I found a lump in my breast a few days after my birthday. Yesterday I received confirmation that I am fighting breast cancer. I contemplated sharing this on FB, and after an uneasy day yesterday, I woke up this morning and remembered who I am.
I am a fighter! I am a teacher and I love what I do. So I will share this news. Not with a heavy heart or with sadness. I share this with all my strength, my energy and my power to fight this.
I would prefer not to do this alone. I recognize that I don’t always ask or accept help easily. I ask right now, publicly for your help. I ask for your prayers, your positive energy, and your collective awesomeness to be directed to me to assist me in this fight.
I welcome your loving energy and your support. I am so very grateful for the life I have. I plan to continue living it to the fullest every single day.
I am teaching tomorrow Beyond Haute at 10:15 Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach I would love to see you!
Facebook Status Update
Tiffany Friedman has never been a wimp. Strong, smart, and engaging, she radiates warmth and positivity. She’s one of those people who can see beyond the limits of what others can and then has the ability to take that vision to reality. She’s a master manifestor. And she’s unstoppable.
Several years ago, when Tiffany was busy running her husband’s cosmetic dermatology practice and raising their daughter and son, she began taking classes at the local Bikram studio up the street from their home in Manhattan Beach. A lifelong athlete, Tiffany loved the challenge of the heat. She also loved the way the yoga made her body feel. The only part she didn’t love was practicing in what was then an old, rundown studio. How does a woman with vision solve that problem? She goes home and tells her husband she wants to buy the studio and renovate it. With a state-of-the-art heating system, an anti-microbial floor covering designed for hot studios, modern locker rooms, and an expanded reception area with a retail boutique, Tiffany reopened Bikram Yoga Manhattan Beach, and it thrived.
In late December, 2013, Tiffany followed through on another vision. She severed ties with Bikram and rebranded her studio, Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach. She says, “This change had been coming for quite some time. Probably since 2010, I just found that I wanted more. A couple of years ago, I added an Express class (75 instead of 90 minutes) at the studio. It became popular. I began listening intently to my students. I rebranded to expand my business to encompass the wants and needs of my students. We love the heat and the benefits of yoga, but we want more variety, more passion, and ultimately, more spirituality.”
Within weeks of reinventing her business—adding classes, staff, workshops, and carefully walking her customers through the changes, she was hit with a diagnosis of breast cancer (BRCA-2 triple negative invasive). After an evening of soul searching, a reminder of who she is —at the core—was facilitated by her 14-year-old daughter. The week prior, Shelby’s friend had handed her a key with the word “fight” stamped into it. The friend’s brother had suffered an accident, and the key had been a symbol of strength and source of comfort throughout his recovery. Suddenly, she no longer wanted it and asked Shelby to take it from her. The following week, as Tiffany sat feeling devastated and disoriented by the news of her diagnosis, Shelby made the connection. She placed the “Fight Key” in her mother’s hand and said, “Now, I know why she needed me to have it. It was really for you.” Tiffany’s been wearing it ever since.
Tiffany’s decision to go public was rooted in her values: transparency, authenticity, and humility. She admits that one of her biggest lessons in all this is to relax and receive. “I am having to learn how necessary it is to slow down, to stop taking care of everyone else at the expense of taking care of myself. This is a struggle that I will likely have to negotiate my whole life: finding a balance between doing and being.” Confessing to have refinished her floors the day after her last chemo infusion, she declares, “I really have a problem with relaxation!”
Tiffany is more than halfway through weekly chemotherapy infusions. Throughout her treatment, so far, she has continued to teach between three and five classes per week, and attends an additional two or three classes as a student. She says, “My staff and my students are so supportive and loving that being at the studio feels very healing. It requires a lot of energy for me to teach; I don’t know how to do it any other way. To cultivate balance and take care of myself, I am listening to my body intently.”
I met Tiffany 13 years ago when we were neighbors for a brief time. We lost touch and reconnected when I started taking her yoga classes a couple of years ago. I had no idea at the time that she would be teaching me much more than yoga. Following her journey (largely via Facebook) has been moving and inspiring. She’s traveled with her family to Mammoth and New York, taken day trips, run races, and attends her kids’ school functions. She has also let us in on experiences like cutting her long blond hair short to soften the blow of inevitable hair loss, and then shaving her head anyway because it was still too emotional to endure the shed. We witnessed the installation of her port to facilitate the injection of chemo. We all know about her “Chemo Wednesdays,” as Tiffany posts a weekly update from her infusion throne at the hospital. In spite of (or perhaps because of) her illness, she appears to come more and more alive.
Tiffany is my teacher. Yes, she is my yoga teacher, but she is also my teacher as a woman, a mother, a human being, and a fellow cancer survivor. She is a living example that although we often cannot choose our circumstances, we can always choose how we experience them. She has taught me about vulnerability and grace. Tiffany said she reinvented her studio because she wanted, more variety, more passion, and ultimately, more spirituality; it looks like she got it. The very principles it takes to get through one of her rigorous classes are reflected in her handling of her battle with breast cancer.
I asked Tiffany how her yoga practice has supported her, on and off the mat. This is her answer:
“My yoga practice is the foundation for my life. I have learned to simplify and prioritize. I have learned to do my best in all things, to rest, and to breathe. I’ve learned to listen, and to forgive myself, and be happy with where I am at any given moment. My practice allows me to be grateful for what I can do, what I have, and the abundance of love and support in my life. I have learned through my practice to really see myself and to accept what I see. I am certain it helped me a great deal with losing my hair. I have heard many women say they couldn’t look at themselves in the mirror after losing their hair to chemo. It has caused severe depression and anxiety. I won’t say it wasn’t a challenge for me. When I teach and practice in the room I have to see myself. I recognize my practice, my breath, and my soul. I can even appreciate when some postures look extremely weird and alien on me. I can laugh, I can love, and I can accept myself. I can sit quietly with myself and find comfort and peace. I am surprised at how I am handling the situation, but I know it is because of my practice that I am able to do so.”
Tiffany’s Vibrancy Juice
I drink this juice to help rid my body of toxic chemicals and restore health and vitality.
Prepare in a juicer or Vitamix.
1 green apple
1 bunch of kale (I like Tuscan kale stems)
Small piece of ginger root
1/4 cup aloe vera juice
Zoë Kors is a writer, speaker, and coach. She is the founder of The Big Libido, Pussy Project, and other programs which cultivate a women’s rights, empowerment, and self-expression. Zoë is the former Senior Editor and Creative Director of LA Yoga Magazine and Origin Magazine. She is a certified Co-Active Coach and has a thriving private practice. Zoë’s work reflects her extensive study of Tantra, Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga, breathwork, and other Eastern disciplines, which she blends with more process-oriented modalities of Western psychotherapy and Co-Active Coaching.