Dr Doireann O’Leary has generated an army of 155,000 Instagram followers thanks to her impressive pictures and accessible Insta stories on a wide range of medical issues. ‘You’ve been such an informative, calm and rational (never mind beautiful!) source of information’, posted one follower recently.
But it’s not all work during the lockdown. The Cork GP likes to set the weekend apart by getting dressed up as if she’s going out. “Though it’s completely ridiculous when you are going absolutely nowhere — it has broken up the week for me. And my husband Peter humours me,” she says.
“Maybe there’s an artistic element to it but it’s also a little bit of fun, lighthearted.”
In the past year, lighthearted moments have been rare. Her beloved father died in April 2019 and 18 days later she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her treatment and recovery became “the most important, pervasive thing” in her life.
“There were times in 2019 between July and Christmas that I’d forgotten what had happened — that my dad had passed away. I don’t know if I’ll ever grieve his passing in the normal way.
“Then there’s the type of grief that comes with a cancer diagnosis.”
Though she has made an excellent recovery, the memory still lingers. “Even one year on — it’s still so high up in mind.”
What shape are you in?
I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I cut back a little bit on my working hours after I came back from sick leave. Now I’m working four days a week.
I’ve always been athletic. I did invest in getting some home equipment because I knew I needed to stay balanced and keep up my exercise during lockdown. Typically, I’d exercise five
days a week. I do about 40 minutes on the cross-trainer or maybe on the rowing machine.
I love to go on a walk as well with my husband. It’s so important as well to get out under the sky.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I do have a sweet tooth, so I try and stay away from chocolate and things like that during the week. At the weekend I allow myself to indulge because I think you have to live a little bit. I’m not a foodie at all — never have been. Because I have IBS my diet is bland — it’s just a lot of vegetables, chicken, salads, yogurts.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
I could do better with eating less chocolate at the weekend. I absolutely love Lindt chocolate. I like chocolate ice cream too.
What would keep you awake at night?
I’m a good sleeper because I am really rigorous about sleep hygiene. I know if there is something in my head that might potentially keep me awake at night, I park it until the morning. I don’t return emails after six o’clock. Peter makes fun of me about it sometimes because I absolutely will not engage my brain.
How do you relax?
For complete downtime, I like to chill on the couch and just watch TV. I like to watch current affairs, like Claire Byrne Live.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Oprah Winfrey — I love her. The Obamas would be amazing as well to have around. And Dara Ó Briain — he’d be a bit of a laugh.
I always go back to Jo Malone’s Lime, Basil & Mandarin, the perfume and candles.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
My life would be a lot easier if I was a natural blonde. It would save me a fortune. I’ve been warned not to do a DIY job during lockdown.
When is the last time you cried?
From the time I was diagnosed with cancer to the time I had surgery, I didn’t cry. Then two weeks later, when I was home and recovering, it hit me like a wave. I remember crying for about half an hour — it was a good release.
What traits do you least like in others?
Lack of empathy.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
Lack of spontaneity. I plan everything.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Garrettstown Beach, Co Cork.
What quote inspires you the most?
‘Keep going’. It’s so easy and simple. If you find yourself faltering just keep going.