Former breast cancer surgeon who has fought disease becomes ambassador
PUBLISHED: 13:19 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:42 04 April 2019
A Suffolk woman who worked as a breast cancer surgeon during and after her own treatment for the disease will now help other patients manage their way back to employment following a diagnosis.
Dr Liz O’Riordan has joined social enterprise Working with Cancer as an ambassador, and the author and blogger will help the organisation support patients on a practical and emotional level.
Working with Cancer provides coaching, training, and consultancy for employers to help them offer the best support to employees undergoing cancer treatment.
According to the charity Macmillan, although 80% of people who were working when diagnosed with cancer thought it important to continue working, 47% had to give up work or change their roles as a result of their diagnosis.
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Dr O’Riordan, 43, has twice been diagnosed with breast cancer and was treated at both West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Dr O’Riordan said: “I know from my own experience just how important it is to keep working and retain something approaching normal life after a cancer diagnosis.
“Working With Cancer were key to getting me back to work. They do such important work in this area and I want to help their team spread the word so more people can access their excellent services for employers and patients.
“Sometimes it’s just the little things, like getting bowel cancer patients access to a toilet near their desk, that can make such a difference and help people’s transition back to work.
“We need to help them. Sometimes people do not know what their rights when going back to work.”
Dr O’Riordan returned to work as a consultant breast cancer surgeon at Ipswich Hospital following her treatment, but has since had to retire from the role.
“After a 20-year career, it was really hard,” she said. “But by becoming an ambassador, I am hopefully able to help people back into employment and help them get their life back.”
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Dr O’Riordan will be promoting Working with Cancer at events and online and will give talks across the country.
Barbara Wilson, founder and director of Working with Cancer, said: “Having Liz on board will help us to reach even more of the UK’s 900,000 people of working age who are currently living with cancer, as well as their employers.
“For cancer patients and their carers work can be a vital lifeline back to some kind of normality, which is hugely important both emotionally and financially. Liz’s own inspiring story attests to this and we’re delighted to have her on the team.
“It was my own experience working as a senior HR professional when I was diagnosed with breast cancer which led me to establish Working With Cancer. “So many people who experience cancer at a working age just want to keep working, and Liz’s support with our cause will ultimately help more people to achieve just that.”