6.27.2011

The Big Reveal

After five long days I finally got a look at my new chest. And it looks AWESOME! My surgeon Dr. Giuffre did an incredible job and I am stoked about the results so far. I did a lot of research before my top surgery and I have looked at a lot of photos and I gotta say I am super proud of my surgeon and think he is definitely up there with the very best. I was not expecting things to look so good right off the bat and although they still look a bit rough after just five days I can see how great it's going to look once things heal up.

When I arrived at the hospital I checked in and waited only a few minutes before being called into the exam room. I stripped off my t-shirt apologizing for the way I smelled since I hadn't showered for quite a few days. The nurse cut away the binder and tape, removed the dressings, and finally peeled away the steri-strips that covered the incisions. I have dissolving stitches the ends of which hang out where I used to have cleavage and under my arms. Then I was treated to the luxury of a saline wash to clean up the gunk that was trapped under the bandages after surgery. I tell you after five days without water or air my skin felt alive! 

I waited a few more minutes for Dr Giuffre to come in and have a look and remove the dressings that were stitched over my nipple grafts. He clipped the stitches and pulled the dressings off and the nipples stayed put, thank goodness!! Nothing worse than having your brand new nipples ripped off!! Then he made my day by removing the stitches holding my drains in place and finally removing them. What a relief! The majority of the pain I had been experiencing had been from the drain sites where the tubes exited the surgical site.

Ice has been my friend for sure and the relief it offers has been better than any pain medication. I am hoping it will help bring down the swelling under my arms. I started using Arnica ointment in the area around the incision as well which is supposed to be a good topical treatment for pain, swelling and trauma. I have picked up some high potency Vitamin E and will be going to the pharmacy to see if I can find some silicone scar treatment. Taking both of these as soon as possible should help minimize the scars.

The drive back from the hospital was long and hot and tiring and when we finally got home the first thing I did was jump in the shower! It was as good as a shower after a long weekend of camping finally cleaning away all the yuck from my body and giving my skin some life! My hair was also excited to be washed but is looking a little shaggy so I might seek out a barber tomorrow and get myself a new haircut to go with my new body!

I have some serious nerve damage and for now there are large patches of my chest that have no feeling. For right now I am ok with that. Recovery is painful and as nerves and blood supply start to re-establish themselves and things heal up I know that a lot of the sensation will return. I do feel sharp twinges and aches and the itchy feeling is a signal that things are healing up. 

I am confident that once the swelling and bruising go down, the skin tightens up a bit, I put on a little muscle (and chest hair), and the scars fade and smooth out, my chest will look as close to natural as I could ever have wanted. Thanks to the skilled hands of my doctor and the support of my family and friends I am finally moving forward. I am excited to see how things progress over the next year and look forward to sharing my journey.

To see the photos see the top surgery page.

6.26.2011

Top Surgery Recovery Day 4

Yesterday was a pretty rough day. I was in quite a bit of pain in particular around the drain sites and along the path of the drains under the incisions. I have been having heartburn which has been keeping me awake at night.  One of the side effects of anaesthetic and codeine is that it slows down your bowel. This has been making me feel pretty crappy (no pun intended) probably more so than anything else. On top of that the binder/bandage I've been wearing since the surgery gets looser every day as the swelling in my chest goes down. With all the extra movement of the bandage, my drain sites and dressings (which are stitched to my body) are getting pretty irritated. I have been trying to get my body back on a schedule but it is not cooperating as quickly as I'd hoped.

Today I went to a family gathering that involved church. It has been a really long time since I stepped foot through the doors of an established place of worship for any religious purpose. On her 90th birthday my grandmother wished that before she dies her entire family would accompany her to church. You can't deny a 90 year old a birthday wish like that so I went. I put aside my feelings about church and religion and despite being sore I went and sat with my family in the small town church.

