Under the Knife

By Liz O'Riordan

The Rise and Fall of a Female Surgeon

Autobiography | Mental health
132% funded
803 supporters
Preparing for print

Publication date: July 2023

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book cover
The edits are done – you can still pre-order but your name will not appear in the book.
46 pledges


Many of you wanted to support me but the postage costs were just too high (sorry). So just for you, we're releasing the e-book. Thank you again for supporting me.
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$20  + shipping
347 pledges

The book

I’ve been sitting on this book for over two years whilst building up the courage to ask you to help me get it out in the world. Thank you so much for taking a chance on me.
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$125  + shipping
8 pledges

Signed book and some of Dr Liz’s sourdough starter with video instructions

When I thought about quitting medicine (you’ll have to read the book to find out why), I planned to start my own cake shop. I went on a sourdough course and fell in love with making my own bread. I’d love you to be able to bake with me, so I’m going to send you my sourdough starter, a recipe and video instructions telling you what to do.


  • UK only.
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$625  + shipping
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Five signed books plus a virtual tea and cake with Liz

This is your chance to ask me anything. I can’t wait to spend an hour with you over virtual tea and cake, cocktails – whatever takes your fancy. You can invite your friends if you like – gang up together and spread the cost – the more the merrier. And if you’re only choosing this pledge to speak to my cocker spaniel Hunter, I’ll make sure he sits on my lap the whole time.
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$1,250  + shipping
4 pledges

Ten signed books plus Liz in person

Although it’s been great to carry on chatting to people online over the last couple of years, there’s something about talking face-to-face that brings me joy. This is your chance to hear me talk about my life in person with a Q and A afterwards. I really hope someone picks this as I’ve got an incredible outfit that I’ve made waiting just for this occasion.


  • UK only, Liz's travel costs not included
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Sold out!

$65  + shipping
38 pledges

Signed book and your own message in the back of the book

I’ve spent my life helping people, and this book is my way of giving back to every single one of you who has supported me through the years. If you would like to say thank you to me, you can have your name in the book, and if you’d like, a sentence telling me why you chose this pledge. I can’t wait to read your reasons and share them with the rest of my community.
$POA  + shipping
1 pledge


Want to get in touch about buying multiple copies of the book for your organisation, hosting a talk, or something else? Email cassie@unbound.co.uk

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Hi. You know me as the breast surgeon who got breast cancer. I started writing a blog back in 2015 when I was having chemotherapy and my life changed overnight. By being honest and open about everything I’ve been through, and offering this dual perspective of surgeon and patient, I’ve built an incredible community online that keeps me going every single day. But my life hasn’t always been dominated by breast cancer. There’s so much that I’ve kept hidden, until now. 

Under the Knife is my memoir and it tells my whole life story, from childhood, through medical school and surgical training, my cancer diagnosis, to today. You may know me for part of my story - I wanted you to finally see the full picture. 

All I’ve ever wanted to do is help people – from the age of seven, I knew I was going to be a doctor. This was the ultimate way to do it. But after spending twenty years fighting to get to the top of my field as a consultant breast surgeon, I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself and realised how little I knew about the disease I’d spent my life learning to treat.

Surgical training was hard. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to perform an operation? To literally hold someone’s life in your hands? The highs were life-changing, like being handed a scalpel in my first week as a doctor and told to cut open a small boy’s tummy.  The lows were worse. The guilt when a patient died despite doing everything I could. The feeling of physical pain when a patient complained about my care. 

Surgery was a man’s world. It still is. I started working as a junior doctor in 1998, and as the only woman on almost every team, sexual harassment and bullying were commonplace. By the time I reached my thirties in 2004, I was ready to quit. The mild depression I’d had at medical school got worse and worse. I’d spend weekends alone hiding under the duvet ignoring phone calls from worried friends. Two things helped - antidepressants and alcohol. But it wasn’t until I met my husband, who had been my boss, that I learned to love surgery again. 

Twenty years after starting medical school, I was finally a consultant breast surgeon. I loved my job. I felt like a couture dressmaker as I moulded and reshaped women’s breasts to hide their scars. I can’t tell you how good it feels to tell a patient that they don’t need chemotherapy, or the buzz I got after doing a complex case knowing I’d nailed it. But I wasn’t prepared for the stresses of my job. The reality of telling ten women a day they had cancer was destroying me, and my depression spiralled out of control. I started having suicidal thoughts and my GP had to force me to take sick leave. In July 2015, just three months after I returned to work I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself. I was only forty. After going through chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy I realised how little I actually knew about breast cancer.

This book is my way of completing the circle. I want to give something back to everyone who has supported me through the years – family, friends and my followers. By showing you how I coped when my life crashed around me, I want you to know that there is always hope. 

The world of publishing is fickle. It’s all about who you are, who you know, and how many followers you have on social media. Ultimately, the decision to publish comes down to a sales team who decides whether a book will make money. I’m just a doctor with a story to tell. This is not another male medical memoir. It’s not simply about breast cancer or depression. This is one human’s nuanced story - and maybe that’s hard to sell. But I believe you’ll get it. I believe in my community. It’s why I’m asking you to take a chance on me and help me bring my book into the world.

Praise for Under the Knife

"This riveting memoir lays bare the highs and lows of life as a lady surgeon. Liz O'Riordan takes us behind the scenes with the ruthless precision of someone who knows how to wield a scalpel and a pen. A real action-driven page-turner, the book also makes a thought-provoking contribution to the wider debate on how we as a society look after our healthcare professionals, and highlights the different way we treat physical and mental illness. I cannot praise it highly enough and long for it to be available in all good bookshops so that I can urge people to buy it!" Cathy Rentzenbrink

"[This] is, in fact, the story of two women: one is driven by ambition to be at the top of her game, to face down adversity whether that is sexism in the medical profession or fatigue in the quest for triathlon medals; the other is her hidden self, ravaged by misgivings - will she ever be enough? With extraordinary candour, breast surgeon Liz O'Riordan reveals the emotional journey unleashed by her own diagnosis of breast cancer, a confrontation that will strip her of her breast, her fertility and her career, yet finally show her that she is, indeed, enough. Liz's story reminds us all that our achievements do not define us. In the end, we find wisdom by living authentically, and that decision is the root of fulfilment." Dr Kathryn Mannix

"Gave me a real insight into what it takes to become a surgeon, and how hard it is to be a breast cancer patient when you know far too much about it." Jane Garvey

"Liz opens herself up to us like a patient opened up on an operating table, shining a bright light into the what it is to be a human being who holds the fates of other human beings in their hands." Greg Wise

Proposed format: B-format paperback


Support this project

Quick select rewards

$20  + shipping
347 pledges

The book

I’ve been sitting on this book for over two years whilst building up the courage to ask you to help me get it out in the world. Thank you so much for taking a chance on me.
Choose this reward