Support breast cancer survivors by knitting knockers

Support breast cancer survivors by knitting knockers

SMITHFIELD – One local breast cancer survivor wants to make day-to-day life more comfortable for other survivors.

Dianne Fonseca, of Smithfield, a 17-year survivor and an active fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is starting a local chapter of the national nonprofit Knitted Knockers Support Foundation to Rhode Island, she says.

The goal of the organization, founded by Washington state resident Barbara Demorest, is to make and distribute knitted breast prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies. All of the knockers are free of charge.

Knitted/crocheted and filled with stuffing, these soft, lightweight Knitted Knockers are a temporary or ongoing alternative to traditional silicone breast prosthetics. They can be used by women who have undergone mastectomies, lumpectomies and radiation, and/or are undergoing reconstruction.

They don’t require special fittings or insurance approval. They’re free, made by volunteers, and are adjustable by removing or shifting stuffing, according to the organization’s website.

While Fonseca said she hasn’t worn one, she’s heard from others who have that “they are much more comfortable” and not as heavy as traditional prosthetics. And they can be washed, she added.

She learned about the organization while on a trip to Florida earlier this year, she said.

“There’s a definite need (for them),” she said, adding that she wonders how many people who don’t have health insurance can afford prosthetics.

More than 50,000 mastectomies are performed in the United States each year, according to the organization’s website.

Her goal, she told The Valley Breeze & Observer, is not to create a formal group that meets once a month, but to find volunteers across the state willing to knit or crochet these prosthetics. Both patterns are available on the Knitted Knockers’ website for reference.

The American Cancer Society and 21st Century Oncology are working with Fonseca to find different locations, including doctors’ offices and clinics, where people can drop off the finished products. People can also leave Knitted Knockers at The Mermaid’s Purl Yarn Shop, 1 West Main St. in North Kingstown, Fonseca said.

The nonprofit’s website offers videos, testimonials, and more information: www.knittedknockers.org .

Fonseca was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 when she was an Italian and Spanish teacher at Cranston East High School. She said it was “very traumatic ... when you find out that kind of news.”

Beginning as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program, Fonseca created a team “Keeping the Pace with Dianne” and has participated in the American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk for the past 10 to 12 years.

She told The Observer that she’s raised roughly $233,000 for the organization to date; she’s been named the top fundraiser in Rhode Island and among the top 20 in the country. She’s had help from her husband Tony, chairman of the town’s Zoning Board of Review, as well as her son Vincent and his wife Brenda, and her son Tony and his wife Jennifer, she says.

As she spreads the word about Knitted Knockers, Fonseca is also planning for her 5th annual “Women’s Night Out” fundraiser on Thursday, June 16, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, where she plans to talk about the new group.

The night, called “Dancing with the Bras,” will feature raffles, a silent auction, cocktails, dinner, and a variety of professional dance groups including Irish Step, belly dancers, Zumba, jazz, tap, and ballroom that will perform throughout the night.

The grand prize raffle winner will receive a two-day, two-night stay for two people at the Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass.

Tickets are $50 each and include dinner. For more information, visit www.makingstrideswalk.org/dancingwiththebras .

Last year’s event raised $32,000, Fonseca said, adding she hopes to attract 300 people this year.

Fonseca said she formed a committee five years ago because she wanted to do something special for her 13th year as a cancer survivor. Thirteen is one her lucky numbers, she said. The committee includes co-chair Judy Tallo, of Cumberland, a two-time survivor of breast cancer; Naomi Salvatore, of Lincoln; Liz Lanni, of Smithfield; Pam Jourabchi, of Cranston; Rachel Baboian, of Smithfield, and a breast cancer survivor; and Carol Mangiarelli, of Smithfield.

To contact Fonseca, email dianne@packagingmore.com .