‘Knitted Knockers’ help breast cancer survivors

Area group knits prosthetics for women

A group of area women are using their knitting skills to make a real difference in the lives of breast cancer survivors.

Retired West Salem teacher Janice Stuntebeck, along with about seven of her friends, have helped hundreds of women in our area and across the state of Wisconsin.

“It’s a good hobby to have,” Stuntebeck said.

At first glance, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the group of West Salem teachers, some now retired, knitting around a table.

“It’s volunteer work I can do that I like doing because I like to knit. It just goes hand in hand,” Stuntebeck said.

But when those nearby look a bit closer, they see something they’re not expecting.

“They blink. Sometimes they’re a little speechless,” fellow knitter Kathy Thompson said. “And then you start explaining to them.”

Stuntebeck and her friends, including Thompson and Terri Martinson, are affiliated with Knitted Knockers, an organization dedicated to crafting alternative, lightweight prosthetics for women who have had mastectomies.

“They loved what they saw. In fact, one woman whipped out prosthesis she had, saying ‘These are so heavy,’ and told us to feel them,” Stuntebeck said. “I thought, ‘Oh, Knitted Knockers are so much nicer than those.'”

Stuntebeck said the prosthetics are free for women, and she and and her friends buy yarn from the Yarn Stash in Sparta at a discounted price.

They knit them in all colors and sizes.

“Sometimes a B minus. I sound like I’m grading papers,” Stuntebeck said.

“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Thompson said.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with them,” said Susan Newman, medical social worker at Mayo Clinic Health System.

Stuntebeck delivers the prosthetics to both Gundersen and Mayo in La Crosse, where cancer patients are offered the option.

“It’s okay to laugh and smile about it. There’s always so much sadness associated with cancer. This can be a fun but useful thing for somebody,” Newman said. “They’re very popular.”

Since 2013, Stuntebeck said she’s delivered upward of 650 pairs and received dozens of appreciative cards in response.

“It will bring tears to your eyes,” she said.

One case, however, was extra special.

“When I saw them I thought they were really funny,” Krista Beron said. “They’re cute. They look, like, real-ish.”

Beron had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in spring of 2016.

“It was really hard,” she said. “It’s really hard sometimes to get dressed. Nothing fits anymore.”

Luckily, Beron is a former student of Stuntebeck, Thompson and Martinson. She was also a fellow teacher at West Salem Middle School.

“Those are my old teachers and colleagues,” Beron said. “They’re close to my heart, like literally now.”

Stuntebeck hooked Beron up with a pair of Knitted Knockers

“It’s a confidence thing. These were such a simple comfy solution,” Beron said. “It helps. It really does.”

Krista Beron is now cancer free and is planning to return to teaching this fall.

“People say, ‘Finally, someone has brought a smile to my face,'” Stuntebeck said. “That makes you feel special.”

Stuntebeck’s group is affiliated with the national organization Knitted Knockers, meaning along with delivering the prosthetics to both hospitals in our area, they also send them to breast cancer survivors across Wisconsin.

To find out more or get involved, visit Knitted Knockers’ website here.