The Atlantic

A Breast-Cancer Surgeon Returns to Work After Breast Cancer

Liz O’Riordan went from doctor to patient, and back again. Here’s what she learned on the way.
Source: Liz O'Riordan

Earlier this month, Liz O’Riordan found herself once again, scalpel in hand, staring down at a woman with breast cancer. The patient was 65 years old, and had reacted to her diagnosis with stoicism. Fine, she had said. I have breast cancer. Chop it out and move on.

O’Riordan had done just that many times before, in her career as a breast-cancer surgeon. But this case was different. It would be the first operation she would do after having been treated for breast cancer herself. It would be the first time she donned a surgical mask, after years in a patient’s shoes.

In July 2015, O’Riordan discovered a lump in her breast—the fourth in five years. She wasn’t worried: All the others

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