Once again I was honoured and moved by my family's acceptance of my transition. I was most proud of my father who was sort of put on the spot and asked to introduce his family to his family (our extended family also attended...his cousins and aunts and uncles) and without missing a beat he introduced me as Marcus as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I could have jumped across the table and gave him a giant bear hug. I love being surprised by my dad. Sometimes he shows me that I don't give him enough credit.

I had my mom wrap an extra layer of fabric around my chest and tape it to snug things up which made a big difference. Tomorrow we are headed back to the big city for the first (and hopefully last) post-op visit with the surgeon who will take off the bandage and dressing and hopefully remove the drains (oh please oh please oh please). I will finally get a look at my new chest!! I will definitely post photos as the recovery progresses and you can get a glimpse of my surgeon's fine handiwork.

Just a few more hours and maybe finally once and for all it will sink in that they are really gone, that I don't ever have to wear another bra and I can finally get on with living my life!

6.24.2011

Top Surgery Recovery Day 2

Day One Post-Op
It's been kinda difficult trying to keep the days organized when I have been spending quite a lot of my day napping. It seems I can only keep my eyes open for a little while after taking pain meds so my day is sort of broken up into short spurts of lucidity between luxurious codeine naps.

Traveling home from the hospital was a bit of an adventure; an hour and a half on a highway. The road is pretty smooth but of course there are spots that are a little more bumpy than others. The ride took a bit of a toll on the chest as the bandage was rubbing and made the incisions burn quite a bit. Once home, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and some more pain meds which meant of course another nap. I was outside though which was nice and eventually came in for some supper. One of the side effects of anaesthetic is constipation. Ugh. So I tried to encourage my intestines to get moving by taking a short walk. That was probably not the best idea as it was pretty painful. I think I might try to keep exercise to a minimum at least until I get the binder off. Nausea has been a bit of a burden that I think is related mostly to taking medication on an empty stomach but might also be related to the amount of trauma my body has experienced in the last two days.

I have a bandage and binder wrapped around my chest, There are dressings sewn into my skin over my grafts. The binder is held in place over my shoulders with a makeshift straps. The drains are the most painful and awkward of everything so far. The tubes are stitched into my skin and run along the inside of the bandage to the drain bulbs on the outside of the binder. They have plastic tapes that I can pin to the inside of my shirt or the outside of the binder. The rubber is irritating against the skin so I have put a t-shirt on over the whole thing and pinned the drain bulbs to the inside of a long sleeved shirt that I am wearing over top of the t-shirt. This keeps the tubes from snagging on anything and pulling. I am already a little anxious about having the drains removed but will try not to worry about that for a few more days.

Emptying the drains is a pretty grim business too. I used to think I had a pretty strong stomach but somewhere along the way I have become a little squeamish.  The drains are basically a vacuum that sucks all the blood and fluid from the surgical site that would otherwise build up under the skin and cause excessive swelling and bruising. Every eight hours or so I have to open the bulb and drain the fluid into a container to be measured. I need to keep track of the amount of fluid so I measure it and write down the amount collected from the left side and the right side. It's actually kind of grossing me out but something I have to do for only a few more days...thank goodness.



6.22.2011

Top Surgery Post-Op

They're gone! They're gone! They're gone! YES!! It finally happened- the tits are gone. Honestly, it still doesn't seem real. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen the results of the surgery yet because my chest is still bandaged and under wraps. The dressings, bandages, and drains won't be removed for five days to prevent infection and make sure the nipple grafts take.

It was a pretty long day since I was too excited to actually get any sleep the night before. My surgery was scheduled for 7:30am and I had to be at the hospital by 6am. I was awake every hour and finally at 4am I decided to just stay up until it was time to go to the hospital. On arrival I was still afraid that they were going to tell me that my surgery was cancelled...I had been anxious about a last minute cancellation for weeks. But I was ushered to my bed in the day surgery ward and given the gown and housecoat, little blue slippers and some awfully tight "socks" which were really a torturous version of thigh-high nylons. They were to keep blood from pooling in my legs during surgery which helps prevent blood clots. I had to go into surgery wearing nothing but the gown and the thigh highs. No underwear or anything.

