My Heart Tug Tries to Create Light in the Darkness

Founder Ali Yang’s cancer diagnosis inspired her to create an apparel brand that not only offers solidarity but gives back
Ali Yang, founder of My Heart Tug, and her son, Paxton
Ali Yang, founder of My Heart Tug, and her son, Paxton

Courtesy Ali Yang

My Heart Tug features beanies, baseball caps, and a message: Despite the darkness and the pain, there is light and happiness, too. Founder Ali Yang knows this all too well. Indeed, it was her journey from a devastating cancer diagnosis to a renewed joy in fashion that inspired her to begin the brand in the first place.

In May 2018, two months after giving birth to her first child, the Minnesota resident was diagnosed with stage IV triple negative breast cancer. By the time she had received the news, the cancer had spread to her liver and bones. Before her diagnosis, Yang was a pharmacist and an avid fashion blogger the rest of the time. Between radiation, chemotherapy, and raising her son, however, her life halted.

Then, a few months after the initial diagnosis, she made a change. After sharing an emotional moment with her son, she realized she needed to pull herself out of the darkness she was in. Her son inspired her to take back the life she wanted. Yang sought to fight the cancer not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

“I wanted to take back all the things that I love and to not let cancer break my spirit again,” Yang says. Rather than just blogging about it, Yang wanted to create fashion. “This feels like my way of crushing what cancer tried to do to me,” she says.

After a few months of planning and preparing, Yang launched My Heart Tug in November 2019. She started with head-wear—it seemed natural due to Yang’s hair loss during her chemotherapy. Currently, there are five hat styles, all named after things or feelings that keep Yang going: strength, calm, shade (receiving a kind action is like resting in the shade), Pleiades (to represent her sisters), igloo (for Minnesota).

While anyone can wear the hats, the designs are especially comfortable for those suffering with cancer. Similar to Love Your Melon, the brand’s emblem is on each hat, helping spread her mission to support those affected by cancer. My Heart Tug donates 25% of its profits to adult cancer patients and their families for non-medical fees.

This could mean helping to pay for things such as event tickets, family photography sessions—anything that enhances bonding. My Heart Tug donates to nonprofits, such as Foye Belle Foundation, to aid cancer patients in receiving head-wear and other resources they might need in their times of stress. Yang’s goal is to create an application system for cancer patients to reach out to My Heart Tug to apply for support.

Although Yang’s life took a turn she could have never expected, she has been able to find and spread joy. By creating My Heart Tug, Yang says, “[My] hope is that by creating light and joy for these cancer patients, it will decrease some of the darkness that cancer can create.”

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