In March MumAbroad attended the International Women’s Day event Make it Happen organised by Costa Women. It was a day of inspirational speeches interspersed with plenty of time for networking with a whole host of talented female entrepreneurs, each making a difference in their own way. There we met Maria Bailey, the enthusiastic and dedicated spokesperson for Knitted Knockers Costa del Sol, a registered charity in Andalucia.
A knitted knocker is the name given to a hand-knitted prosthesis for ladies who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, as an alternative to the silicone ones issued by hospitals. The knocker is made in 100% mercerised cotton, with non-allergenic filling. It is lightweight, extremely comfortable and fits into an ordinary bra. Knitted knockers are made in bra cup sizes and given free of charge to anyone who requests one.
Maria explains, “the difference that knitted knockers make to ladies who have been using the silicone prostheses is unbelievable. Ladies find the knitted knockers lightweight and extremely comfortable. Also, being made of 100% cotton, they do not cause any skin reaction and can be washed in a washing machine time and again.“
A lady in Maine, USA, developed a knitted knocker following a mastectomy as she was not comfortable with the prosthesis the hospital had given her. A short while later Barb Demerost, in Washington State, heard about the knitted knocker. She too had been dissatisfied with what she was offered by the hospital following a mastectomy and while waiting for reconstruction. She was so thrilled with her knitted knocker that she wanted every woman in her position to have access to them. Knitted Knockers.org was formed in 2011 and there are currently over 500 Knitted Knocker groups in 30 different countries.
Knitted Knockers in Spain (KKS) was formed in 2015 by Maggie Stevenson and Karen Wallentek-Smith, living in the small town of Mollina, in the province of Málaga. Karen had recently undergone a mastectomy and mentioned to Maggie, a keen knitter, that she wished she could have a knitted knocker. She knew they were available in the US, but no one seemed to have heard of them in Spain. Intrigued, that evening Maggie did an internet search, discovered the pattern and presented Karen with her very first knitted knocker the next morning. Karen was thrilled and the news of the knitted knocker soon spread. Knitted Knockers in Spain had officially arrived.
A few months later, in May 2016, Maria was recovering from her experience with breast cancer. Following surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy Maria was left feeling a desperate need to share some of her experiences and newly found knowledge around breast cancer. A chance reading about the group in Mollina led Maria to become involved in making knitted knockers and helping the group to promote the idea. It soon became clear that the task of trying to provide this service to the whole of Spain was far too much work for this group.
During 2016, separate groups were formed in Alicante (Costa Blanca) and the Costa del Sol. Maria and Maggie became the founding members of Knitted Knockers Costa del Sol, with Maria as President and Maggie as Secretary.
Since then an immense amount of hard work resulted in the development of a website and Facebook page in both English and Spanish. Financial support was provided from various sources, the first being the La Cala de Mijas Lions, followed closely by Costa Women, led by the incredible Ali Meehan who Maria says has been invaluable with her support and guidance.
During 2018 the group on the Costa del Sol connected with three Spanish cancer support charities; hopefully these connections will help the association to reach more Spanish ladies as well as the international community. Earlier this year Maggie and Maria were contacted by a Spanish knitting group, Malaga Knits and the resulting collaboration has helped Knitted Knockers to reach and recruit more Spanish volunteers. Another collaboration with AECC and AECC Pink Ladies means knitted knockers will be given to ladies in hospitals after they have surgery for breast cancer. This project is a huge step forward for the association.
Everything KKS supplies is totally free of charge, including postage. They can only do this thanks to the generosity of their supporters and volunteers. Since the association was founded volunteers have knitted and distributed over 1,000 knockers. They currently have volunteers knitting and co-ordinating orders and supplies along the coast from Almería in the east to Manilva in the west and also volunteers inland covering the area surrounding Mollina/ Antequera, Velez Malaga and Alhaurín el Grande.
For Maria and the volunteers the main point is that knitted knockers are made voluntarily by women, for women, worldwide. “Being able to help other women by making something as simple as a knitted knocker is such an incredibly humbling experience. We are very proud to be a small part of the worldwide service to bring comfort to ladies affected by breast cancer.“
In order to be able to continue, KKS rely on the following three things:
1. Publicity, to help us to reach more ladies.
2. Volunteers to help make and distribute orders.
3. Donations to help cover costs.