Cancer survivor Liam launches book in Limerick city

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

A BALLINA man who overcame cancer is to make an appearance on the Late Late Show with the surgeon who saved his life.

A BALLINA man who overcame cancer is to make an appearance on the Late Late Show with the surgeon who saved his life.

Liam Ryan who was diagnosed with head and neck cancer 10 years ago will be joined on the popular Friday night show in early November by Professor Simon Rogers of Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, who performed his lifesaving surgery.

“I was on Ryan Tubridy’s radio programme and that’s how it came about,” explained Liam who launched his book Cancer 4, Me 5 (after extra time) in the offices of Thomond Asset management in the city last Thursday evening.

“We had a fine crowd – it was lovely,” he added.

Liam was diagnosed in 2002 with a massive cancer tumour in the middle of his head. He was given very little chance of survival. He underwent a life-threatening 12 hour operation, followed by seven weeks of extensive chemo-radiotherapy. During his treatment he also got bacterial meningitis twice and a deep vein thrombosis, all of which nearly killed him.

Liam says himself that he was not “an obvious candidate for cancer”.

“At 40 I was still running regularly having six marathons, in decent times, under my belt and had never smoked.”

The last time he was inside the walls of a hospital was when he broke his arm at 17 in school and was taken to Nenagh hospital.

“However, I was to learn that this disease does not conform to any preconceptions or patterns when it comes to seeking out victims.”

Liam previously had little awareness of hospital or the health industry but now, post-cancer, he realises that the people who “daily inhabit the mini-city that every hospital is, perform the ultimate work of all and, in many ways put what the rest of us do to shame”.

“It just doesn’t get any bigger than saving or improving people’s lives,” he said.

Ten years after his initial diagnosis 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 didn’t want to lose the little bits of details and the names.”

His story has gone all over the world with Liam receiving feedback from places as far away as New Zealand and Canada. The Liverpool launch of Liam’s book featured on The Guardian newspaper in the UK in recent weeks.

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 taking part in a whole host of running events all over Ireland. Last month he completed the Dingle Marathon in just 22 seconds short of his target of five hours.

“I appreciate that will take a few years. Next year I hope to do an American marathon and one in London or Liverpool. It’s off the ground and it’s starting to take hold,” said Liam of the fundraising drive.

“We are hoping to give Professor Gupta a substantial donation for the Mid West Cancer Foundation by the end of the year. That was always going to be the first donation out of the appeal because that’s where it all began.”

Looking back on the past 10 years, Liam describes it as “an incredible experience to go through” and although very daunting and frightening at times “it also had so much that was positive”.

“I met so many incredible people that I just wouldn’t have come across any other way. I realised that I’ve got a fantastic wife and family and I live in an unbelievable community here in Ballina.”

Liam is married to Pam and has three children, Christy, Lowell, and Abe.