When Debra Strochak was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 1998, doctors gave her a three- to five-year life expectancy.
Her tumor was large and the odds weren’t in her favor.
As a result, she decided to take part in a stem cell clinical trial at Baptist Hospital, which involved five months of high dosage chemotherapy, breast surgery, a stem cell transplant and five weeks of radiation.
Now, 15 years later, she is alive and cancer free.
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“Since my diagnosis, I’ve witnessed both my kids graduate, walked them both down the aisles of their weddings and I’m now blessed with five grandchildren,” said Strochak, 62. “I’m just happy to still be here.”
After overcoming her battle with breast cancer, Strochak decided she wanted to help others fight the fight.
She began selling specialty license plates that raise funds for breast cancer research through her auto tag agency family business. She joined the board of the American Cancer Society Miami-Dade and became a sponsor and team captain for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
But she wanted to do more.
One day after reading a quote – “Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.” – which is how she signs her emails, Strochak decided she would create a watch that was affordable and designed for both men and women.
Working with two friends in the jewelry business — Fran Brooks and Barbara Courshan — she founded Our Gift of Time, a line of watches, ranging from $213 to $259, that she sells online at www.ourgiftoftime.com
Watch purchasers can choose to donate the proceeds of the sale to the American Cancer Society, Baptist Health Breast Center or the MD Anderson Cancer Center Moon Shots program during the checkout process.
“I don’t make a penny off of it,” she said. “I want people to grasp the concept. We’re still ticking.”
On Monday evening, there will be an Our Gift of Time opening party from 6 to 8 p.m. at Balans in The Shops at Mary Brickell Village. The event is free and open to the public. Watches will be on display, order forms will be available and hors d’ oeuvres and cocktails will be served.
In the future, Strochak hopes she can change the color of the bow on her watches and donate to other causes such as ovarian cancer, colon cancer, lymphoma, childhood cancers, diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer and lupus.
“More than a watch, more than a piece of jewelry and more than an item, I want people to understand that life and being here for the time that you’re here is a true blessing,” she said. “Paying forward or giving back is one of the biggest gifts of all.”