Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Diary of a Successful Out-of-State Surgery and the Power of Prayers

I had my first colonoscopy in preparation for surgery.

Dec. 3
On Saturday, we were able to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, I got to go to Confession and received the Anointing of the Sick at St. Benedict Church, so at least I took care of some important spiritual preparations before we flew down here.

Dec. 4
Our flight arrived safely and on time in Louisiana.

Dec. 5
Thank you to all who have been praying for us! Two back-to-back appointments including pre-surgery instructions/ preparations, and possible outcomes which took a couple hours each have left Kevin and I completely overwhelmed. I was in tears by the middle of the second one. Tuesday is a rather taxing pre-op prep, then Wednesday morning is surgery. Please keep those prayers coming!
Dec. 6

Visiting with Dorothy and her two adorable little ones was definitely the highlight of our day! I remember years ago when she was discerning her vocation. Clearly, being a prayerful wife and mother are how God is being glorified by her. Dorothy, thank you so much for bringing some sunshine into our day along with chicken broth, coconut water, and flowers. You're so thoughtful!

Dec. 7
Kevin and I just prayed the Rosary and did the Mass readings for today while waiting for the anesthesiology team. I'll be in surgery for several hours, likely all morning. Thanks in advance for sending love, hugs, warm wishes, and fervent prayers our way! Lord, You are the One through whom all true, lasting healing comes to us in mind, body, or spirit. I lay my life before You, past, present, and future. Amen.

A dear sister/friend Kami sent me this prayer yesterday in anticipation of my surgery this morning: May God bless the surgeons, nurses, technicians and all those who care for Trisha tomorrow and the coming days. God, please give them the wisdom, skill, and compassion needed to provide the best care possible for Trisha according to your will. God grant her a successful surgery and speedy recovery. God please bless Kevin with the grace and nurturing needed to support Trisha through this difficult time. God bless them both with patience, hope and your enduring, all-encompassing love! Amen. 📿
Dec. 8
My mom sent me flowers. Aren't they beautiful?!

My surgery lasted 8.5+ hours. Endometriosis was growing on pretty much all of my organs from below my rib cage to my hip bones from the front to the back.
They did robotic surgery, then they had to open me up (do a mini-laparotomy) because they couldn't reach the rest, then the general surgeon was called in to remove a lesion from my colon (biopsy, more endometriosis, no cancer) and fix damage to part of my intestines. They removed my appendix since that was covered, too.
Last night I was in excruciating pain, very discouraged by all of the damage, but finally they got me sufficient meds, and I started doing better.
I'm making progress today: getting to and going to the bathroom on my own, took a short walk in the hall, drinking clear fluids, and more alert.
Because of all they had to do, they're going to keep me in the hospital until at least Saturday.
Thanks for the prayers! Please keep them coming. I've got a lot of healing to do.
Dec. 9
They're saying I definitely won't be discharged from the hospital before Sunday or later, and they'd prefer I stay in town for a week out from such an intense surgery before it'll be safe for me to travel back home. I'm not sure how we'll ever manage to afford this on top of a much more serious, extensive surgery involving 3 surgeons, but no way out of it but through at this point. Lord, have mercy on us and help us weather the rest of this storm we're still in the midst of. 

Dec. 9
I feel as though I'm holding up pretty well emotionally though these are the two things on the wall across from my bed in the post-partum ward where I am recovering.
I was too out-of-it right after surgery to look closely at the board with the extentions for nursery/NICU and Lactation are listed. How I wish this pain were from delivering a baby instead of related to health problems making it more likely we'll never have children of our own. Lord, Your Will, not my own!

Dec. 10
I have already achieved my main goal for the day. Woohoo! I've honestly never been so excited about being able to fart in my life. Finally, making more progress towards getting solid food, being discharged, and going home. Praising the Lord and thanking Him for the amazing prayer warriors who are carrying us right now!

Dec. 11
This afternoon, they let me go outside for a walk with Kevin, and my doctors are saying that if all goes smoothly now that I've had a couple soft solid meals that I will likely be discharged tomorrow evening. 

