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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Pfizer colleague, Lilia, has always faced life’s challenges head-on. From financial struggles to the daily demands of parenthood as a single mother, she has navigated obstacles with determination, resilience and a sense of humour. But in September 2022, life threw Lilia her biggest curveball yet: a stage 3, hormone-dependent breast cancer diagnosis.

During one of her routine breast self-examinations, Lilia noticed something unusual: her left breast was unnaturally hard.
“It was really hard, like a stone,” she recalls. After a mammogram and three rounds of ultrasounds, the surgeon uttered the words she was expecting to hear, but wished she hadn’t: “you have cancer,” he said.

From that moment on, Lilia explains that her priority was focusing on her health and wellbeing. “And this advice was unanimously expressed to me by all my colleagues and managers,” she said. “The support I received from my colleagues, direct manager and HR was amazing.”

The first couple of weeks following the diagnosis were filled with anxiety, fear and sadness as Lilia wondered what the prognosis was with this type of cancer. But after allowing herself some time to process the weight of her new reality, Lilia adopted a resolute mindset for moving forward: “We're just going to do what needs to be done, and that's it,” she thought to herself.

And that's exactly what she did. Shortly after her diagnosis, she began her treatment. After several months, Lilia was officially cancer-free in August 2023.

But life after cancer presents its own set of unique challenges, often overlooked, including the anxiety of recurrence, navigating changes in family dynamics, and reestablishing a daily routine. She says it also calls for leniency, self-acceptance and an understanding that the body is still healing.

Lilia and her two daughters after her surgery on May 2, 2023, which also happened to be her birthday. “I tried to see it as a positive,” Lilia said. “It was like the gift of life.”

“Since my battle with cancer, I now live with chronic back and joint pain. My muscles are much weaker than before and any task I undertake feels much harder,” Lilia explains. “There are moments when I feel older than my 75-year-old mother.”
Although the future remains unknown, Lilia is grateful to be here today – and so are her colleagues.

Pfizer colleague, and long-time friend Jason, shares that all Lilia’s colleagues were overwhelmed with joy as they watched her return to the office full-time in April 2024. “You can't express what a moment of joy looks like better than seeing her walk through those doors,” he says. “In my mind, having her come back to Pfizer was the purest form of joy that you can create.” Jason says Lilia embodies Pfizer’s core values of courage, excellence, equity and joy.

To others dealing with their own battles, Lilia offers some advice: “keep positive and don’t lose sight of the objective,” she says. “It's going to be hard, but just see yourself reaching the end, one day at a time.”

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