Just when her own business started to take off, Lieve was told she had breast cancer. What followed was a difficult, one-year treatment, which also gave her a different perspective on life and work. After her rehabilitation, Lieve went back to work one day a week. “Going back to work feels like I belong again.”
After a series of international management jobs at multinationals, Lieve decided to go her own way as a coach and headhunter. The order book filled up quickly, but when Lieve went to a doctor’s check-up just before her holiday, a hard verdict followed. “The doctors diagnosed a malignant tumour,” says Lieve. “That was the starting point for a one-year course of surgery and chemotherapy. At that moment, you will realise which people are most dear to you. You also consciously learn to make time for things that previously just didn’t work out. You set priorities, but I also started thinking. I wanted to be remembered more as a nice person and a good mother than as the one who always worked overtime and missed out on everything.”
Lieve didn’t think about what she wanted to do professionally at the time, but after the treatment, she decided to exchange her self-employed life for a salaried job. Lieve knocked on Randstad’s door and even though she quickly felt a click, applying for a job was a unique experience. “I really wanted to be part of the active population again. My disease is still there, but going back to work feels like I belong again. When you walk into an interview, you not only have the luggage of your work experience, but also the luggage of your illness.”
Lieve set to work for Randstad via the system of progressive resumption of work. She’s helping people find their way to a job is what really energises her.
“It is a great pleasure to no longer be on the sidelines. No progress is regression; I didn’t want to fall under the heading of ‘sick’ anymore. I’d only get sicker by staying home all the time. Working energises me, especially in this sector, where I can help people without a job.”
“My most important lesson? Live. Do what you like and think about life. It’s a pity I had to find that out this way, but I’m also grateful. Don’t stay in the negative spiral full of questions about what’s coming. There is life after cancer and there is always a plan B, even if you have to look for it very consciously.”
After a long absence you return to work as if it is a first day at school, with all the fears and uncertainty. It is certain that much will have changed.