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Losing a Partner to Cancer Renewed My Purpose as a Pharmacist

Losing a Partner to Cancer Renewed My Purpose as a Pharmacist

image of pharmacy area with text

I have always considered myself a healer. As a boy, I was fascinated by the medicines my mother gave me for my frequent respiratory infections. I would lay in bed wondering, how are they alleviating my symptoms and making me healthy again?

Old photo of two young men smiling Eduardo Mascari Tozzi, right, with the pharmacist he worked for as a teenager in his native Brazil

At age 13, I began working at a local pharmacy in my native Brazil. It was a dream job. I would stock shelves with medicines and check packages for the names of pharmacists responsible for them. I promised myself one day I would become a pharmacist and my name would be printed on a box. While pursuing my degree, I took a job at Sankyo Pharma, a Daiichi Sankyo legacy company, as a Quality Control Analyst. My goal was achieved after many years when I was the pharmacist responsible for all the medicines marketed by Daiichi Sankyo in Brazil.

After I saw my name on those boxes, I felt my life goal was fulfilled. Where would I put my focus next? The answer revealed itself unexpectedly when João, my partner of two years, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It was painful to watch this wonderful human who had filled my life with energy be depleted of his. 

The last time I was with João was on June 12, the date on which Brazilians celebrate Valentine’s Day. From his hospital bed, he took my hand and looked at me with his big kind eyes and said, “Don’t be afraid of anything. I just wanted to be loved and you loved me.” He passed away a few weeks later, four months after being diagnosed. He was only 37. 

Two men smiling Eduardo Mascari Tozzi, left, shared this favorite photo with his late partner, João.

With his memory living on forever inside me, I began to rebuild my life in the United States with a new position as a Global Quality Assurance leader for Daiichi Sankyo. I know João is the reason I find myself so far from home, away from family and friends, with all the challenges of living in a different country. 

Not all things can be explained through a microscope. I may be a scientist, but I am also a spiritual person. I can see how my focus now needs to be on oncology. I believe it is no coincidence that 20 years later I am still with Daiichi Sankyo, where we are now developing therapies for the same disease that took my partner’s life. 

It may be too late for João to benefit from our innovative therapies, but it gives me purpose thinking other people in the world could have more time to love and be loved. 

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