Salon intertwines truth, positivity



JASPER — Be true. Be kind. Be you.

More than two years after complications from a brain tumor surgery left Carla Popp, 53, unable to walk or speak, the Jasper woman is bringing the words above to life in a new hair salon.

They comprise the slogan for True Salon, which will open in a renovated garage at Popp’s home, located at 545 N. Weisheit Dr. W., within the next two months.

“It’s so scary when you’re living your life and everything’s great, and then all of the sudden, it’s just like somebody turns the lights out and everything has changed,” Popp said in a Monday interview. “But you have to stay positive.”

Her styling career began in 1986, and her professional journey can be charted through a few Jasper salons, beginning with The Hairworks on Ninth Street. After three years there, she moved to Making Waves on Sunset Drive until it closed in 2003, and since then, Popp has worked at Sunstation Salon on Second Street.

Doctors told Popp immediately after her procedure that she would probably need to work in a quieter environment, “but I was so bound and determined to get my life back that I just thought I was Wonder Woman and could do everything,” she recalled. She returned to the salon part time in May 2018 and added more hours back gradually.

Her time away from Sunstation during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home-order showed her how much better she feels when she’s removed from the noise that bounces off the walls in the salon. Still, the decision to open her own salon wasn’t easy.

“I hate to leave there,” Popp said of Sunstation. “But you have to make a choice about your health and what’s best for you. I’ve had a lot of clients for 30-plus years, and we’re really close. And I think it’s going to be a good move.”

Popp was diagnosed with a meningioma in November 2017. For years, she blamed her recurring headaches, balance issues and sinus issues on allergies and age, but during one wellness visit, her doctor ordered an MRI.

Thinking the scan was extreme, Popp went back to work and joked with her coworkers that she probably had a brain tumor. She’s now thankful for that MRI, because it saved her life.

The following week, seven days before she turned 50, she learned that a benign tumor the size of a golf ball, located in her cerebellum, had wrapped around her optic nerve and was pressing on her spinal cord.

She knew going in that she would lose hearing in her right ear. She figured she’d recover while watching Netflix on her couch. She didn’t know that she’d wake up from the procedure — which was unexpectedly extended from 12 hours to 24 hours — with a paralyzed vocal cord, double vision in her right eye and the inability to walk.

“And it was a long journey back,” Popp said.

At first, she was devastated and scared. She didn’t know what would return to her on that long journey. Her faith in God got her through the tough times.

Paired with the strong support system that surrounds her and the team of medical professionals that helped rehabilitate her and lift her back up, Popp said she has recovered to the point that she can do pretty much whatever she wants.

“I really don’t have any limits,” Popp said. “I’m very lucky. I just feel so blessed, and I don’t take anything for granted because you just never know. You’ve got to live each day to the fullest, and be positive and make the most of it. And be kind to people.”

Some things are still different. Popp lives with a chronic cough, and though she does have some peripheral double vision in her right eye, her sight has improved since the surgery. She also has weakness in her right side that slows her while kneeling or getting up.

She still goes in for periodic and annual checkups. About 8% of the tumor could not be removed due to its location, but it has not grown since her surgery in 2018.

Accepting her limitations isn’t always easy. But those limitations don’t stop her from staying optimistic and pushing ahead.

“I try to be positive every day,” she said. “Because there’s so many people that have it ... way worse than me.”

She knew her future was in cutting and styling hair even when she was a little girl. She said there’s something special about having the power to make someone feel beautiful.

“I can never, ever remember wanting to do anything else,” Popp said. “I just thought it was creative. And it is just such a personal thing. I have had clients that I have given their kids their first haircut, and then given their grandkids their first haircut. I've done it so long. And these people are such an important part of my life.”

She later continued: “At first, I thought it was just about doing hair. But it’s just about so much more.”

Popp and her husband, Randy, have three adult sons, Casey, Carson and Colin.

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