A FEW years ago, four best friends sat around a table, drinking coffee, dissecting life and gossiping about the hairdressing salon where they’d met more than 15 years earlier.

By this time, all were hard-working mothers, juggling their top-level principal stylist roles with parenting, but they’d been having the same kind of conversations since they were in their 20s and their friendship had only strengthened over the years.

“We’d often had a bit of a general groan about work and looking back, I think we were all ready for something different," says Trudie Heugh, from Thirsk, North Yorkshire. "Then one of us said ‘imagine if we could just open up our own salon together’ and from then on, that was the dream.”

Trudie and friends Lisa Hedley, Daniella Bevan and Tracy Nursey would often find themselves discussing their dream salon – where it might be, what it might look like - but it never went further than chat around a coffee table.

Then, in August 2015, Darlington mum-of-two Lisa was given some devastating news, which would change all their lives and start the ball rolling to make their dream a reality. She had returned to work after maternity leave and not long finished breastfeeding her son Frank when she noticed a lump in her breast.

“I leant over the baby-gate and knocked myself and it hurt – that’s when I felt the lump. If I hadn’t finished breastfeeding, I don’t think I would have noticed it until it was too late,” says the 39-year-old. “I went to the doctor and was immediately referred to a specialist. I thought it’d be nothing, but they told me there and then at a scan that it was breast cancer. The first two weeks I struggled to get out of bed, ten I got a grip of myself and thought ‘come on, I’ve got to get on with this, I’m not the first person and I won’t be the last’.”

Lisa started aggressive chemotherapy, receiving treatment at the University Hospital of North Tees, and overhauled her lifestyle to give the drugs the best chance of working.

“You feel so helpless. You think ‘what have I done to make this happen?’,” says Lisa, whose children Frank and Nancy are now three and seven. “I looked at my lifestyle and completely changed what I put in my body. I went on an alkaline, vegan diet, ate nothing processed and drank no alcohol. I was really healthy when I had my chemo, I felt like I was doing my bit.”

In February last year Lisa had a mastectomy to remove her breast and radiotherapy treatment in the April.

“Throughout it all, I was on survival mode,” says Lisa. “I didn’t tell the kids, so I suppose I was living a lie, but I did that to protect them. It made me get my act together. Even on the bad days, it forced me to have a shower, put my make-up on and act normal. It is surprising the strength you find.”

Her friends rallied around her and any moaning about work suddenly seemed inconsequential. The dream of a salon went on the backburner.

Daniella, 41, from Harrogate, says: “I’ve never seen anyone deal with what she went through with such strength. She never moaned and she looked so well throughout it.” “She had a real zest for life,” adds Trudie.

Lisa went back to work in May 2016, and life began to return to normal. The women tentatively started to talk about opening their own salon again and, following Lisa’s breast cancer treatment, they decided they wanted to make it a reality by 2018.

Then Lisa had a second health scare in June this year. She went to the doctor about a pain to the side of her head and was immediately referred for an MRI scan, which showed a shadow on her brain. She had a second scan days later.

“The doctor rang me on the Monday and told me that given my history, it is probably cancer that has spread to my brain," she says. "He didn’t have the results of the second scan at the time, but he did say it looked as though there had been a bleed. It was devastating. I ended up looking on the internet for some answers, but it wasn’t nice reading. I didn’t think I’d live to see Frank start school.”

Five days later, on the Friday, Lisa had an appointment with her oncologist and the results of the second scan showed there was no cancer to the brain.

“I was told the shadowing was just something probably there since birth and the symptoms I had been having, which by now had gone, were just the result of a virus.”

The relief for Lisa, her family and friends, was huge. Trudie says: “I think we’d all spent that week crying. I was at work when we got the call saying it was all ok and I remember Daniella just said ‘Lisa’s got the all clear, we need to open this salon together now’.”

It spurred the women into action. Lisa found an empty shop on Sowerby Road, in Thirsk, and they took the decision to open before Christmas. They women handed in their notices at work and have spent the last three months creating their new salon FOUR, which was launched officially this week.

They have each added their own creative touches to the new business, sourcing antique brass mirrors and trendy chairs for each of the six bespoke stylist stations. The salon will open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday, including a late night Wednesday.

“FOUR is the dream. We’ve all been so involved in creating a boutique salon that is more personal for our clients, a place that reflects each and every one of us,” says Tracy, 32, from Thirsk. “It’s the ideal solution. We can each work together, but in an environment that is right for us and our lives.”

Last month, amid work on the new salon, Lisa had reconstructive surgery using tissue and muscle from her stomach to create a new breast. “I feel amazing," she says, "like a woman again. Opening Four with my best friends is everything I could have dreamed of. It’s a new start and we can’t wait.”

  • FOUR Hair Salon – T: 01845 591223; W: fourhairsalon.co.uk