They help women regain their confidence. By Linette Lai
Five years ago, breast cancer survivor Lyn Ee started knitting beanies for cancer patients who, like her, had lost their hair after chemotherapy. In 2015, Ms Ee switched to knitting fuzzy prosthetic breasts instead – cheekily known as knitted knockers. These soft mounds of cotton yarn come in different sizes and colours, and can be slipped into a regular bra.
They are meant to help women regain confidence after they lose their breasts to mastectomies. It sounds like a little thing, but it often has a big psychological impact on women, said Ms Ee, 66, who wears a knitted knocker herself, even when swimming. “Many of the women get so emotional when they put this on,” she said.
Ms Ee and 21 other volunteers – most of whom have full-time jobs – now donate around 1,500 knockers yearly to four public healthcare institutions. For her efforts, she was one of 33 patients given an Inspirational Patient award at the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient awards ceremony yesterday.
Ms Ee discovered Knitted Knockers – a United States-based group – in 2015 and was sold on the idea, approaching them to set up a Singapore chapter. It takes her between one and six hours to knit a single knocker, depending on the size.
Recalling the first time she wore a knocker she knitted for herself, Ms Ee said: “It was a perfect fit. I was very happy, very excited that now I have something I can share with other women.”
“When you step out of the house, no matter what age you are, it makes you feel more confident knowing that your appearance looks normal.”
The Inspirational Patient awards are a yearly affair to celebrate those who have demonstrated extraordinary strength and resilience despite trying life circumstances, as well as the support groups who make a difference in patients’ lives. Five groups and 33 patients received the award this year in a ceremony at the Academia at the Singapore General Hospital. Each winner gets $300 in grocery vouchers and a plaque.
Other winners yesterday included a band of seniors called the Sunshine Group, who visit a nursing home weekly to sing to their peers, and Mr Simon Tan, who overcame a lifelong drug addiction only to find out he had cancer. Mr Tan now befriends young people at The Helping Hand – a halfway house for former drug addicts – to help them turn their lives around.
Ms Ee hopes to reach out to older women who may have had mastectomies years ago. Often, she said, these women may not have undergone breast reconstruction surgery or had the money to buy silicone implants, which can cost a few hundred dollars. “Those who don’t need them will say, ‘What’s the difference? You can’t see it anyway,'” she said. “But those who are wearing them can tell (the difference) immediately.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline ‘She fills breast cancer patients with confidence‘.