Cancer survivor gets courage to relive experience “after reaching safety of the other side”

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

A BALLINA man who overcame cancer says he had the guts to relive the experience for a new book after “reaching the safety of the other side”.

A BALLINA man who overcame cancer says he had the guts to relive the experience for a new book after “reaching the safety of the other side”.

Liam Ryan who was diagnosed with head and neck cancer 10 years ago was encouraged to get his book published by former president of the University of Limerick, Roger Downer - who was also diagnosed with cancer.

“Nobody had read it. Roger had cancer as well so I gave the entire script to him. He read it and he said to me: ‘Liam you have got to get this published’.

“That was the big green light. I knew then that I had a book of merit if you like,” said Liam who was diagnosed in 2002 with a massive cancer tumour in the middle of his head. He was given very little chance of survival.

Ten years on and aged 50, Liam felt that this was his year to tell his story.

“I always felt a sense of duty to get the story down. I wrote an original account about six months after my treatment, for myself. It was about eight A4 pages. I didn’t want to lose the little bits of details and the names.”

That little account eventually went all over the world with Liam receiving feedback from places as far away as New Zealand and Canada.

“I think I knew at that point the power it contained. Had I not written that I may never have written the book.”

One might think that it was difficult to relive the experience of suffering with cancer in the writing of the book but according to Liam “it was the opposite in fact”.

“It gives you closure. You have the guts to go back into it because you have reached the safety of the other side. You can go back into the gory details of the surgery or the tracheotomy.”

Since he completed the book, ‘Cancer 4, Me 5 (after extra time)’, Liam has advised other cancer patients to jot down details of their experience “as it a great way to open doors that you thought you would have wanted to leave closed”.

The book, he says, “ is very much cancer from the patient’s viewpoint”. “I think it is going to be very good for people who are just diagnosed – to tell them what was in my head at the various stages including of course the big stuff - living and dying.”

While Liam came close on occasion to securing a publishing deal, he ended up publishing the 330 page book himself with the Nenagh Guardian arranging the printing for him in Kerry.

“It came close with a couple of established publishers but it’s very hard to get a book published at the moment unless you are a Jedward. They said: ‘We would have published it a couple of years ago but not in the current climate’.”

Liam’s next big adventure is the running of the Dingle Marathon on September 1. He has already completed a number of races locally with everything he raises up until the marathon going towards the Mid West Cancer Foundation.

“I am starting with the hospital where it all began,” he said of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.

Earlier this year Liam set up the Liam Ryan Cancer Appeal and his intention is to raise €3 million for cancer charities over the next few years by running three marathons - one in Ireland, one in England and one in the US - as well as a whole host of running events all over Ireland. Liam is married to Pam and has three children Christy, 18, Lowell, 15, and Abe 11 and lives in Ballina.

The launch of his new book takes place this Sunday, July 8 - on the 10th anniversary of his surgery - at the Lakeside Hotel in Ballina/Killaloe at 8pm.