Jennifer Jurgens has always found success in her professional life. The MSU graduate has spent the majority of her professional career working with businesses in various positions, but when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, everything changed. “I felt like that was my cue to slow down,” said Jurgens. “At the time, I had been traveling a lot for work, and I was a single mom … I had a lot going on.” Jurgens, who was working as MarketNet Services’ vice president of sales and marketing, quit her job shortly after receiving her diagnosis to seek out a career that gave her a sense of purpose. “Everyone thought I was crazy when I quit my job,” she said. “But I told them, ‘I want to do something that matters — something that has a goal other than making money.’” In April 2012, she founded 1 Bold Step, a marketing firm whose mission is to work with “passionate people who want to get good work done.” Not long after that, a local recruiter asked her to consider taking on the position of executive director for Susan G. Komen West Michigan. As a long-time supporter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it wasn’t difficult for her to decide to accept the job. In the nearly three years that Jurgens has served as executive director, she has taken on quite a bit; she serves on Komen’s Affiliate Leadership Council, manages three affiliate offices and oversees volunteers, committees and community grant programs, to name a few. But one of the most notable accomplishments she has attained was successfully merging three Michigan Affiliates of the foundation (Mid-Michigan, Southwest Michigan and West Michigan) to form a stronger, more efficient affiliate known as Komen Michigan. No other Komen Affiliate has ever merged three affiliate chapters. Her work during the merger garnered attention from Komen’s Affiliate Network, and in June of this year, she received the “Excellence in Staff Leadership Award,” which is given to a staff member of a local Komen Affiliate for accomplishments that exceed normal job responsibilities and expectations. “I was blown away when I received the award,” said Jurgens. “It was completely unexpected and overwhelming and awesome at the same time.” Despite all of her success with Komen Michigan, Jurgens’s job doesn’t come without its own challenges; at times, the stories she hears from breast cancer survivors and women who are still fighting the disease can be draining. “I have a huge capacity for work, but the emotional side of this job can be exhausting,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard to streamline our process at Komen Michigan and be more efficient, but it doesn’t matter how efficient or smart you are when something touches your heart.” Aside from her daily responsibilities, Jurgens also works directly with the people who utilize Komen Michigan’s services, and this is an incredibly rewarding part of her job. “When a woman finds breast cancer early, she has a 99 percent survival rate, and when a woman calls and tells me that it’s not advanced, I think, ‘good, you caught it early,’ and I see that as a little victory,” said Jurgens. She also stated that no matter what stage of cancer women have, the staff at Komen Michigan aims to do whatever they can to help. “If they ever think there’s a barrier to them getting help, they can call Komen,” she said. “We may not have the resources to help them, but we definitely know someone who does.” Even with better odds of survival with early detection, Jurgens hopes that some day soon doctors will be able to find not one, but multiple cures for cancer at any stage. Until then, Komen Michigan will continue to raise money for research and programs. Komen Michigan holds a number of fundraising events throughout the year, but one of Jurgen’s favorite events is the Race for the Cure. “The race is great, because it’s filled with survivors … some of the women who attend have been survivors for over 35 years,” said Jurgens. “It’s so great because so many people are raising money for complete strangers so that their journey [with breast cancer] is a little easier. It’s really inspiring.” The Race for the Cure is held annually in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. For more information about this and other Komen events, visit komenmichigan.org.
Alicia Pilmore is a Communications Specialist at M3 Group and Editor for the Capital Area Women's Lifestyle Magazine. She loves writing, wine tasting and spoiling her cat, Pishi.