I just want to feel normal again, just for one day, I want to feel beautiful again, and I want to feel like me just one more time.

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Every day is a struggle to survive, to get up, to smile, and to try to be normal. It’s a year tomorrow since my operation and last Monday has been the only day I felt truly happy, wonderful, and pretty and most importantly like a woman. I am and always will be forever thankful to you for allowing me to feel that way. - Karen

Hi, my name is Maria Goad, salon owner of TANGLES Hair & Beauty Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick and award-winning educator for L’Oreal/Matrix. As hairdressers we have the ability to transform one’s hair and in turn one’s life.

I am so lucky to love every minute of my job and to bring a smile to people’s faces with the work that I do, but never more so than Monday 9th September when I was asked to do the hair for a very special bride.

Top American photographer Jessica Frey was capturing the images on the day, but the whole event was organised and put together by another amazing photographer, Vig from Wonderworks Photography, Limerick. A team of vendors came together to make a memorable and inspiring day, and each of us, in love with our own art, helped the happy couple capture their love for each other on a day that will stay with me for the rest of my career.

Read on for Karen’s remarkable story as told by Vig, who knew that Karen’s story would become the inspiration for Jessica’s photo shoot. This was something entirely different to your normal wedding story; this was life in its rawest form.

Life with all its pain and sorrow - life with all its joy and happiness

Karen was a happy, healthy and petite young woman. She was up on life and in love with her man Olly and their beautiful boy Al. She was building her career and life was getting better every day. Their wedding day would soon come but for now there was no rush with anything, life stretched out like a long sandy beach in front of them.

But then in 2012 when she was 28 weeks pregnant with her baby girl Sophie her world fell apart. The news of her Dad’s sudden and premature death shattered the lives of her entire family.

Suddenly the ‘we have all the time in the world’ changed to ‘we must get married now!’ Grief stricken and heavily pregnant Karen’s focus changed to wedding plans and wedding dresses. Her dad was no longer there to walk her up the aisle and her sister was making an imminent move to Australia. The wedding plans were quickly moved forward.

Six weeks after the death of her dad, Karen’s body, struck down with the heaviness of stress and grief, was no longer able to hold onto the precious life inside. Sophie was born six weeks premature and the weeks that followed were a horrific ordeal for Karen and Olly, mostly spent in the neonatal unit. Thankfully Sophie pulled through and three months later on the 6th August 2012 Karen married the man of her dreams. Karen said,

I think when life shatters into a million pieces, your heart breaks open, you are no longer able to think straight, act normal or be the self your man first saw.

When that man stays with you without complaining and patiently supports you every day. When you wake up one morning and realise he has turned into your rock, then you know he’s THE MAN of your dreams.

It wasn’t a perfect wedding day, Karen felt ill and most things went wrong. The dress she had tried on at 30 weeks pregnant didn’t really fit and the rain never stopped pouring.

Following her wedding day Karen felt increasingly worse and a month later she was rushed in for an emergency hysterectomy. By Christmas 2012 Karen had not only lost her dad and undergone life altering surgery, but all her hair had fallen out. Alopecia is a common side effect of a hysterectomy, both very frightening experiences for every woman enduring them.

I don’t think you could expect anyone in this situation to still be up on life, still looking forward, still be sane and happy. Karen’s decent into depression was debilitating. Her doctor prescribed tablets which somehow helped her through the days but caused the petite size 8 woman to gain weight.

I just want to feel normal again, just for one day, I want to feel beautiful again, and I want to feel like me just one more time. - Karen 

The house was buzzing with women who came together for one day only to make magic happen. We had hairstylists, make-up artists, flowers, and assistants and of course Jessica and I with our cameras.

I loved the chatter and the giggle as they prepared the bride for her wedding day. That morning felt just the same as any other wedding mornings I have attended; though more real- as if I knew I was a part of something huge!

Karen was completely comfortable in the hands of our amazing make-up artist and hairstylist. When Karen’s wig was finally styled she broke down and looked to Olly for comfort. Karen said,

I never thought I could be beautiful ever again. It looks just like my own hair! I never thought it was possible that you could do this with a wig.

Karen was on cloud nine, floating with the man of her dreams throughout the two hours it took to shoot their wedding photos. I was blinded by her beauty as the sun set over the magnificent ruins of Mountshannon House.

Karen said of the day,

I had so much fun; you and Jessica made me feel so relaxed it was amazing. I have the most amazing wedding photos in the world. I will look at these wedding photos every day and they will remind me of how amazing I felt that day!

I never thought it was possible to have this day, to do this and be beautiful again, and to get these incredible images. I can’t thank you enough what you, Jessica, Maria, Ali and Patricia did.

I know there are many women out there going through the same as me and I want my story and my photos to inspire every one of them to do the unthinkable. You think it’s impossible but it IS possible – Just go and do it!

Karen’s story and her attitude has been an inspiration for me and it has really opened my eyes to the service we provide for our clients every day. It’s only when you hear it from Karen’s perspective that you truly realise how important a woman’s hair is and how it really makes them feel.

Thank you Karen and Olly for letting me share your wonderful day and thank you to Vig for inviting me to be part of it. It was great to work with such a passionate team of professionals on such an inspiring story.

Maria Goad

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