'Things get broken, sometimes they are repaired, and in most cases you realize that no matter what gets broken, life will rearrange itself so that you are compensated for your loss, sometimes in the most beautiful way'.
This can be found in a great book of which content and author (presumably) have nothing to do with breast cancer. But it is exactly the story of Karine Tollenaere.
Karine was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015, in the midst of her career. She had an interesting position in a large international company and had lived until then for her work and her family. When she was about to resume her job, after a long and difficult treatment, in September 2016, she unexpectedly received her resignation. Nothing so hard, nothing so ruthless.
When we spoke to Karine for a short interview, her positivity and enthusiasm were striking. "Why mourn and be negative about the past?" explains Karine very clearly. 'You have the choice: you can spend the day worrying, doubting yourself, being anxious and insecure about what the future will bring, or you can try to turn the situation into something positive’. Or dream big and your problems will become smaller.
She was also confronted with lymphedema after her treatment and with the limitations that lymphedema entails, especially in clothing. And Karine has found her new challenge exactly there. And how!
Her sense of fashion, her talent in doing business, her energy and urge for challenge, it brought her where she is today: Neliane. A clothing line created especially for the lymphedema patient but that equally can be worn by just anyone. She did extensive market research, started collaborating with a stylist, who is also a breast cancer patient, went to seek advice from numerous institutions, doctors and designers in the fashion industry, including Nathalie Vleeschouwer who loved to support her in this project and became her mentor. 'I started with ponchos, intended for the general public, to finance the clothing line. All of this has led to today's first capsule collection that is currently on the market’.
You can purchase her clothing line online at www.neliane.com, in specialty stores, such as 'Altijd Mooi', the hair clinic Jeangout and in a number of beautiful boutiques, whose addresses can be found on the website, but it is definitely the intention to expand everything further.
'Neliane is also very symbolic, the name of my mother who died of cancer. The logo embodies the metamorphosis from an ugly duckling to a self-assured swan', Karine adds. So beautiful.
And that's not all. "It is just the nature of the beast," she laughs. In addition to her clothing line, she has launched a number of new projects, and recently won a Big Questions Award. She was able to convince the students at Ghent University to conduct research into a new application that enables patients at risk to detect early symptoms of lymphedema in the home environment, and that is exactly the project that won the award. The prototype will be further developed this year at the University of Ghent and Athens.
Whether it stops there? She does not think so. And we sincerely believe her. We are very happy to know her and very happy that she is so fond of our organization. She will tell her story and show her clothing line at our upcoming In*Teams very soon. You can learn more about that shortly!
And another thing: she had her breast reconstruction by Prof. Dr. Blondeel at UZ Gent this week. A reconstruction with ‘own tissue’. And she is so relieved that she has taken that step. 'I am so happy with the wonderful result', that was her first WhatsApp message a few days ago. We wish you a lot of success Karine. And enjoy. Enjoy your health, your success with Neliane and all other challenges that will undoubtedly cross your path.