Breast Cancer survivor is on a mission to lift others and bring awareness
By Amy Nicole Tangel
Living life as a working wife and mom, Jess Cruz of Medford, NY spent the early part of raising her children and building her family, as many other moms balancing a 9 to 5 job, all the while making the time to pursue her own creative passions. It all started simply with a passion for making cakes for her daughter’s birthdays growing overtime into a family-run pastry making and party planning business.
However, it all halted when Jess was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. While away from home for her grandmother’s passing, she found a lump on her breast.
“I just knew something was really wrong,” she said refusing to say a word to her family until her return.
Through all the treatments, surgeries and recovery, Jess who was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC); specifically Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 2B, continued to be a hands-on mom and lived life to the fullest and best she could.
Thankfully three years later with the care of Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Jess is now cancer-free. Having to put her pastry and party planning endeavors to the side, she is now excited about the recent opening of her new online shop, Mama Approved Boutique.
“With the type of breast cancer, I had there is no known treatment plan for it,” she said reflecting on her gratitude for where she stands today with the opportunity to start a new venture.
Partnered with her friend and mother of 5 Alysia Galarza of Bellmore, the two moms and entrepreneurs have launched an entire line of apparel, tumblers, tote bags and so much more all in a year’s time; just like she beat cancer with chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery all in less than one year.
Custom creations, logos and designs have been racking up in orders as a result of not only their online store, but in-person at local fairs and through constantly bringing followers something new on social media. Between Jess and Alysia stands 8 children and one grandchild, so when you see the Mama Approved boutique at an event it’s always a family affair.
“We just went for it. We just dove in,” said Alysia.
For customers who are looking to put their own phrases on a shirt to a coffee mug to a specific image, or they just want to shop from the boutiques original collections Jess said ever since a child being creative was always something that was just a part of her and is why she loves to create for others.
“Growing up I was always drawing, always painting,” she said.
With a career in the Life Safety field and sales by day, Jess has been working nights and weekends alongside Alysia taking turns between FaceTime, driving back and forth from Medford to Bellmore to meet and create; all the while working from their respective at-home-workshops.
As the holiday season is in full-swing they are offering special sales with affordable prices such as the $20 “Elf Gift Box” sets while supplies last filled with candy, small toys and activities with a personalized letter from your “Elf on a Shelf,” personalized bottle gift bags, cookie trays and pillowcases for your holiday home décor.
Both creative in and skilled with Cricut, Jess said it was Alysia who really lit the flame to get the business going and gave her the motivation to believe that they could do this together. While Jess wanted a new outlet for her creativity, post-cancer, she said she learned from the past taking on too much was not good for anyone, so they decided to start with each creating one logo for shirts and seeing where it went from there. First they had to come up with a name and for Jess and Alysia they both said they wanted to keep it broad but everything had to be a reflection of motherhood with positivity and purpose.
“We’re both moms,” said Alysia, “We’re both into our families, but at the end of the day what defines us is motherhood.”
For Jess and Alysia, Mama Approved Boutique is not just focused on uplifting moms, but for causes across the board. The two creators said they are both passionate about helping others and their most meaningful designs this past year have come from creating shirts for teams and organizations. Most recently, they have signed on to create shirts for a local Long Island team who will be participating in Cycle for Survival 2023 to benefit MSK Rare Cancer Research; giving back to the medical community that saved Jess’ life.
In the upcoming New Year, Jess is hoping to bring awareness to another cause near to her heart by creating items and opening conversations to support Type 1 Childhood Diabetes, a disease her youngest daughter, Karina at the age of 12 was just diagnosed with only two months ago. From life threatening blood sugar levels and back to hospitals once again, this time with her baby, Jess said it has been a real struggle to find support out there for her daughter and her family on the local level and is hoping to open new doors.
“Can I tell you? Her diagnosis, I am taking harder than my breast cancer. It’s the worst. If I could take all of it in I would,” Jess said somberly.
Looking towards the New Year, Jess and Alysia both are hopeful for what’s to come for the Mama Approved Boutique and its potential having come so far in one year. For Alysia, she said one of the most fulfilling aspects of the business for her has been the partnership that has grown between the two and how they naturally pick each other up along the way.
Taking it all in stride, Jess said just like getting through her cancer she continues to take things one day at a time making Mama Approved Boutique even more meaningful to her being able to have her daughters by her side.
“Seeing that we could do this, and we are rocking it is the most fulfilling. I love seeing the kids involved,” said Jess.
To shop Mama Approved Boutique, stay up on new items and find them at local events follow them on Instagram and TikTok: @shopalyandjess or go to https://linktr.ee/mamaapproved.