So excited to be making progress so soon that will allow me to continue my recovery outside of the hospital. Thank you all for the tremendous prayer cover. God's working all things for good in our lives and I'm able to feel and enjoy that more with less pain now.

Dec. 11
Great news! I got a good night's sleep last night, and I've done everything they needed me to in terms of bodily functions to graduate to solid foods sometime in the next couple of days. I'm back to walking more than waddling, and I've been cracking jokes more often, so I haven't completely lost my sense of humor in all of this. Praising God for major progress and signs His hand has orchestrated the timing of all of this, right down to the date of my surgery being Dec. 7 instead of Dec. 28.
Dec. 12

Hello from the outside! 

Kevin and I are heading back to our home away from home (Country Inn and Suites) together. Bye, bye Lakeview Regional Medical Center. Thanks for everything!

Dec. 14
I'm trying to remain positive and optimistic in the midst of some setbacks, and sometimes I'm more successful at that than others. Nothing major has gone wrong, but added side effects and symptoms piled on to the overall discomfort and dreariness of this trip are wearing on us both.
I've determined two days of feeling crummy while staying at a hotel several states from home, family, and friends are worse than two days of being sick when you can sleep in your own bed and have someone other than your worn-out husband bring you food or medicine.  Kevin's sick of running to the store and the pharmacy to get me supplies and medicine especially in such crazy traffic.
Lord God Almighty Father and Mary, Mother of us All, help us be loving and patient with one another even when we feel we have nothing left to give. Amen.

Dec. 15 
Fortunately, today has, thus far, been a much better day than the previous two. A visit from Dorothy and her two cuties brightened our morning, then a late lunch at Cracker Barrel allowed us to get some good food while using the last of the restaurant gift cards a couple of friends gave us for the trip. We came directly back so I could rest. I finished the book I'd been reading and took a nap.

Dec. 16
Last night and today have been very rough physically and emotionally. I'm hoping and praying our travel home tomorrow goes much smoother.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Please give us safe, uneventful, and as pain-free as possible a trip home. We are so worn out.

Dec. 17
We made it safely to the airport, returned our rental car, and they provided transportation and a wheelchair so I wouldn't have to walk too far. So grateful to be heading home finally!

My mom picked us up from the airport and brought us home.  She provided us with some groceries. Not only that, but we arrived at our door to find a beautiful Christmas floral arrangement as well as one of my favorite meals: salmon and green beans.  Gina, one of my Christ Renews His Parish sisters had been by recently with the delicious dinner and holiday cheer.

We made it home safely and without any trouble. Thanks for the prayers!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Top 10 Signs It Won’t Be a Fun Trip

1. You go without eating any solid foods for 36+ hours, drink the prescription equivalent of human Drano plus all the clear liquids you can manage, then have a colonoscopy two days before you leave.

2. The most important and popular photos you have to show people were taken of your internal organs.

3. You meet a surgeon for the very first time who may or may not be cutting you open in a couple days and get a lengthy lesson in anatomy that nearly makes you late for your second pre-op appointment.

4. The second surgeon is scheduled to be on standby for another patient’s surgery at the same time he’s been asked to be on-call for yours.

5. Miralax, Dulcolax, Gatorade, and Hibiclens are the first purchases you make when you get into town.
6. Your rental car is a Nissan Versa instead of a Shelby GT. 

7. You remove the little nail polish that’s left on your toes and forego the mani/pedi since there’s no color allowed where you’re going.

8. You have a list of doctors’ offices and a hospital to go to but not a single local hot spot or touristy destination on your itinerary.

9. A young child sitting in the row behind you on the plane excitedly tells anyone who will listen where she and her family are heading, and you’d much rather catch their connecting flight than your own.

10. Your spouse pitches a royal fit when finding out your revised return date is a day later than originally anticipated.

Back to Blogging Before I Forget How

I took this photo during one of the rare times it wasn't pouring
rain while we were in Covington, Louisiana.
I've not ceased writing or taking photos though I have been spending significantly less time on the computer in recent months.  I got behind on pretty much everything when preparing for, having, and recovering from a major surgery: keeping in touch with family and friends, writing thank you notes, returning e-mails, responding to text messages, reading voraciously, writing book reviews, editing manuscripts, creating graphics, taking photos, posting online...

