Tuesday 12 November 2019

'You realise you don't need a lot to be happy' - Irish designer Helen Cody on her shock cancer diagnosis

Helen Cody. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Helen Cody. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Micheal O'Scannail

Renowned Irish designer Helen Cody has revealed she spent her honeymoon in St Vincent's hospital after her shock cancer diagnosis earlier this year.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show last night, Ms Cody shared her cancer battle and how her impulsive wedding helped her through it.

Helen Cody on the Late Late Show Photo: RTE screengrab
Helen Cody on the Late Late Show Photo: RTE screengrab

The Irish fashion designer discovered that she had cancer last January after finding a lump on her breast.

“I was going to the breast check mammogram service and I thought ‘ah you know what, it’s probably nothing’. Like most women do, I thought ‘ah it’s grand it’s probably just hormonal, I’ll be fine’.

“As it turned out it wasn’t fine. I discovered I had a lump on my breast and obviously it brought me down a path which was quite frightening. We then had an MRI scan and it was when I had the MRI scan that we discovered that not only did I have it in one breast, I had it in both breasts so it was very serious.”

Ms Cody, who has dressed many Irish and international celebrities, said that nothing could prepare you for the news that you have cancer.

“It’s like a tsunami hitting you at 100mph.

“I was well. I’ve always been a very healthy person. I eat well, I look after myself and I thought ‘I’m fine; nothing is going to happen to me’. I was so sure when I went in that it just wasn’t going to be my turn as I said to my husband so the shock was even greater. It was seismic it really was.

“You’re facing probably the greatest fear. Cancer is a frightening word. It’s a really frightening word and even as I say it in relation to myself I find myself disassociating from it. It was a terrifying prospect.”

Following the diagnosis, Ms Cody, who got engaged to Rory Murphy in February, decided to get married immediately and had the ceremony a week before her surgery.

She told Ryan Tubridy how much her husband Rory helped her through the tough period.

“He’s amazing,” she beamed.

“My lovely husband Rory, he’s my best friend and he has held my hand through this entire process. He has just been incredible. Cleverly, he knew the core of me was this ultimately romantic girl and he decided towards the end of February he would whisk me down to Sandymount with our lovely doggies and he proposed.

“Within two days, he cycled off to work on a Monday morning and he was cycling home and he said ‘I bet you anything she will have organised the entire wedding’ and he came home I had candles everywhere I had a beautiful meal cooked and I said, ‘you know what, you know the way we just got engaged why don’t we do it, let’s just get married why don’t we just do it’.

“It was the best thing ever,” she said.

“I was facing surgery the week after we got married so it was an incredible distraction because I had to be a girl. I had to think about the dress I had to think about the wedding.

“It was beautiful we went to city hall, it was very intimate, very small. There were only 30 people and we went down to an amazing restaurant afterwards and it was the most intimate lovely gorgeous day. It was so private and intimate.”

Eight days after her wedding, Ms Cody underwent surgery.

She said that she was worried at the time that she wouldn’t survive it but that she kept her thoughts to herself.

“I had my honeymoon in Vincent’s which was not exactly what we were planning,” she joked.

“There was such momentum with the wedding then we had a little bit of calm time just to psychologically prepare for this huge, huge surgery. It was six hours long and I remember on the day I didn’t say it to anyone and it was irrational, but I remember thinking I’m going to die today, something is going to happen and I’m not going to survive this.

“I went through the surgery and I came through the other side of it and I remember waking up at 10.30 at night in the recovery room and firstly looking at my hands and checking my feet and thinking’ I’m alive, I’m actually alive. I just remember feeling so euphoric because I just felt so lucky. I went in on the March 28 with cancer and that evening I didn’t have cancer anymore.”

Having gone through such a traumatic experience, the renowned designer now appreciates the smaller joys in life. She had a message of inspiration for any other women who may have the misfortune of suffering a similar trauma.

“You can get through it. It is bloody difficult but you can get through it,” she said.

“We went down to Dollymount last Saturday and we walked 5km before breakfast and I went in and had a cup of coffee. Happy out, and we had the most beautiful day and all I ever needed was just that. It’s enough. Blue skies, sunshine, fresh air. It’s enough you don’t need much in life you don’t.”

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