The Elena Siltanen
Pharmacy Advocacy Program

Elena flashing the victory sign

Friends and Family Share Their Tributes

February 2021

Elena Siltanen was born in November 1974 in Leningrad, USSR, ( now St. Petersburg, Russia). Her mother, Lidia, was a Pharmacist Director for their neighborhood Pharmacy, and her father, Sergei, was a Mechanical Engineer. She has a younger brother, Pavel who is also ridiculously well educated, with a BSc, two Masters degrees in Economics, and a PhD in Chemistry and Bioinformatics. When she was a teen Elena was involved in the Wiseman's Club, and subsequently had the chance to travel to Norway, Denmark, France, Finland, the USA, and eventually Canada.

It was on this cultural exchange to Canada that Elena and I met. Elena was billeted with friends of my family. We would often get together during the summer months to play music. They introduced her to me and asked if I would show her around our small town. Our feelings for one another slowly grew, and it was obvious to us that we had a special connection by the time she left six weeks later. We wrote letters to one another on an almost daily basis for over a year, not much email in those days.

When I finished my degree, I took what was left of my student loan money and flew to St. Petersburg to spend the summer with her. We were engaged that Christmas when she flew to Canada to spend the holidays with me, and we married the next summer in St. Petersburg.

After our marriage we settled in my hometown, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. We welcomed our first child, Michael in August of 1999, just 12 days after our first anniversary!. Elena worked tirelessly to get her Canadian Pharmacy Licence; it took her seven years to jump through all the hoops placed in her way. Along the way we welcomed another child, Paulina, in May 2004. Elena has spent most of her career as a Clinical Pharmacist at our local hospital, working closely with other health professionals to try to help as many patients as she could. There are many that owe her their lives.

When she was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2018 it came as a complete shock, she had never smoked, and always led a very healthy lifestyle. She immediately set to work on finding the best path to a cure, knowing fully that the statistics were not in our favor. I know the Exon 20 Group has worked tirelessly on this with her, and for that I will be eternally in your debt. Cancer shifted her clinical focus, and your organization gave her the ability to keep working to help others along the way. I know that without these interactions with Exon 20 Group patients and family members as well as other researchers, oncologists, and patients she would not have made it this far.

Elena and I have had an amazing journey over our 23 years together. We have raised two children, travelled the world, with and without those children, and loved every day spent together. While this is not the end to the fairy tale romance that we had in mind, we have had an incredible life together.

_Don Siltanen

I met Elena shortly after she came to Canada. She was looking for information and resources to help her become a licensed pharmacist in Canada, and she approached my manager at the time at the Sault Area hospital pharmacy. Our manager introduced us and asked me to help her and mentor her. And so our friendship began!

She borrowed text books, we had long conversations over tea to work on her English! She had the best sense of humor and was the first to laugh at her (often) misuse of slang words! It took several years, but she persevered and passed one exam after another, ultimately becoming a student with us, then an intern and finally a pharmacist. I was in awe of this petite little girl who was so determined to make this happen!

Hiring her was a no brainer! We all loved her as a person, but what stood out the most was her compassion for patients. She went above and beyond to make sure they were safe with their medications. She has been known to drive to their home to check in on patients and educate them!

When Elena was diagnosed she threw herself into helping patients going through the same thing that she was going through--she wanted them to be more comfortable. We would often chat about ideas on battling side effects. She always was thinking of others. Her determination and strength throughout this has been inspiring. Elena was a person who inspired those around her to be better humans and practice kindness and compassion.

Losing her has been a great loss to our department and to her patients but most of all to her friends who adored her.

Elena always commented about being grateful to me for helping her become a pharmacist, but it is I who is eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about being a better human from her and enjoying a wonderful friendship for many years.

Thank you, Elena, for forever imprinting my heart.


Maria Coccimiglio
Colleague and Friend
Sault Area Hospital Ontario, Canada

Elena was a true source of comfort to me upon my initial diagnosis, reminding me that I was at the start, and not the end, of my journey. She continued to offer comfort and advice on side effects and pain management as I cycled through treatments. She was a very compassionate and kind individual who will be greatly missed.

a patient in Canada

To submit your own tribute about Elena here, please email us at and we will post it within 24 hours. Please include your phone number.

The Elena Siltanen Pharmacy Advocacy Program
is a vital part of ICAN's Cancer Patient Advocacy and Clinical Trials Program Advocacy Services.

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