The Amberley Unit, at Worthing Hospital, were delighted to receive knitted prosthetics for patients who have undergone procedures to the breast, thanks to the compassion and generosity of a local knitter.
Bella Bailey, 94, donated a variety of hand knitted breast prostheses to the unit, which specialises in chemotherapy and medical day services for cancer patients, offering a soft, breathable alternative to the heavier, sometimes uncomfortable standard options.
Once placed in a regular bra, these knitted alternatives take the shape of a real breast.
Inspired by the charity, ‘Knitted Knockers,’ Bella knits breast prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast, after first hearing about them from her daughter who underwent her own mastectomy.
Bella said: “People battle with the bras because you buy a bra and you pay a lot of money for a lovely shaped one for the breast you’ve lost but the one you still have isn’t the same shape as that, so it can look odd. It was driving my daughter mad.”
The grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of seven, wanted to be able to help, so knits at home whilst watching TV and takes it along for her bus journeys, with each ‘breast’ taking two to three hours to complete.
Bella, a former member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), buys the wool from her local charity shops, making up to 10 prostheses per ball of wool, and ensures she uses the same safe filling used for children’s toys.
Three months after starting her knitting venture, Bella knows the pattern off by heart and uses different coloured wool to help ensure better matches for different skin tones.
She said: “I enjoy it, I love it. It helps me to get through the day. I knit babies clothes for the children; I just made a lovely cardigan for one and I’m doing a jersey for another. I can’t stop.”
Knitting since her youth, Bella is delighted to be able to use her hobby to help others.
She said: “I don’t want money or praise; I just want to help people like my daughter’s being helped. She’s knitting them now, and she’ll ring me and say ‘Mum, I’ve made three this week’ and I say, ‘well I made seven because I’ve got more time.” She laughs.
Sarah Ransom, Deputy Sister, kindly accepted Bella’s generous donation, she said: “We’re sincerely grateful for Bella’s generosity and it’s incredibly heart-warming to know she has been thinking of our patients. For Bella to recognise a struggle some people who go through cancer face and offer this kind and thoughtful gift, is so lovely.”
The Amberley Unit will send this donation to the Breast Care Unit and the female surgical ward at Worthing Hospital, for patients immediately post-mastectomy.
Bella explained: “Knitting helps me a lot and I wouldn’t give it up. I love doing the pattern. I’ve got more on the way at home.”