As I write this, Chris is back in the hospital, yet again. It’s his 9th or 10th trip now in 31 days, back to UCSF healing from an infection. If you are shaking your head, I’m right there with you. If you are still in the dark, I’m sorry to have to share with you this way, but our wonderful BYSJ Manager and friend, Chris Canevaro, has a brain tumor. We are not sure if it is a grade 3 or 4. “Shocking”, “disturbing”, “sad”, “just not right”, “can’t be true” and “why” are all words and phrases that constantly flash up for me, and I’ll bet for you too.
Chris and I did our usual wrap up chat Monday night August 5th at about 7:00 pm. At 11:30 pm, I got a call from Good Samaritan Emergency asking if I knew “a Chris Canevaro.” Within a short time, his parents were on immediate flights from vacationing in Hawaii. Thankfully, after a few days of post-seizure activity, Chris was a lot more like himself again. And he was back at the office! And, in the yoga room! But on August 15th the necessary biopsy confirmed the tumor. Reality hit and so did another set of tears filled with shock, sadness, “just not right”, “can’t be true”, and “WHY?!”.
Unlike in most businesses, Chris and I don’t just work together, we endure together. I’ve seen Chris probably every day – with the exception of just a few – for the last 8 plus years. We are both passionate about our roles at BYSJ, and over the years Chris has been the one to navigate a lot of our evolution as an established yoga community with sure fire, confident, next steps. He has always had the next solution, and true to form after the biopsy, Chris not only praised his life as being a celebration but his smart mind was already spinning on the next step: a solution. And he found it in Dr. Mitchell Berger.
Chris, from the get-go wanted everyone, you members, to know the truth. Chris, in his younger years, and even in his adult life, met up with challenges that took him in a suffering direction. Through a miracle, he became clean and made the choice to make the most of his life and live honestly and with integrity. Knowing him for as long as I have and as much as I do, I can testify to his dedication and commitment to doing the right thing. If he wanted to share his condition with all of you, it was right AND it made me think: this is not just Chris’s experience, it ours as a community, too. This is really hard, I know. But we are not a real community if we don’t share in these more challenging circumstances, much the same way we share in the more joyous ones. We are such an intimate, loving community that has some years on us now – almost 11 – that all phases of life will inevitably appear. Because of Chris’s decision, I made the decision that we, too, can all walk through this time together with grace and unity. We can’t change what is but we can allow Chris, ourselves, and this community the space to move through this with eyes and hearts open. There will be sadness and tears, shy and awkward moments, but there will be love, inspiration, celebration and I bet individual epiphanies that might change how we look at things.
And, of course, you’ve all responded. Once the email went out about Chris’s diagnosis and the Facebook status was updated on what Chris was now dealing with, all of you immediately sent in YOUR words of love, prayers, hope, and courage, along with alternative ideas, personal success stories, mantras to recite, stones to carry, books to read and more. So many of you came right in to visit, give hugs, shed tears, hold babies, extend smiles and giggles and not just at the studio but all the way up to UCSF where Chris spent labor day weekend prepping for his “awake” surgery with Dr. Mitchell Berger.
Chris has the photogenic looks of his mom and the gifted charm and sense of humor of his dad. They are beautiful people and as you might imagine going through a nightmare right now. His mom, Kathy, has amazing bulldog determination. It took tenacity and patience to get Chris in the right hospital, with the right doctor, doing the right procedure at the right time, and that was Tuesday, September 2nd. Chris’s next step was in motion and there was nothing left to do but … let go.
I was amazed at my being-ness on Tuesday. All I wanted to do was be quiet. I spent a lengthy period of time at the UCSF meditation room. I was calm. There was “no thing” to do as all initiations to get here were complete. We had done what we could. It was pure surrendering to something now much greater. Yes, it was in Dr. Mitchell Berger’s hands and in Chris’s abilities but really in the power of something else. My reaction to be still, to be more quiet, was to allow this presence, this higher consciousness, to have its time and space to do its thing. It was strange in a way, as we don’t have many circumstances in life where we are deliberately positioned to “sit it out” now and let the “other” action begin. I could not help but notice how important it was to love, be grateful, pray for healing and support, and comfort family members versus the act of any other gesture like make a phone call, work on a paper, return an email, as none of that really played a role in what we were dealing with. From all the comments on Facebook, over emails, texts and phone calls, you all felt and did the same. Hours of surgery and hours of love flooded Chris’s way!
I once read that a sender’s act of kindness will have a positive effect chemically not only on the receiver but on the sender AND on anyone else that was around that act of kindness. This means that the thoughts we have towards someone not only affect our own well-being but the wellbeing of the one the thoughts are intended for and those that may be involved as well. I believe that your acts of kindness in prayer and thought had an effect on Chris as his surgery went so well.
I was so fortunate to attend Meaghan’s wedding on Saturday. Our beautiful and wonderful BYSJ teacher married her 7 year sweetheart, Brad, in a ceremony and reception that was elegant, intimate and meaningful. Meaghan planned all of it, meticulously making sure that all of us who attended felt the importance of what we are in her (and Brad’s) life. It was a Catholic wedding and nice for me to experience in the midst of this Chris crisis. I was brought up strict Catholic and found myself reciting verses as if I was 10 again. The priest was an elder, established and fantastic in his homily about this sacrament of Matrimony.
His choice of words were not so much celebratory as they were real. His reflection on marriage was not only on Meaghan and Brad but on all of us – the community that surrounded Meaghan and Brad. “It’s the imperfections that make the relationship. Imperfections deepen our love for each other as a couple and as a community as we experience together our humanness.” What I heard from this was that our community is only as good as the degree to which we are all willing to be human together. Chris inspires all of us at BYSJ in the willingness to show his humanity. Life may put us in a wedding dress, a hospital gown or yoga clothes, but take that away and what we are left with is efforts that support, help, and accept our humanity and the imperfections that go along with it. Thank you Chris for bringing our community even closer as we walk with you this expression of being human! We love you.