Breasts are such an intimate and crucial part of a woman’s body, giving many women confidence and pride regardless of the size.
Losing a breast to a disease such as cancer can be daunting and emotionally draining for women, especially for those who are so keen about their physical appearance.
A group of Kenyans made up of women who are breast cancer survivors and men who lost their wives to the disease have chosen to support breast cancer survivors with a rather unique initiative that is boosting the confidence of women who have had a mastectomy.
Known as “Limau Cancer Connection”, the Nairobi-based team, led by Nancy Githoitho, have taken it upon themselves to knit boobs for women who have had their breast removed.
Limau means lemons in Kiswahili and the group name was derived from the famous quote: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. The group knits ‘knockers’ that are now substituting the silicon prostheses and offer them free to women.
According to Githoitho, the “Limau Cancer Connection”, as a cancer support group, was borne out of the desire to reach out to women whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer.
Losing her own mother to cancer, and seeing the emotionally draining and painstaking moments the disease put her mother through, Githoitho, who has visited her mom in Kenya from the U.S., returned with a heavy heart.
She went on to research on alternatives to silicon prosthesis and she ended up birthing the idea of knitted silicons after having come across a group in Rwanda which does same.
“My mum’s greatest fear was people knowing that she had one breast. She called me one day and asked if I could get her a prosthetic as well as mastectomy bras. I was really shocked to discover that the cost of the prosthetics as well as the special bras was very high in Kenya,” she said.
“After seeing what my mum was going through during a visit to Kenya, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other Kenyan women were going through what my mum was facing and couldn’t afford what was available in Kenya.
“When I went back to the US, I searched for alternative prosthetics and came across knitted Knockers and contacted the founder Barbara Demores who is also a Breast cancer survivor. She connected me to a team she had trained in Rwanda and this is how the idea of knitting the prosthetics was conceived,” she told local media.
Some of the Kenyan women, who are able to afford the prosthetics, have expressed dissatisfaction with the way it slides out of place, especially during the hot seasons. Many of them have now found their confidence in the comfort of using the knitted boobs.
Anne Nyambura, a beneficiary who prefers the ‘knockers’ to the silicon prosthesis, said the knitted boobs are easy to wear and she can also use any bra.
“The silicon one was not comfortable, as it used to slip off when i had sweat. Sometimes it would pop up from my chest when i was in front of people,” she told TUKO.
Beyond distributing the knitted boobs to survivors at any cost, “Limau Cancer Connection” is helping thousands of women rediscover themselves by rebuilding the confidence of those whose lives were severely affected after undergoing a mastectomy.
The group also acts as a support network where members meet and share their stories to empower and encourage patients and families impacted by cancer.
Githoitho currently funds the business from her pocket with some assistance from a similar group in the United States.
The group also offers free voluntary training to both males and females on how to knit the ‘boobs’ and together they are helping thousands of women in Kenya.
In a global effort to raise awareness on breast cancer, October has been designated as the Pink Month and Face2faceafrica is committed to sharing information to aid the annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks and promote the value of screenings, treatment and early detection.
Among the varied types of cancer-related diseases, breast cancer currently accounts for the highest number of deaths among women followed by cervical cancer.