Busy hands knit comfy breast prostheses

Stuffing bras for breast cancer survivors

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on June 28, 2011

BY ASHLEY THOMPSON

The Hants Journal

It’s uncommon to find Leota Daniels sitting with idle hands. She has far too many bras to fill to lay her knitting needles down for long.

Daniels spends much of her free time with one-of-a-kind bamboo knitting needles -  designed specifically for her in hands- and a ball of yarn on her lap, helping breast cancer survivors adjust to post-mastectomy life.

“I’m not doing a lot. I find if I sit down in the evening and fold my hands, well there’s not much sense in (that),” the lively 81-year-old says during an interview in her Windsor-area home.

“I can sit here and listen to music and spend an evening (knitting.) I think that’s an evening well spent.”

Daniels developed Comfy Curves — her own line of knitted breast prosthetics — after undergoing a mastectomy five years ago. 

A childhood flashback gave her the idea about a year ago. 

“I thought, well, we used to put a sock in our bras when we wanted to when we were kids —we can still do it.”

Breast option

Daniels felt she had something special to offer breast cancer survivors. With help from her daughters during what she light-heartedly refers to as the research and development stages, Daniels learned a woman in Toronto, Beryl Tsang, had designed a pattern for women yearning to knit prosthetic breasts.

She toyed with Tsang’s pattern, made some modifications to suit her tastes, and settled on the name Comfy Curves.

“I would be more than happy to knit a breast prosthesis for any woman who doesn’t have the money to buy one because I think there’s no reason why any woman should have to go without a breast prosthesis simply because she doesn’t have money,” she adds.

Typical silicone breast prosthetics range in price from $300 to $500. Daniels’ Comfy Curves are free — and well-received.

Daniels says women are ecstatic when they learn about the Comfy Curves, and some insist on leaving a donation, but she will not accept more than $10 to cover the cost of cotton stuffing, yarn, and the metal washers used to give the prosthetics weight.

She says Comfy Curves is not about making money; it’s her way of supporting women who are trying to move on after losing a breast, or two, to a frightening disease.

“You’ve lost a part of your body and it’s not like losing your appendix. It shows,” she says, adding that she will make partial prosthetics for women who have had lumps removed. 

Daniels can knit a Comfy Curve in three to four hours. She has already helped around 20 women, ranging in cup size from A to DD. She says there’s nothing stopping her from going bigger if a particularly well-endowed woman puts in a request for a larger prosthesis.

“I have one lady that was referred to me by the Canadian Cancer Society… she said ‘I can’t believe how good this feels. Can I wear it home?’” Daniel says,  recalling a fitting in her Chester Road residence.

“It feels great. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more rewarding.”

Share the support

Daniels is striving to get people knitting Comfy Curves in every community across the province. She says she is willing to share her pattern with anyone interested in picking up a set of knitting needles for a good cause.

“What I need to do is get people involved enough with it. My goal is that we can get a little knitting committee in every community where, if someone needs a breast prosthesis, they can go and get a breast prosthesis made or they can go and get the instructions.”

With help from her chauffeur, and daughter, Caroll Chute, Daniels says she is willing to host workshops in communities or in her own home if groups want to learn how they can make Comfy Curves readily available for women in their communities.

Chute says her mother’s hard work, dedication and ingenuity is nothing short of inspirational.

“She’s drowning in boobs,” she teases, proudly peering at Daniels as she meticulously arranges a few Comfy Curves for a photo.

“I think it’s a marvellous thing and the word needs to get out,” Chute adds.  She says her mother is far too modest to acknowledge the admirable task she has taken on at 81.

Daniels says no woman will go without a prosthetic for financial reasons-  or be restricted to a cumbersome silicone blob that is too hot in the summer or too heavy to lug around-  as long as she knows there is a need for what she is doing.

“If I have to sit up all night, I’ll knit them,” she promises.

“If I die making one of these, I’ll die happy — as long as I have somebody that will wear it.”

To acquire a pattern for Comfy Curves, inquire about lessons or order a knitted prosthetic, call Leota Daniels at 798-5519 or email kldaniels@eastlink.ca .

athompson@hantsjournal.ca