“In the car on my way to the hospital I came up with all kinds of scenarios: from an operation to cut a node, a mastectomy, breast cancer. The latter would be the worst case scenario,” says Jorieke. Her mother died of cancer when Goriki was 14 years old. Other family members also died of cancer.
Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario turned out to be true. “I walked into the surgeon’s room and he immediately said, ‘The results show you have breast cancer.’ I sat in my chair for a second, he himself was still standing. Later I asked a nurse if I wanted to have children, because chemotherapy can make you sterile. I was in A state of shock. Like turning off a lamp: complete noises in my head and body.”
Every day in the hospital
Jorieke was found to be a carrier of the BRCA1 gene and have a genetic predisposition to developing breast and ovarian cancer. All kinds of investigations were carried out promptly. A treatment plan was put in place, the fertility program was immediately started, and the first course of chemotherapy began a few weeks later.
“When I think back to six months ago, he’s gone through a blur, a flurry of emotions. Where I’d normally go to work every day, now I’m suddenly in the hospital every day.”
We’ll solve it here
After the results, she immediately called her colleagues. He answered with great understanding. “My colleagues said: We’ll solve it here, you do what you need now.” Most of all, she needed a space to process the message and tell friends and family. And time, for all investigations and the path that began immediately.
Her employer, executing organization Werk en Inkomen Lekstroom, left her alone for some time. “There were phone calls, but they were basically asking me what I needed. The peace they gave me helped me through that intense and uncertain first phase.
Jorieke is a work coach in the municipality of Houten. It guides people around social assistance to find a job, if possible. She initially did the work on a loan basis for a few months. Eight months later, she was given a one-year contract, expiring in November.
“I wasn’t expecting my contract to be turned into an indefinite contract,” Jorieke says. “Not while I’m still very sick.” “My treatment will take some time. I really appreciate the fact that my employer dares to give me a contract for an indefinite period of time.”
The pressure on money decreases
It is not only a symbol of appreciation that she is doing a good job, but it removes an incredible amount of stress. “I’m alone and I live in a rented house. My fixed costs are too high, I have a car. I can afford it through my job, but if I get sick and have to hand over part of my salary, it will also be very tight.”
Nor does she want to lose her job. “When I hope to start integrating again soon, it’s good to do so with colleagues who know my situation, who are involved and who understand. I have to learn new things, like setting my boundaries well. This is easy with people who I feel comfortable.”
Jurek stared for a long time at the message that said “indefinitely”. “It gives such a boost. I also think it has a positive effect on my healing process. It takes a lot of stress. I can stay in my house, with my friends around, and the income will still be the same for me for now. I’ll soon be able to focus.” On my recovery without pressure to work.”
Work is part of your identity.
Dr. Margot Jossen from Tilburg University says: “Gorecki’s story is very positive and a great recruitment process. It is not something many other cancer patients experience.” At Tranzo, a science center for care and wellbeing, she has led and supervised various cancer studies and work.
“Work is an important part of our lives. Not just to make money, we derive our self-esteem from it. It’s where you develop yourself, it’s part of who you are,” says Joosen. When you are sick, you suddenly lose a lot: your health, your hobbies, your sport. “And your job. For a moment you’re just ‘that patient.’ At some point it’s good to shift the focus back – on your terms – back to work.”
According to Josine, the role of the employer is very important in this regard. “Many employers respond after someone is told they have cancer to ‘stay home’ and then don’t say anything else. That might be nice, but it’s best if they ask: What do you think our need? Do you need?”
“We see employers fill in too much for the sick employee,” Joosen says. “While a large portion of patients who do well also get energy from working in a nice team and feel valued again.”
Lots of extra costs
According to Jozen, cancer patients regularly lose their jobs and self-employed lose clients if they have cancer. “While it saves a lot of stress if the finances stay the same. Twenty percent of cancer patients will have a tough time financially. Then the treatment is offset, but there are often travel and accommodation costs or higher energy costs because the heating is higher.”
According to Jossen, working during or after illness is important not only for self-esteem, but also for money. “I would say to employers: Look at what is important to the employee with cancer and make them feel heard and recognized. Then you have an employee who is motivated and enjoys going to work.”
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