Isabelle Girard

Leucan Mom and Vice President and Practice Lead at Mandrake Montreal

“Everything Leucan has done for us has been wonderful. They support the children, parents and even siblings. They are there with you throughout the illness. They never let you down. I felt a strong need to give back to the cause.” 

Serving as Vice-President and Practice Leader at Mandrake Montreal, Isabelle has been an executive recruitment specialist for 24 years. This empathetic, dynamic woman holds an honours bachelor’s degree in industrial relations from the Université de Montréal. She also has a certificate in occupational health and safety and a certificate in marketing, both from UQAM. But first and foremost, Isabelle is a Leucan mom. In 2020, her youngest son was diagnosed with cancer. Now that he’s in remission, Isabelle wants to give back to Leucan. She said YES to Les Audacieuses! 

Isabelle is linked to Leucan by life events. It all began during the pandemic, when her youngest of four children was diagnosed with cancer. “His cancer was very aggressive. It required 10 months of intensive treatment, 27 chemotherapy treatments, a stem cell transplant, three intracranial surgeries and several hospitalizations. My son and I also spent two and a half months in Boston for proton therapy treatment, which isn’t available in Quebec. It has been quite a journey. This kind of ordeal makes you see life differently.” 

Leucan became a part of Isabelle’s family as soon as the diagnosis was announced. “Our Leucan adviser listened to me and gave me advice when I needed it. I remember her soft, comforting voice. When my son and I were in Boston, Leucan was a tremendous help to the whole family, providing meals to my husband and three other children.” 

Isabelle’s family life was turned upside down. The main reason she accepted the challenge is to support Leucan’s work. “Everything Leucan has done for us has been wonderful. They support the children, parents and even siblings. They are there with you throughout the illness. They never let you down. I felt a strong need to give back to the cause.” 

Pushing the boundaries to send a message of hope 

Two of Isabelle’s children shaved off their hair as a show of support for their younger brother—before the treatments even affected his own hair. “It was a beautiful gesture of love and solidarity on their part. I wanted to do it too, but they said: ‘No, not you, mom. You have to look professional for your job.’ Even for a 14-year-old teen, hair has powerful symbolic meaning.” 

Today, with her son in remission, Isabelle is completely at ease with her decision, knowing full well what it represents. “Hair length is often associated with femininity. It sends a powerful message for young people, especially teens who lose their hair in chemotherapy. But, our hair doesn’t define who we are.” 

Given her profession, Isabelle is accustomed to building relationships with others. But participating in Les Audacieuses will take her out of her comfort zone. “I’m used to adapting to different situations. At work, I’m at ease reaching out to people, approaching them for new assignments and pushing them past their limits!  Reaching out to my network and asking for money makes me uncomfortable, but I think everyone will understand the beauty of the initiative.”  

A rational, sensitive woman who makes big gestures 

Isabelle is both organized and structured. She likes to fully understand something before moving forward. “When my son was diagnosed, I needed to understand what was happening and what was going to happen next; I was swimming in a sea of unknown. It was difficult for me, because during treatment, you have no control. I could see the devastating effects of the treatment and surgery on my son, and I had to hold on and trust the professionals. I asked the medical staff so many questions.” 

With Les Audacieuses, she understands what she’s getting into. Although Isabelle loves her hair and has kept it long and blond for most of her life, she has the courage to shave it off for a good cause. “I’m choosing to shave my head to support Leucan and especially those children with cancer who have no choice when they lose their hair.”  

Now 55 years old, Isabelle has the wisdom and experience to make unpopular choices and be comfortable with them. “I’m capable of making decisions, even if not everyone approves. I’m definitely bold enough to shave off my hair and say yes to the project. It’ll take me out of my comfort zone and what I’m used to. I'm ready to go through with it, even though it’s certain to affect many areas of my life.” 

A quiet leader, determined to look on the bright side  

Isabelle is a force of calm who wants to help others and encourage personal development. “It’s important for me to have a positive influence, whether leading by example or using a skill. I try to be there for my family, friends and coworkers. If anyone needs help or advice, I’ll be there.” 

Isabelle knows where she’s going in both her personal and professional life. And people want to follow her. “I’m not the most extroverted type, but I’m usually the one who takes the initiative to plan a trip, activity or party to bring people together. At work, I influence others through my abilities and experience. I’m more of a quiet leader.” 

This energetic woman, who positively influences all those around her, follows her heart and lives by her values in everything she does. “What I value most in life is respect, empathy and collaboration. You need to have an open mind. We’re all different, and we have to accept that. You need to take others as they are . . . and always be ready with a touch of humour.” 

Proud of her family in the face of adversity 

Cancer brings its own share of pain, which has only made Isabelle’s level of determination soar. “The last few years have been difficult for my family, but we’ve never given up. It takes a lot of determination, but we always managed to find little moments of happiness. When you’re up against cancer, you can’t give up—you fight together as a family!” 

Throughout this terrible ordeal, Isabelle has shown strength, resilience and courage in a humble way. “Courage is about getting through a difficult situation or event right to the end. It’s long and hard at times, but you have to push through it. Courage kicks in only when there’s no other choice. My son showed outstanding courage throughout his treatments. And I had no other choice than to support my family. I guess you can call that courageous, but I didn’t have any other options.” 

In hindsight, Isabelle is proud. “What I’m most proud of is my children. My family is my greatest treasure and greatest accomplishment in life. When my son was sick, we all showed a great sense of solidarity—it brought everyone together, and everyone was there for him, including Leucan.”