A MOTHER and grandmother from Durham has produced 350 knitted knockers this year alone and now supplies them to North Africa.
After spending many years working as a lecturer, Maria Bailey and her husband moved to Spain in 2004 to relax and enjoy a quiet life.
She loved the Spanish way of life and immediately spent time learning Spanish and was so successful that she was employed by the college which she attended to teach English to Spanish students.
Much as they both loved their time in Spain, the couple felt they were missing out on seeing their three children bring up their three grandchildren and Maria also experienced some guilt about leaving her elderly parents behind.
After three years they decided to return to England and it was there, thanks to regular tests that she discovered that she was suffering the early stages of breast cancer but after treatment including surgery and chemotherapy she bounced back and although under a five year regime of medication is able to live a normal life.
Her mother had also suffered the same but being of an older, perhaps more private generation, did all that she could to keep her affliction confidential even from the rest of the family.
Maria is made of different stuff and with her lecturer’s mind kept herself informed of what had happened and why but needed some way of transferring that information to other women to try to help them.
Return to Spain
She found that she was missing the sounds and tastes of Spain whilst her husband was missing the sun, so being a little older and having come through the illness they decided to return to Spain, buying a property overlooking the Benalmadena Costa three years ago whilst keeping a property near the family in the UK.
Just a year ago, she was glancing through the pages of a newspaper when she learned about a small organisation called Knitted Knockers which had been formed in the village of Mollina in Malaga Province and she knew that she had found her vocation.
One of the problems that women who suffer mastectomies face is the loss of one or both breasts and how to cope with day to day activities so that the loss is not too obvious.
The Spanish health system will supply silicon options which can be heavy and uncomfortable in the heat whilst knitted knockers are made from 100 per cent cotton which is light, comfortable and non-allergenic.
Her first move therefore was to contact Maggie Stevenson in Mollina and to get involved by finding funds and volunteers to allow for more knockers to be produced.
Her very first sponsor was her 94-year-old father and then she managed to obtain sponsorship from the La Cala Lions as well as Costa Women for a Costa branch.
Now in just a year, she has attracted between 30 and 40 volunteers to get knitting and members of the group personally deliver between two and four knockers to each person who applies for them (on the basis one to wear and one to wash) free of charge.
Help and advice
The concept of delivery is to ensure that they can also offer advice and comfort to any woman who needs to talk about the illness and the after effects.
They have now also discovered a way to produce water resistant knitted knockers for swimsuit wear and some of the ladies who have received them say that this the first time that they have been able to go swimming in years.
Maria says that she is busier than she has ever been and so successful has she been in recruiting such a large work force, that she has been asked to send 70 knockers to Algeria and Morocco which she was delighted to do, although she had some difficulty in completing the customs form at the local post office until she explained and the clerk there said that her mother had also lost a breast.
According to Maria she can’t thank Ali Meehan and Costa Women enough for all of the support they have given the group which not only produces these helpful accessories but is determined to encourage all women, expatriate and Spanish to make sure that they have annual check-ups to catch the disease at its earliest stages.
If you want to volunteer or need assistance please visit http://kkscostadelsol.org/.