A Canadian knitter is hoping to help breast cancer survivors one stitch at a time.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in women in Canada. In 2015, an estimated 25,000 women will be diagnosed. 

When a woman loses a breast or both, it alters her appearance. Some women will use a prosthetic made of silicone, but the silicone prosthetic can be uncomfortable.  

Some breast cancer survivors say that the silicone is hot and heavy, while others have a reaction to the silicone. 

The prosthetic can also be expensive to buy, and some provinces — such as Saskatchewan — don't usually cover the cost of the purchase. 

When the knitted knocker is slipped into a bra, you can't tell which is the breast, and which isn't. - Nancy Thomson

However, there's an alternative out there. It's called a knitted knocker. It's a stuffed hand knit covering shaped like a breast. 

"It's soft, and light and free," said Nancy Thomson, the woman behind Knitted Knockers Canada. "And when the knitted knocker is slipped into a bra, you can't tell which is the breast, and which isn't."

Thomson, an avid knitter, was first asked to make a pair for a friend's mother, who had a mastectomy.  

"Everybody knows somebody who has breast cancer, or has gone through breast cancer, and I thought, why not do this for somebody other than someone I know. Let's do this for all of Canada."  

One thing led to another and now Thomson heads up Knitted Knockers Canada — a volunteer organization from her home near Toronto. 

She relies on knitters who are willing to buy the cotton, and knit a covering for the prosthesis.

Knitting needles and knitted knockers

There are patterns for how to knit the knocker and special types of yarn must be used. (Submitted by Nancy Thomson)

They send the knitted cover to Thomson, she stuffs them, and then ships them out to women who have requested one or two of the knitted prosthetics. There are patterns for how to knit or crochet the prosthetics, and only certain types of yarn can be used.

Thomson said she's already given out about 800 pairs since mid-March. She said recipients often tell her "I can't believe a total stranger made this for me."

Thomson added, "sometimes there's not a lot of words, there's a lot of tears."

She said she needs help to get more knockers made. Thomson is always on the lookout for groups or individuals that want to help, especially if someone can set up a provincial chapter of the organization.  

"We need people in the area to build a relationship with the yarn stores, with the knitters and with the local cancer centres, that is where we ultimately want to get to." 

Thomson is hoping to find knitters or organizers in Saskatchewan. She is asking for those interested to reach out to her on the Knitted Knockers Canada website.