When one of their own was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, an outback Queensland craft group picked up the tools.

Key points:

  • An outback Queensland craft group knits bra inserts, or what they call “knitted knockers”
  • The group has knitted more than 500 prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors
  • A Brisbane breast cancer nurse says the inserts “help women to feel like themselves again”

But instead of making their usual fare of quilts and clothes, Charleville’s Sunday Sisters created something a bit more personal for their friend, Sue Gillies. 

When Sue said she “felt strange not having something out front” after her mastectomy surgery in 2019, a member of the Sunday Sisters group came up with a novel suggestion.

“Chrissy D said, ‘Sue, I’m going to knit you a kitted knocker,’ and I said, ‘What the heck is that?’,” Sue said. 

“Orange is my favourite colour, so she made it orange, and it was really good.”

Five women sit around a table knitting

Chrissy D (far left) suggested that the Sunday Sisters could knit Sue some “knockers” after her double mastectomy, and the idea took off. (ABC Western Qld: Danielle O’Neal)

‘It gets a bit of a giggle’

Realising that more women who had battled breast cancer might find their knitted knockers helpful, the Sunday Sisters soon began knitting the bra inserts for the Mater Hospital in Brisbane — and recently supplied their 500th knocker. 

“They are our number one supplier of knitted knockers — we would be lost without them,” Mater breast cancer nurse Ash Mondolo said.

“Having a mastectomy can be cruelly disfiguring. Women never really know how they are going to feel following a mastectomy. 

Two young women unpack a box of knitted breasts

Mater Hospital breast cancer nurse Ash Mondolo (left) unpacking the latest delivery from Charleville.(ABC News: Alic Pavlovic)

Ms Mondolo said the knockers came in a variety of shapes and sizes and were particularly popular in the Sunshine State. 

“Queensland is a really hot climate, so having a nice soft prosthesis that is lightweight, that is made with beautiful cotton [is comfortable],” she said. 

A stack of neutral-coloured knitted knockers

The knitted knockers are made from high-quality breathable materials.(ABC News: Alice Pavlovic)

Near-miss diagnosis

Sue was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 after a visit to the BreastScreen Queensland bus, which visits Charleville — eight hours’ drive west of Brisbane — once every two years.

When the bus isn’t travelling across western Queensland, the closest place to get a mammogram is seven hours’ drive away in Toowoomba. 

Sue almost missed her appointment due to a clash with a trip to Broome, but when the trip fell through at the last minute, she was able to attend her appointment at the BreastScreen bus.

woman smiling in craft room

Sue Gillies underwent a double mastectomy in 2019. (ABC Western Qld: Danielle O’Neal)

She was recalled one week later for further tests that confirmed the cells lining Sue’s milk ducts in one breast were cancerous. 

“I just said, ‘Oh is the picture not clear?’ They said, ‘Oh no Sue, the picture is perfect, we just need to have a chat’,” she said.

In the end, Sue chose to have both breasts removed for prevention purposes.

Two women sit on a brightly coloured couch with some knitted breasts, with a quilt hanging behind.

Julie (left) and Sue say that if the “knitted knockers” make even one woman feel a bit better after surgery, then it’s worth it.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle O’Neal)

Since Sue’s diagnosis, other members of the craft group have been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

But despite the personal health battles, the Sunday Sisters plan to continue creating knockers to donate to patients. 

“We’re just a mad lot of women,” Rosie Wilson said.

four women sit at a table chatting with cupcakes decorated like breasts in the foreground

Charleville’s Sunday Sisters have donated more than 500 “knitted knockers” to Brisbane’s Mater Hospital.(ABC Western Qld: Danielle O’Neal)

“I have received a couple of emails from young ladies who said they had never heard of them [knitted knockers],” Sue said.

“They were very grateful and thankful for receiving the knitted knocker. 

“They walk around and it makes them feel like women and feel whole. 

When Sue had a double mastectomy, friends knitted her some new ‘knockers’ — now they’re helping hundreds of women
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