovingly created by crafters, would fill the bill—and fit the bra.
That’s when Knitted Knockers came along.
In 2015, Woolam organized Fred Knits Knockers, a local branch of the Knitted Knockers Support Foundation. Friends and fellow knitters got instructions and started counting stitches to create soft and shapely pieces that could be inserted into bras, from A cups to DDs.
As word of the project spread, she asked Cathy Mitchell, owner of Untangled Purls on Cowan Boulevard in Fredericksburg, if she might offer a 10-percent discount on material.
Mitchell said she couldn’t do that.
She wanted to give knitters the whole kit for free. That was in 2016, and the knitters estimate they’ve created more than 500 pairs of knitted prosthetics since then.
They’re free to breast-cancer patients and are available at the Regional Cancer Center, Surgical Associates, Hemotology–Oncology Associates of Fredericksburg and the Scenter of Town, Woolam’s business.