That’s Not My Age Podcast: the breast surgeon with breast cancer, Dr Liz O’Riordan
My latest podcast guest is an extraordinary woman. The consultant breast surgeon, Dr Liz O’Riordan’s world turned upside-down in 2015 when, aged 40, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In a series of incredibly honest and informative blog posts, Liz chronicled her treatment and experience as a doctor-turned-patient, detailing everything from how to cope with chemotherapy to going through early menopause.
Following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Liz returned to work, but found it tough talking about cancer all the time. ‘ It was really hard reliving it everyday. Eventually, the stress of telling 10 women a day that they had breast cancer, got to me.’ Then in 2018, the cancer came back on her chest wall. After dedicating 20 years of her life to becoming a surgeon, she made the difficult decision to take early retirement. Recovering physically and mentally from her treatment, Liz now had the additional challenge of rebuilding her career.
The amazing response she had received from readers of her blog posts offered Liz a new role, another way of helping women. Now, in her second career as an author and public speaker, she educates healthcare professionals about what life is really like after a cancer diagnosis and offers invaluable information to women going through similar experiences. Dr Liz O’Riordan is on a mission to change the conversation around cancer care.
In 2018, Liz co-wrote The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer with Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, an academic and GP. Both women have had breast cancer and the book combines their knowledge gathered as doctors and patients. In her recently launched podcast Don’t Ignore The Elephant, Liz ‘talks about the stuff that no-one else will… the stuff that scares us.’ Covering topics, such as: sex, divorce, depression and death. And, her latest project is to write a medical memoir called Under the Knife; she’s currently raising money through crowdfunding publisher Unbound. If you’d like to support Liz, you can make a pledge HERE and the book will be published next year.
In this That’s Not My Age podcast episode, Liz joins me to talk about what it was like to be on the other side of the consultant’s desk. How she overcame the challenges of a cancer diagnosis and found a new purpose in life. She details her second career as a speaker, author and storyteller, the newfound respect for her body and how she now leads a more balanced life. And, after having problems finding clothes to fit her new figure – Liz doesn’t have a left breast and doesn’t wear a prosthetic – she now makes all her own. ‘ I’m still using my hands to reshape and recreate. Sewing is my way of carrying on as a surgeon.’
Liz’s glasses are by German brand Hoet Couture from The Eye Company. She recommends Knitted Knockers, an organisation connecting volunteer knitters and crocheters with breast cancer survivors – and is currently reading Make Time (How to focus on what matters everyday) by Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben; and watching the second series of Bridgerton.
Hope you enjoy the episode, Liz is a brilliant woman and a wonderful guest.
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Producer and audio engineer: Linda Ara-Tebaldi
Host: Alyson Walsh
Guest: Liz O’Riordan
Music: David Schweitzer
Artwork: Ayumi Takahashi
Coordinator: Helen Johnson
*Due to the pandemic the That’s Not My Age podcast is now recorded using a web-based application on my computer. It is odd not being in a room with someone, not seeing a person’s facial expression or knowing if they’re about to continue talking…But it also means we can go global!