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Fashion designer Helen Cody reveals of her cancer struggle: 'I wanted to stop chemo'

Helen Cody lends her support to My Legacy initiative encouraging everyone to leave a gift to charity in their will. By Denise Smith
Helen Cody wearing her own bridal creation

Helen Cody wearing her own bridal creation

On January 11, 2018 fashion designer Helen Cody discovered a lump in her breast - it was at that exact moment her life irrevocably changed forever.

Forced to undergo six hours of life-saving surgery after being diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer, the celebrated creative was faced with her own mortality.

Enduring six rounds of chemotherapy, Helen was so poorly that she considered giving up the treatment entirely, something which she may have done if not for the guidance and support of ARC Cancer Support.

"I was going through chemo and I was allergic to an assortment of the drugs and my immune system was compromised. I found chemo particularly difficult and I decided that I couldn't continue.

"I have run my business for 30 years and I am very independent and very strong and I have encountered difficult situations in my life but this was something I had never experienced. Your bones are sore, your cheeks are sore, your head is sore and it goes on and on. You feel so exhausted by life and I had never been like that before.

"My oncologist suggested I get in touch with ARC for counselling, the benefits of which I can't begin to tell you. Myself and my husband availed of the counselling and it gave me the tools - it was like emotional scaffolding to lift myself up and stand tall and separate myself from what was going on with the drugs in my body and know that they were the light at the end of the tunnel.

"All those things that sound like cliches now but at the time you are so vulnerable and you really do need so much help. When I finished the chemo they asked me to be an ambassador and we have raised almost €100,000 together since."

Continuing her ambassadorial role, Helen is lending her support to My Legacy and 70 Irish charities to launch a nationwide appeal to the public to leave a legacy gift to charity in their will during My Legacy Month.

"When we are well and we are relatively young we don't think about our legacy and what we will leave behind or what will happen when we are gone. This is just a reminder to people, do write a will, do get advice."

Concerned primarily for her husband Rory, who proposed on Sandymount beach in February 2018, Helen reveals:

Helen backs public appeal

Helen backs public appeal

"I was worried for Rory, I didn't want it to be anymore difficult for him so I called into a solicitor and it took 20 minutes to draft up and that was it.

"When you are well to be able to think to yourself what will I do? Can I leave a gift - wouldn't it be lovely to leave a gift to benefit other people?

"People don't think about it but hopefully it will make people think that a will really is an important thing to leave. There are so many worthwhile charities so when you log on to it will give you all the details.

"Now more than ever, I think that leaving a legacy gift is something we should all consider. We never know when our friends and family will need to lean on the support of a charity.

"Personally, ARC Cancer Services gave me immense support at a time when I've never felt more vulnerable and they continue to do brilliant work throughout the Covid-19 crisis. No matter how big or small, a legacy gift will make a big difference in the future to a cause you care about."

Adapting to life in lockdown the 54-year-old reveals: "The pace of life is like a snail's crawl in lockdown. I walk my dog every day, go to the grocery store to get ingredients to make the dinner - we will get through this and hopefully we will never have to deal with anything like this again."

In terms of business, Helen has simply adapted.

"We really started to worry around the end of February. I had my staff to pay and rent to pay and there was no money coming in so that was quite frightening. I spent many sleepless night worrying about the business and would it survive. Now we just adapt."

Fashion designer Helen was speaking at the launch of My Legacy Month 2020, an initiative encouraging people to leave a legacy gift to charity in their will.

To find out more about leaving a legacy gift in your will, visit

My Legacy was established in 2006 by a small group of Irish charities which understood the impact a legacy gift can have on their work.

My Legacy has since grown to a group of 70 Irish charities who work together to encourage legacy gifting in Ireland.

For further information about legacy gifting, visit, #MyLegacyMonth, or @MyLegacy_ie on Twitter.

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