Forging a Path Through Uncertainty
Dearest Friends,

I hope this finds you well and trust that you are navigating a path with skill and in good health. What follows below is mostly a personal update on us, and Tracy in particular. Many thanks to you for your compassion, kindness and inspiration.
This past year+ has been filled with chronic and ongoing uncertainty for all of us. There has been no “normal” to measure things against, our lives inexorably altered in ways we know about, and in many ways we have yet to process.

This different world had flashes of brilliance and joy-- but we had a good dose of collective heartbreak last year.

We lost so many lives to this pandemic, with inequity falling hard on minority and underserved communities. Our collective grief has seemed to me to be accruing like interest on a growing unpaid debt.

For over a year we have been isolated in family/household pods, interacting electronically through screens. Our faces hidden have been hidden behind masks and some bodies are recoiling from concern over getting too close to the six-foot radius we have set around one another.

I notice when our kids remark about how strange it is to watch unmasked people interact in close proximity in the TV shows we watch at home. 
Tracy has been feeling poorly for over a year with ongoing lethargy and mild to severe pain in her kidney/lower back region (aching, sciatica), among other symptoms. For many months she has suspected her symptoms were the result of covid-19, but her tests to detect the virus were consistently negative or inconclusive.

Toward the end of the year, she suspected something was wrong with one of her kidneys. She could “feel” pain that she was certain was referring from her kidney. She went to the doctor and said there was a problem with her left kidney. The doctors ordered a scan but told her that absent infection or a stone, she couldn’t possibly feel the referred pain she was describing. Her symptoms persisted. Her body’s intuition constantly signaling to her that something was wrong.
Tracy went for a CT scan and sure enough doctors discovered a tumor (scary word) is residing in Tracy’s left kidney, and they expect it could be cancer (a very scary word). Tracy’s CHEK2 gene indicates a mutation. The “curse” of this genetic marker pre-disposes her to malignancy.

The good news is we are told most kidney tumors tend to be very slow growing and the tumor is highly unlikely to have metastasized -- and thus it is highly unlikely any cancer has spread. Since then, we have been monitoring this tumor. Many weeks of measuring size and growth have passed. Running tests on blood and urine. Performing endless scans and cancer screens.

It is times like these that we more directly face our own mortality as individuals, as families, as communities. In the last year and a half Tracy and I have reached the phase of life where we a must think about losing a parent, but losing a spouse is even more unthinkable (or a child...) And yet we must think about it -- at least a little-- and enter into the conversations with death, yet again in this life.
Every test seems to raise more questions than answers. Every emergent piece of the puzzle illuminating how many puzzle pieces we did not, and still do not, have. Information comes like intermittent drips from a leaky faucet, each drip illuminating some aspects and simultaneously obfuscating with more uncertainty.
Each drip a piece of the puzzle.

But the puzzle did not come with a box that shows the big picture.

Nor do we know how many puzzle pieces we are supposed to have, or what pieces are missing, extra, or broken...
As the medical and spiritual inquiries have been ongoing, we have been likewise considering all sorts of other stuff. Processing the meaning of all of this in our lives. Considering what and when to share.

Alongside the docs, we have been analyzing the knowns and unknowns, calculating percentages, weighing the probabilities, and considering paths of action.

Tracy’s diagnosis, and therefore her prognosis, is not definitive: 

A best-case scenario is VERY GOOD. They successfully snip out the problematic part of her kidney (partial nephrectomy) on Friday, she comes home on Saturday, and the curse is gone. Even if the tumor is malignant we expect no chemotherapy, no radiation. They say there is a very high probability of this outcome. So this is our current plan and chosen path of action.

The time draws nearer and soon we will know a bit more. If there is malignant tissue, knowing more about the tissue make up may be very useful in future. There are less desirable possibilities too. For now, we are committed to maintaining our optimism.

We are honest with the kids, trying not to cross the line into too much honesty, and we welcome their voices into the conversation:

Madeleine shares her 12yo wisdom, “I know Mommy’s very tough and is going to be fine. She’s going to feel better. I’m not too worried right now. I think I will be worried and scared on the day of her surgery. She’s been unable to do a lot lately, and I’m excited for her to feel better in her body and be more active and do the things she loves to do. I felt more worried when Grandpa had to have surgery. I know Mommy will be fine.” 

9yo Oliver, thinking long and hard, shares his thoughts, “I don’t exactly know how it makes me feel. I hope that everything is fine. The doctors don’t seem worried and they think this is the right thing to do. I feel a mix of sad, scared, worried, and hopeful. And I think that I want to be at Grandma’s house during the surgery, not at home…”
For my part, I am aware of my increasing anxiety as we get closer to Friday. I'm scared. I also feel we are on the right path. I hope. I have great confidence in Tracy's medical team. Mostly, I have confidence in my goddess of a wife. I am in awe of her. And I have seen her amazing ability to navigate the realms of our dysfunctional/semi-functional health system at work. But most of all it is Tracy's deep intrinsic strength and indomitable force of will that gives me strength. I know the energy required to tango with my wife; so I'm certain it's pragmatic to bet on her.

In visualizing what this will be like at the hospital with Tracy, my memory is flooded with the births of our children; me dressed up in scrubs, looking into Tracy’s eyes as they wheel her hospital bed away, the anxiety of waiting...waiting…looking for her doctor, then being the life-raft she clings to as she emerges out anesthesia’s shadowy grip and into the awareness of pain and surgical trauma.
But there will be no baby born from this experience, hopefully just the news of a bigger problem averted, a slow path to recovery, and an improved quality of life.

We repeat the best-case scenario to each other, telling ourselves the story we have to tell in order to get by, even while we work the shadowy edges of the “what ifs.”

In the meanwhile I cook red kidney beans, and tell kidney jokes (that no one thinks are funny). Aside from engaging my humor -- which (as we have established) ranges from witty to annoying; I employ my other skill-- learn about the anatomy and functions of the kidneys (because there is always so much to learn).

We forge a path through this uncertainty, objectively weighing each piece of emergent evidence, subjectively listening and feeling the body/mind/heart’s signals. We weave a path between wanting to put our heads in the sand (or binge more Netflix) and ignore it all, and frenetically running from medical appointments to more appointments, getting more opinions and second opinions. We navigate between evaluating and deciding on a path of action, and obsessively second guessing ourselves.  
Our communities have rallied and offered support, organizing a meal train and grocery fund that will feed us for many weeks to come. I am deeply touched and humbled by these unasked and unexpected outpourings of support, and am coming to understand and deeply appreciate these aspects of community that I have not experienced before. Of course this is what community does, and we have contributed to many similar scenarios, but I have never before been the beneficiary of such offerings. 
And the yoga goes on as we focus and prioritize on keeping the family yoga business afloat while Tracy deals with this on her own and as we deal as a family. To that end, I’ll be offering two weeks of free YOGA LIVE classes the last two weeks of April, as my own offering to the broader community. Rocky, Nichol and I are currently enrolling the Fall session of our online YTT200 Awaken the Teacher Within with our Yoga International partners. Our online YTT300 programs and Teacher Tune Ups offer rigorous and continuous education (next module is philosophy, mythology & theme based teaching), and our online course and class library is ever growing to support yogis and teachers of all levels and interests. 

I will be in touch. I will update social media as I can. I will also try to respect Tracy's privacy needs as we navigate this next part....

If you got to the end of reading this update, thank you for your time and care in being with us.

I send you all love and strength and the will to keep on doing the yoga. Saprema, Noah (&Family)
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