Monday 23 September 2019

'Dad was killed in a car crash and then I got breast cancer' - Irish milliner to the stars on getting her life back

Milliner Sarah McGahon, before and after her weight loss.
Milliner Sarah McGahon, before and after her weight loss.
Sarah McGahon
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Irish milliner Sarah McGahon’s career has had its fair share of starlit moments.

Her hats have been worn by Lady Gaga and Amy Huberman. The latter wore Sarah’s hat at the British royal wedding of Kate and William in Westminster Abbey in 2011.

Before setting up on her own, Sarah worked with designers like John Galliano, Basso & Brooke, and Erdem, and had celebrity clients like Dita Von Teese, Kylie Minogue and Mick Jagger.

Career-wise, life has been good to her. But the 44-year-old Bray woman has had a tumultuous few years.

She’s had breast cancer twice in the last few years. And during her treatment, shortly after Christmas in 2015, her dad Richard was killed in a car accident.

“If I’m honest, I would say it still hasn’t hit me, sometimes I think I’ll go and visit him. With most parents I feel like there might be an illness leading up to the inevitable. But with Dad, me and my brothers had a lovely Christmas with him. Then two days later we got a phone call to say that there’d been an accident in Mullingar,” she tells

“He was going to visit his partner’s grandchildren with his partner. It was a low speed crash, there were no phones involved, no alcohol or anything like that.”

Thirteen years ago, Sarah’s mother died after a sudden heart attack, because of an undiagnosed heart condition.

After enduring these three devastating dominos in her family, Sarah decided last September that while she was undergoing treatment for cancer, she'd try to overhaul her diet - and her health.

“I was always concerned that I might have inherited a dodgy heart because of how my mother died.”

“When I got cancer I started eating a lot of pastas with creamy sauces and things. The cancer drugs made me tired and then friends would take me out for lunches, and I’d treat myself. For a long while, I was OK with that, and I was telling myself it’s OK for the moment because it’s the grief and the recovery.”

But after noticing that she had gained weight, Sarah signed up to Motivation Weight Management because she wanted a holistic approach to weight loss, to help her get her mojo back.

“I’ve been in previous diet groups where I’d lost weight but then put it back on. I blamed the medications a little bit for that. I blamed grief as well.”

“I gave myself a good talking to over the course of a month.”

“I wanted to make sure there was none of that visible fat around the tummy area that is more likely to sit around your heart.”

“I’m quite small, I’m only about five foot. A healthy BMI is what I’m looking for.”

Soon she rediscovered the joy of cooking, and virtuous vegetables.

“I found the first two weeks hard in terms of what I could and couldn’t eat. Then I found my mojo. I was piling my plates with veggies, I was piling flavour into my foods. Soups to me were a godsend as well.”

“This is my new path in life. From now on there are things like tonnes of veggies in my diet,” she told

Sarah still has one hurdle to jump in her recovery for breast cancer. This summer she'll undergo surgery.

After that, who knows. She says she's ready to take on another career challenge.

Whatever that will be, is written in the stars.

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