Portraits of Courage
For Manhattan Beach resident and yoga instructor Tiffany Friedman, the decision to publicly chronicle her battle with breast cancer reflects a commitment to shine a light on the disease she says has been a challenge … and a blessing.
- Written byMarlene Stang
Tiffany Friedman received the news just a few weeks after her 44th birthday: She had invasive breast cancer.
She would also later learn that she was BRCA2-positive and therefore genetically predisposed to arrive at this fork in the road. Tiffany’s paternal grandmother had passed away from the disease at just 45. But soon after receiving the sobering diagnosis, the lifelong athlete, yoga instructor and owner of Haute Yogi yoga studio in Manhattan Beach decided to fight.
Just a week prior, in fact, Tiffany’s 14-year-old daughter, Shelby, had received a key pendant with the word “fight” stamped onto it. She was given the key by a friend who had drawn comfort from it while her brother recovered from an accident.
“I had been through four treatments when my hair started to fall out. I had a little party and asked a friend to cut my hair off so I could donate it to a wig manufacturer. We had a great time and, again, I was supported by friends and family beyond my wildest dreams.”
“(This was) after my fifth treatment, and my hair was coming out in clumps. I went to a friend later on that day to have her shave my head completely. It was such a shock to shave it all off. I remember driving home with my daughter, feeling very vulnerable and sad. However, I taught a class soon afterward, and as soon as I walked into my studio I was supported and loved so completely. I then felt very free and more settled in my new appearance.”
In the moment, the gift seemed random. But as soon as Tiffany was diagnosed, Shelby recognized that the key was, in fact, meant for her mom. Tiffany has worn the pendant ever since.
While undergoing chemotherapy (and still teaching two to three yoga classes a week), Tiffany made the bold decision to share her journey—through photos and reflections—on Facebook. That decision, like the decision to pose for the photos you’re seeing here, was part and parcel of her personal mission to remain transparent and authentic. In the process, many people have reached out to Tiffany to share how her journey has impacted them, or simply to offer their support.
And of course, through it all, there’s been yoga. Tiffany notes that teaching yoga has kept her ego in check. “Losing your hair is an emotional thing, but when you’re in front of your class, baring your soul as an instructor, your hair (or lack of it) suddenly becomes less important.”
“At this time, I felt fairly confident with myself bald and was in the process of changing my treatment regimen from biweekly treatments of two very strong chemotherapy drugs to weekly treatments with a new regimen of drugs. I felt a little uneasiness with this change. However, I was also looking forward to the charity events I was becoming involved in, like All Night for the Fight at Mira Costa High School. I would also soon walk a survivor lap with other cancer survivors at Tour de Pier in Manhattan Beach, where I would be up on stage and bald in front of our community.”
“Here, I’m six treatments in and feeling pretty good. My daughter did the henna (for Tour de Pier at her school), including the sparkly purple glitter. It made me feel beautiful to have my head decorated and sparkly. Getting up on stage with my dear friend Chrissy Roth (at Tour de Pier) and looking out over the many, many friends who were participating, I was overwhelmed by the healing power of such community events. It was such an amazing experience, and I was filled with so much love and support that day. I was floating for weeks after that event.”
As she rounds the bend on her course of treatment, her overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude—for her family, friends and the community at Haute Yogi who’ve walked beside her throughout her journey.
She states, “They’ve brought me meals and gifts, given me rides, and always provided me with love and support. I truly feel that I am blessed to experience this. Life is a gift, and it is important to cherish every day. Enjoy your friends and family and wonderful community. We are so blessed to live in the South Bay.”
“This was just after Mother’s Day and a wonderful trip to New York City with my daughter and our friends from New Zealand. It was a challenge to travel while undergoing treatment, and my friend had to give me Neupogen injections twice while we were there. I was feeling more comfortable with being bald or wearing wigs or scarves and enjoyed traveling. I was finding that I could still do quite a lot and just needed to slow down from time to time. I discovered that I could still teach and practice in the days following chemo and felt amazing when I felt good enough to do that.”