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Meet Alison Rodriguez, April Jones, Marie Aquije and Lindsey Gerhard of The Grateful Hearts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alison Rodriguez, April Jones, Marie Aquije and Lindsey Gerhard.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
We initially connected through Instagram and got to know each other attending local meetups for young women in the cancer community. Sometime in April, after a yoga event in DTLA, a small group of us weren’t ready to go home. It was only 8 o’clock on a Saturday night, so we crashed the Broken Shaker in our yoga gear and enjoyed Seedlip mocktails at this rooftop bar. We had a heart-opening conversation about our experiences attending events and the aspects where we saw room for growth in the community.

Not all of us were diagnosed with breast cancer and we envisioned a group for young women diagnosed with any form of cancer. We wanted to see more women of color represented in the cancer conversation, and there was a shared belief that we’d like more events that are mindful of the range in needs at every step of the healing journey.

One thing we all had in common was gratitude in our hearts for life’s blessings despite a cancer diagnosis. We make it a daily practice to recognize the positive and celebrate all the things, both big and small, that make life beautiful. And there you have it: The Grateful Hearts was born. Just five girls who weren’t ready to call it a night on that Saturday in April, hoping to spread cancer awareness and create a safe space for women of color going through any form of cancer.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We’re all being treated for cancer. Some of us still have weekly chemo or monthly injections. Others are in preventative maintenance, which means taking daily medication to prevent cancer from recurring. Whatever the case, we have appointments and side effects to manage on a daily basis, which adds to the challenge of creating the kind of support we’d like to see in this community.

When we’re organizing events, we give ourselves room to adjust how much each of us take on throughout the process. Sometimes it’s impossible for all of us to attend the same events or meetings because of our treatments and doctor’s appointments. We are always supportive of each other’s personal lives and realize that plans and schedules can change. Health is our first priority.

Please tell us about The Grateful Hearts.
As a support group, we organize wellness events, have a monthly book club, and plan festive celebrations. Soon after that cocktail party in April, we organized a weekend getaway in Palm Springs. There were nine of us Hearts who attended. We shared meals together, lounged by the pool, had a private laughing yoga class, and a reiki practitioner led a healing conversation. As co-founders, we experienced a special bond that helped us see we had talent for creating a safe space to heal and have fun. One of our main objectives is to organize events for our community of cancer thrivers, previvors, and carevivors.

We are active on Instagram @_thegratefulhearts_ and that’s where we do most of our outreach for now. What makes us different is that we welcome all young or young-at-heart women diagnosed with any form of cancer, especially women of color, to participate in the group. We also encourage all women to be proactive about their health by telling our stories at events in our community and through our social media.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
We’re all volunteers and this project has been a labor of love. We’re proud to have built a positive outlet to channel our energy back into the community. We wouldn’t change anything because it has given us opportunities to celebrate life and spread awareness.

Contact Info:

  • Email: thegratefulheartsgals@gmail.com
  • Instagram: _thegratefulhearts_

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