This was my first general update for family and friends post-surgery once we returned home: My recovery is going well, especially considering how extensive and long my surgery ended up taking. I have been sleeping and resting often since surgery and our return to Richmond last Saturday evening. I haven't felt up to doing much.  Some days I haven't felt like turning on the computer at all, so I haven't.  So far the only times I have gone out anywhere this week have been for two doctors' appointments.  

A great deal has happened since that first week home, but I feel I should at least recap for readers some of the big things that have gone on in our lives starting back in December.  The next couple of posts include a diary of my out-of-state surgery and a list of Top 10 Signs It Won't Be a Fun Trip.  I feel these updates, though long in coming, are still relevant and explain my prolonged absence from the blogosphere (and various other aspects of life).

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all readers and prayer warriors who have been so incredibly patient with me as I get back into the cyber-swing of things.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We Survived 2016! Praise God!

Through the grace of God and with the love, support, and prayers of family, friends, angels, and saints, we survived 2016. Praise the Lord!

Open us up to the Holy Spirit in all areas of our lives. We pray for the strength spoken of in the Divine Mercy Chaplet so "that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will which is Love and Mercy itself."  Amen. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Falling into Advent Though I Am Not Ready

I created this graphic using photos I've taken of flowers in order to make the candles the traditional purple
and pink used on Advent wreaths.  I used a photo of leaves for the green of the wreath and the photo
of a bright yellow flower for the flame.  The way things have been going, this might be the only Advent
wreath I put up anywhere this holiday season.  We shall see.

It didn’t feel like last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  This was the first year in several that Kevin wasn’t scheduled to work on Turkey Day.  It’s just our luck that my husband and I spent the day at home in our pajamas instead of together feasting with family or even close friends.

We felt it was too big a risk for either of us to be around family members who had recently been sick with a very bad cold.  Though she was doing better than the previous three days, my mom wasn’t anywhere close to 100% when she made the apple pie the night before or started cooking the turkey the next morning.  She explained that she would sit down for a while and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then she’d get up and do something else to prepare the feast, clean, set the table, etc.    

For a variety of reasons, neither Kevin nor I have seen much of my family in recent months.  I’d been looking forward to us all gathering at my mom’s, the one central location where all of us know we are loved and welcome anytime.  I figured I had a good chance of getting to hold our niece once more and hang out with our nephew for a bit. 

It wasn’t meant to be.  I thought of going to this once-a-year feast, especially since I really wanted to see everyone, but I knew Kevin was wise in advising against it under the circumstances.  We had to settle for a couple slices of turkey bacon cooked in the microwave and apple slices in place of roasted turkey with gravy and homemade apple pie.

After having worked in retail for a number of years, most recently at Best Buy, Kevin has a particular loathing of Black Friday.  I slept until noon.  Kevin conked out on the couch for most of the afternoon. 

We got dressed so we could go meet our friend John, who we hadn’t seen in months before he drove back to seminary in Baltimore.  We ate dinner together at Nanking and caught up a little.  It was kind of awkward to spend time together after not having much contact of any kind with John this fall.  The three of us confirmed that we still love, care about, and pray for one another even if the time between phone calls, texts, and visits has increased. 

Kevin asked if I wanted to listen to my music on the way home, by which he meant the Christian radio station I like.  I turned it on and when I heard Christmas music, I promptly shut it off.  I explained that I wasn’t ready, yet.  We’d barely had Thanksgiving.  I wasn’t ready for Christmas. 

I suppose my “I’m-not-ready!” reaction has a great deal to do with the fact that Kevin and I have had some very stressful, totally unexpected major health challenges and other crises to deal with over the past four months.  In fact, so much has gone on that I still feel the need to process most of it though we’re being dragged or thrown into the next whirlwind of activity and uncertainty before the last storm has cleared up. I realize that’s life—one thing going wrong right after another—but without the slightest break, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed. 

