Abby Cole Keller

The Rev. Abby Cole Keller, who is spearheading the Knitted Knockers initiative in Greeneville, displays a few of the knitted breast prostheses, which are available free of charge to mastectomy patients.

Sun Photo by Lisa Warren
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Knock. Knock.

Who’s there? The Rev. Abby Cole Keller — who is on a mission to give free, hand-knitted, breast prostheses to women who have undergone mastectomies.

Through a program called Knitted Knockers, Keller is working to enlist knitters who would like to help make the hand-knitted breast prostheses. In addition, she is helping to raise awareness of the availability of the Knitted Knockers to women who could benefit from them.

Keller became involved with the initiative through both her work at Greeneville Cumberland Presbyterian Church, where she serves as an associate pastor, and with the cancer program at Laughlin Memorial Hospital, where she serves as a support group facilitator.

When Keller learned about the Knitted Knockers program, she wanted to get involved. Not only does she love to knit, but she is also a cancer survivor. In addition, her father, the late Dr. Ron Cole, was a longtime Laughlin physician, who helped found the Greene County Relay for Life initiative in 1995 to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Since its founding, the Relay for Life has raised millions to aid in the fight against cancer.

To date, Keller said she has enlisted the help of a group of knitters who participate in the Prayer Shawl Ministries through Greeneville Cumberland Presbyterian, Asbury United Methodist and Notre Dame Catholic churches. She is also looking for additional volunteer knitters who would like to help with the project.

She said about 30 Knitted Knockers have already been made in the effort.

The knitted breast prostheses are “a lot lighter than a traditional breast prothesis,” Keller said. “Plus, you can begin wearing them immediately after surgery.”

Traditional breast prostheses are usually expensive, heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable. They can also rub against the skin and irritate it. The Knitted Knockers, on the other hand, are extremely soft and comfortable, plus when placed in a regular bra, they take the shape and feel of a real breast, Kelly said.

They are made with a type of machine-washable, cotton yarn and then filled with plush stuffing, she added.

Betty Weemes, executive director of the Laughlin Health Care Foundation, which will be helping distribute the Knitted Knockers, said the lightweight and softness of the knitted prostheses allows women to begin wearing them much sooner than they would otherwise be able to do with traditional breast protheses.

A traditional prosthesis typically requires special bras or camisoles with pockets and can’t be worn for weeks after surgery. The Knitted Knockers are designed to be worn with regular bras.

“That’s the wonderful thing about them,” Weemes said, “you could put them on even while you still have the [mastectomy] bandage.

“With a traditional breast prosthetic, you have to wait six weeks before you can begin wearing them,” Weemes said.

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The idea for Knitted Knockers came from a breast cancer survivor who decide to found the nonprofit organization, which now works to connect volunteer knitters with breast cancer survivors and also collects knitted breasts for those who need them.

According to the Knitted Knockers website, the knitted-prostheses can be adjusted to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven and easily adapted for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing.

To request free Knitted Knockers or to learn more about the distribution program, contact Weemes at the Laughlin Health Care Foundation by calling 423-787-5117 or emailing her at bettyweemes@lmhcare.org.

To learn more about getting involved as a knitter with the Knitted Knockers initiative, contact Keller by calling Greeneville Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 423-638-4119 or emailing her at akeller@gcpchurch.org.

Financial contributions to assist the program will also be accepted through the Laughlin Health Care Foundation.

For more information about the Knitted Knockers national organization, visit online at www.knittedknockers.org.

This article originally ran on greenevillesun.com.

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