Tiffany Seda credits a positive attitude, being in great physical shape as a professional dancer, her family, and her medical team at Good Samaritan University Hospital (West Islip, NY) with helping her beat breast cancer. Only 43-years-old when she was diagnosed, the East Islip resident and former Radio City “Rockette” was fully immersed in her life as a wife to Chris, and mom to Gabrielle, then 10, and Bennett, 6.
Although she had no family history of breast cancer, Tiffany’s doctors had recommended that she undergo screening mammography every six months due to dense breast tissue. Many younger women have dense breasts, which can make it more challenging for radiologists to detect potential problems during mammograms.
So, it was no surprise when the radiologist also asked for an ultrasound during her mammography in the spring of 2022. She considered it almost routine when she was called back for a needle biopsy. What Tiffany didn’t expect was the telephone call she received a few days later, telling her that the biopsy showed she had lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), a pre-cancerous condition.
“That call led me to lots of needles, MRIs, poking, prodding, blood work, and genetic testing,” Tiffany said. Her next step was to see a breast surgeon for an evaluation.
Tiffany dove into her search for a surgeon with her typical focus and energy, asking everyone she knew for recommendations. One name was mentioned again and again—Sophia Fu, MD, Director of Breast Surgery at Good Samaritan University Hospital. Within moments of meeting Dr. Fu, Tiffany and her husband knew that she was the right doctor to help them through what lay ahead.
Dr. Fu suggested that Tiffany undergo a lumpectomy to remove and biopsy the suspicious area. The biopsy revealed that along with LCIS, Tiffany also had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). No longer was she dealing with a pre-cancerous lesion; DCIS is an early-stage, non-invasive form of cancer. Left untreated, it can spread, but Tiffany’s was caught early.
Tiffany learned that her cancer was estrogen receptor (ER) positive. This means that hormones fuel the growth of the cancer cells. Her options were to undergo treatment with radiation followed by medication such as tamoxifen to inhibit estrogen in her body, or undergo a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“I didn’t think twice,” Tiffany said. “I wanted to take care of everything and put it all behind me.”
She chose plastic and reconstructive surgeon Tommaso Addona, MD, Chief of Plastic Surgery at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage and Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre. In September 2022, Dr. Fu performed a double mastectomy and Dr. Addona placed expanders under her pectoral muscles, the first step toward breast reconstruction.
Tiffany approached her surgery with her trademark positive attitude. All went smoothly, and she was able to go home the same night as her surgery.
“I had a wonderful, easy experience,” Tiffany said. “The nurses were so wonderful. The ginger ale was delicious! Everything was great.”
Three months later, on December 5, she was back in the OR having the expanders removed as Dr. Addona completed her reconstruction.
“By Christmas I was good to go,” Tiffany said.
The family’s rescue pup, Louis, never left Tiffany’s side as she recovered. Between each surgery, Tiffany underwent physical therapy, which she said helped with both her physical condition and her mental outlook.
“PT helped me reach those little milestones of doing things for myself,” she said. “I knew I was in good hands medically but if I could get my arms up, move my shoulders, and sit up straight, those things helped me stay positive as I recovered.”
As a performer, Tiffany considers herself an open person, but when it came to her diagnosis and treatment, she confided in only a few people, including her parents, siblings, and closest friends. She and Chris were as transparent with their children as they could be, telling them honestly about their mom’s cancer while reassuring them that she would be fine. The experience has left an impression on them: Bennett, now 7, says he wants to be a surgeon when he grows up so that he can help people, while Gabrielle has become a much more empathetic pre-teen.
Just one year after beating breast cancer, Tiffany brings her experience as a “Rockette” to a new role as Kickline Coach for East Islip School District, and she relies on her experience as a survivor to encourage other women to practice the kind of self-care that led to her positive outcome.
“I know people who are too nervous to get a mammogram, or they say it hurts too much, but I tell them they have to do it. Life is too precious and it’s worth taking good care of yourself,” she said. “You look at life in a much different way once you’re on the other side of healing and fear.”