NISKAYUNA – Rocky Parisi and Power Yoga New York are going to the mat for Maureen Lynch. Lynch, a school psychologist at Paige Elementary in Schenectady, has been taking classes at the yoga studio practically since it opened in 2014.
In February she was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor on her liver, and now the co-owners are hosting a fundraiser to help with medical costs.
“She is a remarkable woman,” said Parisi. “She works to help kids dealing with poverty and psychological issues and is instrumental in finding the services to support the kids.”
Lynch has worked in the Schenectady School District for the past 16 years. She moved to the area nearly two decades ago to pursue her doctorate from the University at Albany.
Over the winter, Lynch started to have abdominal pain, which she initially thought was a pulled muscle.
“Then, I thought it was my gallbladder,” she said.
When her symptoms did not abate, Lynch went to the doctor and received the news that she had cancer. This was not the first time she’d heard the c-word. In 2001, she was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer and, being a single mother of a 7 year-old, opted for a mastectomy and had been cancer-free since.
Since receiving the initial diagnosis earlier this year, Lynch has started down a path of further diagnosis and preliminary treatment. She saw her oncologist in April and now gives herself three injections per day to slow the growth of the tumor. That therapy costs $1,000 per day, but Lynch said that insurance covers that cost.
She is also undergoing a battery of additional tests that require her to spend long mornings in laboratories and testing facilities.
While awaiting test results from which she will learn her prognosis, Lynch is seeing specialists at the Stram Center for Integrated Medicine in Delmar. Those specialists have advised Lynch on dietary and lifestyle issues including eliminating sugar from her diet.
“I really miss peanut butter cups,” she said.
Infinitely more difficult than giving up sweets was telling her daughter the news. Maddie, a Niskayuna High School graduate, is serving in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. Not wanting to worry her daughter, Lynch waited until Maddie came home in April to break the news.
“It’s not a conversation you want to have,” said Lynch. “It was hard because I had so little information about my prognosis or treatment options. I think she wanted a tidy answer and I didn’t have one.”
Maddie has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for her mother.
She also misses her students. Lynch has had to go on medical leave from her job at Paige due to the intense testing schedule.
“The administration has been very supportive,” she said.
In fact, Lynch is being supported by not just her professional community, but her yoga community as well.
“It’s like the Cheers of yoga studios,” Lynch said. “You walk in [to Power Yoga New York] and everybody knows your name.”
A strong sense of community was one of Parisi’s goals from the outset and to that end she has often held charitable events to raise money. Called CommUNITY yoga classes, participants pay for and take a class and the proceeds go directly to a specific person or cause.
On Thursday, May 18, Power Yoga New York will hold a CommUNITY yoga class to help Lynch pay for treatment, travel and co-pays. In addition to a 90-minute session, Parisi hopes to offer chair massage and raffles. Brooks Barbecue will be at Paige Elementary School serving up smoky, sauced dishes with proceeds also benefiting Lynch and her upcoming treatment.
At first Lynch was embarrassed to be the center of fundraising efforts.
“Now I’m so appreciative,” she said. “These guys work 20 hours a day and it’s amazing they’re pulling this together.”
“Maureen keeps us inspired,” said Parisi.
Lynch herself was inspired early on to pursue school psychology. Her younger sister had suffered a brain injury at birth.
“We were buddies,” said Lynch. “But I saw her struggle and saw my parents struggle to work with the schools to make sure she received an education. This was before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.”
Lynch’s empathy for her students led her to become a certified children’s yoga instructor.
“I wanted to help the students in a more mindful practice,” she said. “The focus on restorative breathing, you can draw on that in difficult or stressful situations.”
As Lynch looks ahead, she is hopeful for her future. She hopes to be back working within a year.
“My goal is to get to and stay in remission,” she said.
There is a caring and dedicated community that is determined to help her do just that.
To learn more about the CommUNITY Yoga to benefit Maureen Lynch, call Power Yoga New York at 518-280-2595.
To contribute online, visit https://www.gofundme.com/school-psychologist-fights-cancer.