'I thought I was going to die' - designer Helen Cody reflects on being cancer free 12 months after surgery
Designer Helen Cody had every good reason to feel emotional after her new SS19 eveningwear collection provided the triumphant opener for the ARC Fashion Show in the RDS.
"This day last year I thought I was going to die but the power of the amazing people in St Vincent's Hospital saved me," said Helen who underwent six hours of life saving surgery after being diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer.
Over the last year, during which Helen had six rounds of chemotherapy, the designer continued to work away at her home and last night at the annual fundraiser in aim of ARC Cancer Support, she revealed her latest couture masterpieces.
There was hushed silence among the 850 guests in the library at the RDS, many of them cancer survivors too, as Helen showed six looks lovingly handcrafted using luxurious layers of cream silk ottoman, intricately plaited grosgrain ribbon top over pearl embellished tulle and hand loomed Calais lace fashioned into a corseted top and romantic full skirt with pockets.
The stunning surface work was inspired by an antique Belleek bowl that had pride of place in Helen's mother's living room. "It always fascinated me how they created such tiny, perfectly ceramic pieces," said Helen.
"This collection is a reflection on the fragility of human nature so I looked at things that are fragmented, translucent, transparent and can disintegrate. I thought of my mother teaching me to sow as a child and it has all come from that and my mum's Belleek bowl is never out of my head." said Helen.
Most stunning of all was the 3D surface work on a cream tailored ottoman jacket with delicate, hand cut petals with pearls and the look, Helen explained.
It has been a tough year for the designer who, between diagnosis and surgery, married her architect husband, Rory Murphy, with her terrier dogs, Harry and Joe, who she calls "the boys," walking her up the aisle at City Hall.
The couple honeymooned in St Vincent's hospital after Helen's surgery and they are just back from a romantic holiday Venice where they celebrated their first wedding anniversary on March 20.
"I saw my oncologist for my six month examination and she gave me a gold star and said I don't have to come back to her for a year," said a beaming Helen last night.
Recalling the night a year ago when she work up after surgery, Helen said "I woke up at 10.30pm going, 'Legs OK, arms OK, chest very sore', I was high as kite but Oh my God I can't believe I'm alive! and I have probably been gliding on that for a year - literally - that feeling of being alive. They cut out the cancer. They got it and I felt that the chemo was an insurance policy."
The award-winning designer has dressed everyone from Ali Hewson and Amy Huberman to Oscar nominees and who can forget what happened after she dressed Irish soccer player Stephanie Roche in a feathered dress for Ballon d'Or in January 2015 and the images went viral. Working from her studio in Harold's Cross, Helen especially loves the special relationship that comes from creating bespoke dresses and wedding gowns for Irish customers. For her own wedding, she wore one of her own embellished full skirts and a cashmere cardigan from Suzie Monaghan. For last night's show, she introduced hats from FAO Millinery run by Freya Oatway.
The ARC show is Ireland's biggest and involved a dramatic 40 runway, 30 designers, 12 models, four 'ArcAngel' guest models who have used the ARC support network and the sell out extravaganza produced by Eddie Shanahan was watched by over 850 guests.