I was pretty nervous and was having a hard time believing that I was really going to have the surgery. Trying to imagine how I would feel, how I might look was still unfathomable at that point. I was wheeled up to the operating waiting area where the anaesthesiologist came and talked to me for a few minutes then I waited for my surgeon to come up and mark out the incisions and placement of the nipple grafts. Once that was done I was wheeled into the operating room and waited some more for everything to get organized- the antibiotics to be mixed and my IV which had to be inserted a second time since he punched through the vein the first time. Everything seemed to take a really long time and I was getting anxious. All I wanted was for them to knock me out already! I didn't want to see all the instruments being unwrapped, or hear the chit chat between the surgeon and the surgical scrub techs about procedure, and having my arms strapped down to the operating table before I was unconscious was a little unpleasant as well. Finally the magic was pumped into my IV and off to dreamland I went while the surgeon went to work.

I woke up in the recovery room in a lovely haze of morphine and under a toasted flannel blanket. I slept a while there floating in and out of some odd dreams before I was wheeled down to the day ward once again. There I drank some water and some gingerale but my throat was really sore and I had a hard time staying awake for more than a few minutes at a time. Around lunchtime I started to hurt quite a bit and the incisions were burning so I got another shot of morphine which knocked me out for a couple more hours. I really wanted to make it back to the rental house before rush hour so tried to get my nausea under control with a shot of gravol.....which made me sleep for another hour. Finally I got up and did some walking to the bathroom and back which made the pain worse and my nausea flare up really bad. I usually get sick once after having anaesthetic and as much as I wanted to just get it over with I was worried about how much pressure it would put on my chest.

Eventually we left the hospital and I tried my best to wait till we got inside to get sick but I only make it to the top of the stairs. Thank Goodness they sent us home with two or three sick bags...the kind you get on an airline. After that I felt so much better I had a little something to eat and another nap on the couch. We watched a little TV and emptied my drains once or twice. I wasn't in too much pain but got my mom to pick up an ice pack at the pharmacy when she filled the antibiotic prescription. We never did fill the prescription for pain meds as I had some T3s I brought from home which seemed to do just fine. I decided to sleep on the couch to stay propped up instead of wallowing around in a bed and fighting with a bunch of pillows. Heading back to mom's tomorrow for the remainder of my short term recovery. Won't get to have a look at the new chest until Monday....four days to the reveal!





6.21.2011

3.......2.........1.........Top Surgery!!

Well it's finally here. After 357 days of waiting, tomorrow I will finally be having my top surgery. Last night out with the tits was spent eating sushi with my mom and later contemplating gender identity, sexuality, gender politics, and family dynamics with a couple of my brilliant and beautiful cousins. I am so proud of how smart and critical they are of what society tells them they should be. It was a real blessing to sit down and have an open honest conversation with my family.

Today was the last day of feeling awkward about my chest, the last day of feeling betrayed by my body, the first day of really feeling hopeful for a happy future. I took my vitamins. I had my shower. I took one last long look at the beasts in the mirror and I feel absolutely no regret about having them removed. I have delayed allowing myself to believe that this day would ever actually arrive so thinking that in just a few hours the boobs will be gone forever is still kind of surreal. I won't really believe it until I wake up and they are gone gone gone.

I have kept myself really busy the last few weeks to try to avoid thinking myself into an anxiety attack or depression and it worked, right up to the last minutes. Now months of anticipation and years of shame will disappear in only a few hours and I will finally wake up a GI Joe in a GI Joe Box....more or less.


6.13.2011

Redneck.........me?