While others are eating Thanksgiving leftovers, zipping about doing their Christmas shopping, putting up their tree, signing family photo greeting cards, and pulling out their holiday recipes, I’ve found myself wanting to hide from all of it.  I need more time to process what’s gone on these past four months and integrate it into my life and adjust accordingly to prepare properly for the future. 

It has dawned on me that I have been much more concerned of late about getting my body ready for my upcoming surgery than I have in planning and preparing my heart and mind for the coming of Christ.  Perhaps, therein lies the lesson.  Something is seriously amiss if I am neglecting the preparation of my body, mind, and/or spirit for Christ’s coming. 

What would happen if I spent as much time getting my mind and heart ready for Christmas as I have in making plans for this surgery?  Well, I'd bet that by the end of Advent, I’d be a better bassinet for Baby Jesus. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 21) Men of Faith

My dad and his brothers (Rich, Bob, Dave, and my dad-Jim) have
definitely had a huge impact on the faith formation of the Niermeyer family.

Day 21: Men of Faith

It would be difficult to name all of the men who have had a significant influence on my faith over the years.  Certainly, family members and close friends have greatly shaped my appreciation for what really matters in this life.  I would include several priests, deacons, and seminarians among those who have helped Kevin and I grow in our love and understanding of the Catholic faith.  We've been blessed beyond measure to have so many men of faith to inspire, instruct, and mentor us.  

Mary Kate and Rick Vivacqua (aka Stitch, my Godfather) have
been part of our family for years.  I know Stitch's prayers and
friendship with my dad ever since they went to St. John Fisher
College together helped my dad get through some really tough times
without giving up hope or faith in God.

They say to choose your friends wisely, for you become what
they are.  Laura, Jeff, and John have been with us through some
tough times as well as some really joyful ones.  We lift one
another up with our prayers and encouragement.
Dick and his lovely wife Jeannine have
been wonderful spiritual companions,
parental figures, and two of our dearest friends ever
since we met them in 2006 through Cursillo.
The Baabs "adopting" us into their clan have given Kevin and
me a father figure and four brothers to pray for and with.
Monsignor Chester P. Michael is someone Kevin and I got to
know through the two-year course in spiritual direction
this priest developed for laity and shared
with many members of our diocese and Cursillo family.

Dr. Ed Smith, (creator of Transformation Prayer Ministry),
his son Jonathan, and the amazing crew at New Creation Community in Chesapeake
have inspired me a great deal over the past six years.
Fr. Brian Capuano blessed the office as well as the Crucifix and Cross
that hang on the wall at the recently-opened Dignitas Health
Dr. Jill Zackrisson (pictured to Father's right)
has opened her new primary care practice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 20) Faithful Sister-Friends

These lovely ladies (Laura, Holly, Jess, and Michele)
are the four sister/friends I most often call, text, spend time with...
We've been through some great sorrows and joys together.
This photo was taken on September 4, 2016 after the Mass
when Kevin and I renewed our wedding vows in celebration
of our twelve year anniversary.

Day 20: Faithful Sister/Friends

I am blessed to have a number of faithful sister/friends in my life of many different ages and at varying stages in their journeys.  I couldn't possibly picture all of them in one post, but I have included at least some of my ride-or-die sister/friends.
I include my sisters-in-law in this category, as I consider Deb,
Wendy, and Chari to be among my friends and sisters.
My original upper room spiritual divas (aka Cursillo group reunion) quickly
became my closest sister/friends those years when we met weekly.

This photo which was taken of a Cursillo team I served on
with the theme Harvesting God's Abundance.  Every woman
on the team and each of the candidates became sister/friends. 

Music Missionary Danielle Rose came to St. Michael the Archangel
to do a benefit concert and sing at the Masses.  I had the blessing
of being her chauffeur during that time and we became friends.
Knowing she is a strong prayer warrior, I have occasionally
contacted her via text message requesting prayers for major concerns.
The most recent prayer request I sent to her over these past few months
when facing some unsettling health challenges.  

All of these women who made their Christ Renews His Parish weekend in
February 2010 served on team for the next CRHP weekend the following summer.
Each and every one of these people has been a sister/friend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 19) Praying Grannies

My maternal grandmother, my mom, and I on our wedding day.
I feel confident that Nana was also present in spirit and praying
for and with us at our wedding Mass.

