Our Stories

Finding a lifeline in the midst of adversity

By Sarah Rath

Senior Manager, IT Communications

Thermo Fisher Scientific

Liz Gillick has always loved what she does. She’s built a fulfilling career in the commercial biopharma space over the last 21 years. When she’s not landing sales, you can find this warm and funny senior bioproduction account manager spending time with her family or in her home garden.

But she just never expected a Stage IV cancer diagnosis would bring even more meaning to her work and life.

Like many, Liz simply thought cancer wouldn’t happen to her.

But when it did, she quicky realized that the big pharmaceutical companies she had served throughout the years were the same ones that manufacture the treatments she suddenly found herself relying on to stay healthy.

“I’m more aware than ever that there is a patient on the other side,” Liz says. “One just like me.”


She came to that realization one day in April 2021 when Liz found a lump. A mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy a few weeks later led to a breast cancer diagnosis. At first, it seemed manageable – the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes, so she was scheduled for surgery to remove the mass. Two weeks before her surgery, however, Liz began having neck pain so she went back to the doctor. This time, a CT scan found lesions on her liver. 

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“I'm more aware than ever that there is a patient on the other side — one just like me.“

Liz Gillick
Senior bioproduction account manager
Thermo Fisher Scientific

Liz’s cancer had metastasized.


Surgery was no longer an option. Just two months after finding that lump, Liz was now facing a much more serious diagnosis - Stage IV cancer. Treatment at this stage is focused on keeping the cancer stable and preventing it from spreading further. A patient’s status can change quickly, making regular scans, blood tests and oncology appointments essential.


“I will be on treatment for the rest of my life,” says the Ireland native, who was born in County Mayo and has lived most of her life in Dublin.



When her doctor asked if she was interested in genetic testing, Liz immediately agreed.

As a Thermo Fisher colleague, she knows how impactful such testing can be on supporting her therapy, which has included a tumultuous cycle of multiple treatments and intensive chemotherapy — all with varying degrees of success. Thankfully, her current treatment regimen has been both effective and manageable.

“It’s about finding a treatment that works, and then if not, moving on to the next one, and hopefully not running out of options,” she says.

For that, Liz knows she’s relying on the customers to whom she sells Thermo Fisher products and services, from engineers and scientists to quality and procurement teams who are developing and manufacturing the next generation of cancer treatments.

What is most amazing about Liz’s story is how she tells it. Despite the regular check-ups, scans and treatment changes, she is upbeat, happy, optimistic and grateful. In conversation, she remains confident (“I’m still just as hungry as I was when I first started in sales.”) and holds on to her self-deprecating humor when she talks about her gardening skills (“I have no idea what I’m doing in the garden.”).


“Seeing Liz go through this journey has been heart-breaking and inspiring,” says Liz’s manager, Claire Healy, director of sales. “I was initially completely shocked and couldn’t even imagine how it felt for Liz and her family, but she has dealt with it the way you would expect Liz to – with positivity and determination.”


But getting back to her humorous and positive nature took time, Liz says.

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“When I think back, the first few months were just dreadful. I remember saying to my mother, ‘How am I going to cope with this?’ It’s hard not to have it in your thoughts 24/7, but I just had to find a way to come to terms with it so I could continue on with my life.“

Liz Gillick
Senior bioproduction account manager
Thermo Fisher Scientific

As a mother to two sons, Dan, 11, and Charlie, 10, and wife to her husband, Dave, for 13 years, Liz’s family became her support system. She also leaned on her parents, six siblings and 14 nieces and nephews.

She says keeping busy is key, including finding hobbies and making time to enjoy herself, which in her case has included going through her photos and printing hard copies for frames around the house.

Counselling was invaluable to help her come to terms with the diagnosis.

“Having never faced anything like this before, learning techniques to handle fear has made a massive difference,” she says.

Today, Liz maintains her vibrant and positive attitude and, despite the seriousness of her condition, says she’s grateful that she isn’t in pain or limited by her cancer.

She embraces the big and the small, whether it’s shuttling her boys between football, rugby and Gaelic football (an Irish specialty) practices or taking a much-deserved family vacation to the Canary Islands.

Of all things, she says her job has also provided one of her strongest lifelines in the wake of her cancer diagnosis.

“I’m still doing my job. I can still travel. I feel great, really,” Liz says. “I consider myself very lucky and I’ve been fortunate enough to continue in my role. I see things through a different lens now. I have no doubt that Thermo Fisher has played a part in the genetic testing and cancer treatments I’ve undergone. The customers I support here in Ireland are big companies that manufacture cancer drugs.


I feel a bigger responsibility now because I know those treatments are what help keep me and others alive.”