The summer I was 8 years old my father took me and my sister to the dump near our cabin to learn how to shoot a rifle. It was only a .22 but I remember the thrill of shooting and hitting the targets he set up. It was sunny and I think we were all in shorts; no eye protection, no hearing protection no safety training except what my grandfather had taught my father. This was one of those moments where I had something passed onto me thought I didn't recognize it at the time. I never really considered learning to shoot a gun from the back of a pick-up a redneck activity until someone I work with (from Toronto) pointed it out. Then I thought.....oh my god. He's totally right.

I mention this because it got me thinking about how we see ourselves and how so often how we think others perceive us is completely off the mark. As a kid I never thought about my culture or income level, or race. I never considered things like politics or religion making me different than anyone else. I suppose as kids our upbringing is normal for each of us and until our view of ourselves is challenged by how we see ourselves through the eyes of others, the little bubble of happiness that is our reality stays in tact.

Being transgendered I am conflicted and confused by how I think people see me and how they actually see me. It's like knowing how all the magic tricks are done...people see what they want and are conditioned to look at specific identification markers to understand what something is. For example, the last few months I have been completely paranoid that my breasts have been making people question my male identity. When I finally told a couple friends that I was going for chest surgery they looked confused and said to me: I thought you already had that done?  Oh Lord. How stupid did I feel worrying about it all that time....

Another misconception that has arisen (which is between you and me and the fencepost) is my sexual orientation. If someone asked me what my preference is, right now I probably couldn't say for sure, but that's a post for another day. I was at a party not that long ago and I was hanging out with some queer friends and a handsome gentleman (a very touchy-feely kind of guy) and I kept getting the straight-guy-stink-eye from an obviously homophobic lunkhead. You all know the kind of guy who is so worried a gay guy might hit on him when we can see from a thousand yards that he's straight and really not anyone's type...you know of that guy. Anyhow it was so strange and suddenly I realized that (for the second time) I was being perceived a a gay man.  Personally this doesn't bother me one bit as I amused to being seen as a butch but it is quite another thing to be seen as a gay man. To say the least I was a little afraid for my safety.

I wonder if the real problem is that I still haven't quite wrapped my head around other people finally acknowledging my male identity or if the girl part of me that is still very much alive is rearing her butch head to say don't forget about me or I'll shoot you right in that stink eye.

6.08.2011

The Countdown to Swimming

I have been trying not to think about my chest surgery too much since so many things can go wrong; cancellations, illness, travel hiccups and emergency surgeries all have the potential to bump my chest surgery. There is only two weeks left and 14 days from now barring any of these unforseen circumstances I will be watching a movie in a hotel with some wonderful drugs and ice packs on my flattened chest.

I haven't seen any before and after photos from my surgeon so I really have no idea what to expect. I have been trying to imagine what it is going to feel like to wake up without breasts, without shame, without feeling like I need to hide. I can't imagine it and until I wake up and they are actually gone I won't. I won't know exactly how everything turns out for months after and likely won't have enough courage to actually go outside shirtless until next summer. I think the idea of actually wandering around topless will feel awkward and vulnerable and I will probably need to practice feeling comfortable wandering around my own house with no shirt on before I can brave the outdoors. I am smiling now because the thought of actually being able to go swimming just occurred to me....swimming....after almost 20 years. Wow.

This afternoon I got a message from the surgeon's office and I started to panic. I was sure that it was going to be bad news. They were looking for my paperwork. The doctor's evaluation and medical history that I mailed back to them almost 3 months ago, just in case there was a chance I could get in earlier. Turns out they had it and had just misplaced it. I made sure that the surgery was still a go, that there wasn't anything else I was supposed to do. I am waiting to hear from the hospital for the pre-admission interview but won't find out my surgery time until the day before the actual surgery. I am hoping it is early in the day...very early in the day so recovery and healing can begin sooner than later. Plus I don't want to have to go hungry any longer than I have to.

I wrote a post way back in January, called The Longest Day where I detailed all the things I look forward to the most after having surgery. I won't read it now until after I know for sure they are gone. Two more weeks, just two more weeks. Let the time fly.......