Day 19: Praying Grannies

I was blessed that I got to know both of my grandmothers.  My dad's mom, who we called Nana, I felt closer to while I was growing up.  She was one of my favorite people on the planet, certainly someone whose love for me felt nearly unconditional.  Nana passed away when I was only eleven years old, a few months after my youngest sister Theresa was born.  

My maternal grandmother and I became closer with in high school.  She let me come live with her the summer after I graduated from high school before I started college, so I would only be a few miles away from Kevin instead of 500.  Once I returned to Richmond after college, Grandma had moved down here to be near my mom and help with us.  

Both of my grandmothers were devout Catholics with a special dedication to the Blessed Mother. I know they prayed countless prayers for us while they were on this earth and feel certain they are interceding on our behalf now that they have moved on to Heaven. 

My mom has followed in the footsteps of her mother as a formidable prayer warrior who frequently goes to battle for her children as well as her grandchildren.

This is my maternal grandmother Marilyn.
We called her either Grandma or Gram.
My paternal grandmother Jean, who we called Nana.
This is of Nana, my mom, my sister
Katie (aka Mary), and me.

Monday, November 21, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 18) Babies

Here I am with "my two little guys" who I began nannying for in Fall 2004.

DAY 18: Babies 

I have loved babies for as long as I can remember.  The one I took care of the most before I was old enough to babysit on my own was my youngest sister Theresa.  Even after getting my undergraduate degree and my masters, I couldn't resist the draw of taking care of little ones.  One week after Kevin and I got married I began my career as a nanny.  

The two youngest of "the three silly sisters" who
are fraternal twins with their mommy.
"The three silly sisters" with their first nanny (me!).

We all enjoyed it when my husband Kevin came to visit us. See
how happy the twins are to have him over!

Here I'm holding my Goddaughter (one of the twins).
Here I'm holding our once little nephew.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 17) All God's Creatures Big and Small

I have quite the collection of bee photos
ever since my friend Michele Morris and
I joked about glory bees.

DAY 17: All God's Creatures Big and Small

My knowledge and appreciation of insects, birds, reptiles, and furry friends have certainly been enhanced by working with children.  They are so fascinated by the natural world and keep that sense of awe and wonder we adults tend to lose over time.  

Teaching about nature during the school year and summer camps at a Montessori school has inspired me to read and research more about insects and arachnids than ever before.  

I took this photo when I accompanied the photography class I
was teaching to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Butterflies Live exhibit.

When at Three Lakes Park with my sister, niece,
and nephew, we spotted this big bird perched up high.
I heard a very vocal squirrel when I was walking
around the Museum District, capturing some
beautiful fall colors with my camera.

This fine-feathered fowl was chillin' like a villain one afternoon
when a neighbor and I took an afternoon stroll at Byrd Park.

I had to take my husband Kevin to see Three Lakes Park. We
were amused watching the turtles in the lake nearest
Nature Center playing around.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 16) Parks as Recreation

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has been a destination for
some fun photo shoots, a photography class trip, a birthday afternoon
stroll, and a place where young children can explore.

DAY 16: RVA Parks as Recreation

For many years my family and I have enjoyed the beauty and variety of the parks in our area. Some are great for their hiking trails, playgrounds, nature centers, and others are best known for the amazing gardens, friendly butterflies, and water play areas.  

"My two little guys" climbing up the red slides at Deep Run.
I love that we never have to go too far to find a park.  There are many around, each with their own personality.  Deep Run Park has been a staple in our lives for many years.  I remember when we'd take my youngest sister Theresa there to play on the playground.  In more recent years, I've taken "my two little guys" and the oldest of the three silly sisters for whom I nannied to run around there.  One year, I asked that everyone meet at Deep Run for a picnic on my birthday.  It was the first time I got to introduce the three silly sisters to our nephew.  All of us had fun!

Deep Run Park is one my family has been going
to ever since the first time we moved to Virginia
in the early nineties.  

Three Lakes Park is one that my sister and nephew introduced
me to that I've returned to a number of times.
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