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Knitting to lift spirits of breast cancer survivors

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A group of expat homemakers in the UAE make prosthetic breasts called ‘knockers’ to give smiles, confidence and hope to mastectomy survivors. The young mothers from Abu Dhabi and Dubai use their skills of knitting and crocheting to make soft, comfortable, lightweight and eco-friendly knockers.

The group operates under the umbrella of US-based Knitted Knockers and is registered in India as Saaisha India Foundation.

Established in March 2018 by Jayashree Ratan in Mumbai, the movement had a humble beginning in Mussafah and Abu Dhabi City with a handful of volunteers like Sabitha Rao, Sakthi Harinath and Akhiladevi Kumaran. Soon volunteers from Dubai joined hands. Today, some 70 women have contributed more than 1,000 pairs of knockers, which are distributed free of cost to hospitals in Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata, and those who need them here in the UAE.

“Once a volunteer is trained, she will teach another person. There are no targets or deadlines but everyone must be consistent. This is selfless work. We will take 2 to 4 hours to make a pair sitting in our flats. With our little time and effort, we can spread happiness in the life of survivors. Mastectomy is very traumatic for a woman,”Akhiladevi, a coordinator, said.

The volunteers shell their own money to buy mercerised cotton yarn from suppliers in India. Any travelling volunteer will bring yarn and distribute it here. Once finished, any returning volunteer will collect the knockers and fly back with it.

“We make in multiple sizes A, B, C and D. We give it a tag of ‘Not for sale’. The filling of knockers is done with micro-fibres in Chennai and Mumbai. And then it’s delivered to hospitals or those who need it.”

Akhiladevi said knockers are the best option for those who cannot afford costly breast implants.

“Silicone prosthesis is an expensive process. It’s heavy too. Knockers are light-weight, soft and comfortable, and free of cost. One piece can be used for two years. It can be washed by removing the filling or with it. People, especially in rural areas, aren’t aware about such an option.”

First collection amid pandemic

Geetha Krishnan, a volunteer, said she has seen the emotional and physical pain a survivor undergoes. 

“My 80-year-old mother-in-law is a survivor. She had breast cancer at the age of 60. She would have used knockers if he had known about it 20 years back,” Geetha said.
On Thursday, Geetha left for India with the first collection of knockers made amid the pandemic. In the past weeks, she collected the finished work from other volunteers. She will return with a new set of yarn.

“Making knockers is a good stress buster. This activates the pleasure centre of our brain. This is addictive. We even make this while travelling in bus or in flight,” Geetha added.
Akhiladevi noted that women from any nationality can join the movement by submitting a request on the official Facebook page of Saishaa India, which is managed by her.
Akhiladevi remembers giving a knocker to a survivor in Abu Dhabi.

“The 70-year-old survivor was so emotional. It is like a precious gift. The ecstasy she feels after wearing it and going out is priceless.”

October is observed as breast cancer awareness month.