By Alexis Edgar
Western alumna Barb Demorest is a mother and a wife to Western’s Senior Systems Analyst, Denny Demorest. She is also a survivor from a battle that will claim the lives of approximately 40,610 women in the year 2017 alone, according to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Six years ago, Demorest began a battle one in eight women will experience in their lifetime, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“I heard the words that no woman wants to hear, that I had breast cancer,” Demorest said.
She underwent a mastectomy, but due to complications, was unable to follow through with reconstruction as she had planned.
Demorest is not alone. Olga No, a local business owner and realtor, faced the same battle.
After years of doctor’s examinations, tests and unexplained pain, No finally received an answer.
“[The doctor] called me and said, ‘It’s cancer,’” No said.
No was diagnosed with infiltrative duct carcinoma, a type of breast cancer, at 39 years old. She underwent a radical single mastectomy 15 years ago, and had the other breast removed last year.
Before she was diagnosed, Demorest had a long career as a certified public accountant, and No was an engineer in Russia, but became a math teacher in the U.S.
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of the most difficult hurdles women with breast cancer face is their appearance during and after treatment.
No’s doctor suggested she receive a double mastectomy, although only one breast had cancer, because of the risk of the other breast developing cancer was high.
“I needed my breast. Most women, unfortunately, associate our feminine part with the breast. Which is totally wrong,” No said.
Demorest recalls feeling insecure about the changes her body would undergo due to her diagnosis.
“I thought at the time, ‘I hope I don’t have to lose my hair. I hope I don’t have to have a mastectomy,’” Demorest said.
Unfortunately, Demorest had to have her breast removed and was unable to be fitted for a typical silicone prosthesis immediately following the surgery.
It was then she heard about Knitted Knockers from her doctor.
Knitted Knockers are prosthetic breasts that are crocheted and stuffed and can be worn inside of a regular bra. Demorest presented the idea to her friend, Phyllis Kramer, of Lynden, who then created Demorest’s first knitted insert.
Demorest then had the idea to create a nonprofit organization that created these special prosthetics for women, in lieu of the heavy silicone ones. The company is comprised of 25 volunteers and operates out of Apple Yarns in Bellingham but has global volunteers and recipients.
Knitted Knockers offers a variety of sizes and colors. It facilitates an outlet for women to share their story.
“They knew somebody understood, and it’s not something you always talk about in public,” Demorest said.
Knitted Knockers relies on volunteer efforts and donations to operate within their current capacity. The organization has 400 registered community groups that offer knitting services to complete the orders placed online. The knitted inserts are then shipped to Apple Yarns in Bellingham, and they are quality inspected, stuffed, and sent to fulfill the order.
Demorest encourages the community to support the nonprofit in several ways, either by knitting the prosthetic, sharing the product information on social media or donating funds. Demorest explains that the postage alone is around $3,000-$5,000 per month.