A different kind of yarn

So far, I’ve been lucky: I haven’t lost a breast just a piece of one, a largish hunk on the lower left side. Luckily, gravity is on my side, and the remainder of the breast pushes down and fills the bra so that you can only tell if I point out the subtle, diagonal divot to you. It only looks really weird when I hold my arms over my head. And how often am I naked while yelling, “Touchdown!” and throwing my arms in the air?

Of course, many, many women are not so lucky. There’s endless literature on silicone implants and chest expanders and all the unpleasant ways that women can reconstruct a facsimile of a bosom. Some women have come up with another solution: crocheted or knitted breasts.

I love this: It’s crafty, and a little goofy. It has a “power to the people” feeling to it. That feels good, because if breast cancer doesn’t make you want to storm the barricade like the chorus of Les Miserables, I don’t know what will. Plus, women say crocheted boobs are cooler than silicone forms. They’re lighter. Or, if you wish, you can buy them with weights to make the “bra-feel” more normal, and to avoid posture and back problems that arise if you’ve had only one breast removed.

Apparently, some women opt not to do reconstruction, but to just use forms like these, or, to use nothing at all. You can find detailed instructions for crocheting a breast form at BreastFree.org. BreastFree offers support, information and advice for women who are considering whether or not to do reconstruction. I had no idea this sort of movement even existed. They even have photos of various options, solutions, outcomes etc. Some of these photos are pretty graphic. They make me understand why one friend comments that most people don’t want to recognize that a mastectomy is really an amputation.

This same friend had a double mastectomy about three years ago and she says that at that time, it was almost impossible to find photos like these. Some of these pictures are difficult. But so far, I’m impressed by the bravery of breast cancer survivors. (The official definition is anyone who’s had, or has, breast cancer but hasn’t died.) Would I have the guts to post pics of myself after a bilateral mastectomy? If it would help other women, I guess I would. The “sisterhood is powerful” quip doesn’t even begin to explain how much breast cancer survivors will go out of their way to help each other. So I guess that how these pictures came to be available.

Breast Cancer.org has a whole thread, as it were, on knitted and crocheted breasts. There seem to be several breast cancer survivors in the crafty booby field:

Beryl Tsang, a Toronto mom and survivor, provides a pattern for one called “Knitty Titty”, or “Tit Bits.” I like the latter name so much that I’m stealing it as a blog category. You can also find a knitting pattern here, if you’d like to knit your breast yourself.

Mitsy Crochet sells crocheted “Breast Cancer Boobies” on Etsy, the eBay of the crafting world. Here’s a picture:

A sample of "Breast Cancer Boobies." Kind of cute, no?

A blogger who calls herself the “Happy Hooker” provides another crochet pattern, here.

In 2008, a breast cancer survivor in Brunswick, Maine starts a whole network of “Knitted Knockers” groups to knit breasts for cancer survivors.

And some women prefer to sew breast forms and fill them with microbeads.

I hope I never need these things, but I think it’s great that they’re out there. Craft on, sisters!

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About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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5 Responses to A different kind of yarn

  1. Knitty Titty. Incredible. My friend Stephanie could make you one, should you ever need it. It will be a change of pace from her knitted owls and video game characters.

  2. Sarah Goodyear says:

    This is just incredibly cool.

  3. I LOVE this post. Talk about how our wonderful sisterhood of women is creative, resourceful, resilient and supports each other when we need it most. I don’t have breast cancer, yet I find your posts so inspiring and happy to be a woman.

  4. Giving you back your curves. For those with mastectomies, not having reconstruction.

    Wonderful news… Our very active group of volunteers have been busy knitting and crocheting breast forms for those having a mastectomy without reconstruction. These forms are lighter and cooler than the silicone forms to wear and are made using soft 100% cotton. They are available in cup sizes from A to DD. We will take special orders on requests. You are welcome to choose forms in skin tones, pastels or go really funky with wild & crazy ones, nipples or no nipples. Because we crochet and knit the orders as they come in, we do our best to give you the colour choice. We do send them around the world so don’t be afraid to ask if you want your curves back.

    The forms are totally free….you will NOT be asked for a monetory donation. Please drop by and visit our website. We are adding more almost daily. The name of the group is Awesome Breastforms.

    http://awesomebreastforms.org.
    Please check us out. The instructions for ordering are on the website.

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