Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is breast cancer survivor Jessica Strasberg, who co-founded I Run For Life with her two best friends as a way to raise money for the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers…
Why did you start I RUN FOR LIFE, what was the inspiration?
My two best friends – Marni Dvir and Tammy Herzog – and I started the I Run For Life event after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. We decided that we wanted to do the Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers together but found it hard to ask people for donations over email.
There are so many good causes out there, and I find it hard to directly ask people for money. Therefore, we decided to hold an event and donate the money raised to the Weekend.
We have held the event for both years at the Hoxton and have had live bands, auctions, and raffles at both events. I started doing the walk because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago.
The cause is very important to me because I have a daughter and two sisters who are also at risk for breast cancer. Speaking for myself (as my girlfriends Tammy and Marni are also co-founders), my inspiration is my daughter. When I told her when she was five years old that I had a “boobie infection,” and had to have my boobies taken away, she thought for 10 seconds then said, “will I get a boobie infection too?”
I don’t want her to worry about breast cancer at such a young age; however, she sees me and my scars and fears it will be a reality. I want to change this for her. I want her to worry about what she is going to wear to prom – not that she will get cancer.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
I am a family physician. Marni is a teacher and Tammy is a dentist. We each have three children. The most challenging part is finding the time to organize the event and get all the auction items, the band, and ensure ticket sales.
The best part of it is knowing that what we are doing is making a difference. Money raised for the Weekend has gone towards the Rapid Diagnostic Centre at PMH and this year they announced that they have a drug that has the potential to change the way breast and other cancers are treated. We did that. All the money raised in the last 10 years for the Weekend did that.
What are your fundraising goals for this year?
Last year we raised $26,000. This year, we wanted to at least match or beat that number. With all the donations that people made, and the ticket sales and auction from the party, we raised $38,000.
Why is giving back important to you?
Giving back is important for me because it is important for all of our futures. One in nine women will get breast cancer. It is sad to say, but I look around every year at the event and see how many women are wearing blue lancets compared to those wearing pink, signifying they are survivors.
This will be my sixth year doing the walk. Every year, I wonder how many will be wearing pink the following year. I never thought that I would be one of those women wearing pink at such a young age. We give back so that one day we won’t need these walks, so that one day our children or grandchildren will hold fundraisers for happier things.
Where do you see your involvement five years from now?
I will always be involved in breast cancer awareness and fundraising. My daughter still looks at me at least once a month and says she doesn’t want to be an adult because she doesn’t want a boobie infection.
I told her that she won’t have to worry about it, because by the time she is an adult we will have a cure. I have never lied to my daughter and I hope that I can keep this promise.
I am very blessed. I am a proud survivor. I will continue to be involved for those who lost their battle and for their families, because I know how blessed I am to be here today.
What does success look like to you?
Success is being happy in your life and enjoying what you do. Success is seeing your family happy. Success is meeting the love of your life at 18 years old, having three beautiful children and still being in love 20 years later. Success is not looking and others and wanting what they have. Success is living life to its fullest every day because you never want to say ‘I wish I could have…’
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
It’s hard to come up with just one. Getting into medical school was pretty memorable. I always wanted to be a physician but I took the long road; I didn’t start medical school until I was 27.
Joining my sister’s practice as a family doctor was pretty great too. My siblings and I are very close and working with one of my sisters is special. I work in a busy practice at Jane and Finch and my patients are incredible. They make every day a great day to go to work.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Find something you will be happy doing for the rest of your life if you can, but ensure you make time for your family as well, because they are the ones who will always love and support you.
What is Notable to you?
What is Notable to me is how many important fundraisers there are in any given week, and how supportive and helpful people have been towards our event. It has been amazing to see how many people have been so generous to this very personal cause for my family and myself. Thank you to all of you.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
Definitely iPhone. I never have to take the battery out to reset it because it never crashes. In fact, I don’t even know where the battery is in an iPhone.
How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
I run, hence the name I Run For Life. I did my fasted 10k race two days after my breast biopsy and I ran two weeks after my mastectomy. The first song I always listen to is I Run For Life by Melissa Etheridge, who is also a survivor. Running keeps me happy and sane.
This year’s Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers takes places August 24-25 in Montreal and September 7-8 in Toronto. Click here for more details.
Top photo courtesy Jordan Prussky (Jessica pictured third from left)