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Health Update ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

I have mentioned a couple of times that I have surgery upcoming. Last summer I was diagnosed with a very large fibroid which has been causing ongoing discomfort and pain. I spent several months trying to determine the right treatment and get it scheduled.

For many reasons including the underfunded Irish public health service, the impact of the pandemic on it, and the bureaucracy that governs our private health insurance and options in Ireland, we eventually decided the best choice would be for me to travel to Vienna, Austria for a transabdominal hysterectomy (which will be covered by our insurance). A dear friend of mine in Vienna referred me to a gynecologist whom I have communicated with several times and feel a great deal of confidence in her opinion and skill. (I have also seen three other gynecologists now in Ireland as well so have things well covered and feel much clarity about my choice.)

Then recently I had some bleeding despite being in menopause for the last three years. The doctor in Vienna said I needed to arrive earlier than planned to get a sampling of uterine cells and test to see if they are cancerous in advance of the surgery. If they are, then she will not only remove my uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix as planned, but also some lymph nodes. The chances of cancer are quite low, but it is important to rule it out or take necessary follow up steps.

John and I traveled to Vienna this past week and saw the doctor for the initial tests. I will see the anesthesiologist this week and get the results of those tests. My surgery is scheduled for March 30th and I will be in the hospital for up to a week depending on recovery. Then we will stay in Vienna until the end of April when I should be well enough to return to Ireland.

I feel a great deal of peace around this overall, although there is also a mixture of the vulnerability that comes with any surgery and anticipation over the potential relief my body will experience. I welcome it all in. 

Vienna is such a place of the heart for me with my father and grandparents buried there and having lived there before we moved to Ireland. 

We have good friends who will be taking care of our home in Galway and sweet Sourney. She is in excellent hands although of course I will miss her terribly. There is much about how this has all worked out that feels very right, many synchronicities that have cleared the path for which I am so grateful.

If you are on Facebook you may have also seen me post that my dear aunt Nancy (my mother’s younger sister) died last Sunday after going to the hospital to drain some fluid from her heart. The suddenness of her death is very hard and I am carrying my grief with me to Vienna but also feel her presence along with my mother’s as I navigate my own body journey. Please say some prayers for her husband Larz who is, of course, heartbroken as well as for Nancy that she finds release and joy in her transition. 

Melinda will be working behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly at the Abbey and offering a couple of programs herself including a yoga retreat on the elements and our April contemplative prayer service will be hosted by Simon and Polly Paton-Brown. On April 6th Simon de Voil and Kenneth Steven are leading a conversation on Iona and the Book of Kells. Our Lent retreat is being supported by a wonderful team. It feels joyful to have so many competent and committed people who love what we do supporting this community. When I return home in May I have kept my schedule intentionally quieter to slowly navigate my way back into work depending on my recovery.

We will still have the daily and weekly newsletters for you. I will have Melinda post once I have had a successful surgery but I likely won’t be posting much myself during this time. It feels really vital to give myself the fullness of this space for optimal recovery.

I welcome your prayers during this time! I feel very surrounded by your love and the love of the angels, saints, and ancestors. 

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Image © Christine Valters Paintner

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