One Month Boob-Free!

To be honest, my recovery from this surgery has been more difficult and painful than I anticipated. I was in quite a bit of pain for the first three weeks though not enough to warrant taking pain meds. My skin is still very sensitive and some days it makes wearing shirts absolute torture. But ice is great and works wonders for the burning sensation and when the aching gets to be too much I will eventually take an ibuprofen.

Things are progressing along with the actual recovery. The incisions are feeling pretty good and since quitting the paper tape and switching to Vitamin E cream and Bio-oil, I am finally beginning to feel like a real boy! I have to tell you though I still feel like I am forgetting something when I get dressed in the morning....I feel so naked under my shirts!

I started giving the area around my incisions a bit of a massage this week. The stitches are dissolving and I haven't seen any sign of them coming to the surface. When I massaged the area tonight after a shower I did feel a snapping which I think was the stitches breaking under the skin. Hopefully that will help alleviate some of the puckering and rigidity under the incision.

One thing I am kind of concerned about is the hard areas under my skin. There are a few places where the tissue feels really dense and tough. I am not sure if this is swelling or an accumulation of fluid left over from the bruising. I know that when I had an incision under my chin it took weeks to return to normal but now two years later you can hardly see or feel the scar. I am definitely going to ask my doctor about it and if need be I will seek out some ultrasound therapy if it turns out to be scar tissue.

I am really excited about how things are healing up. I was thinking that there hadn't been much change but then I took a look at the photos I have been taking every few days and from the first reveal to now, things have really changed a lot! I guess when you see something every day you don't notice the changes so much. After looking at the photos I was pleasantly surprised bu how well things are progressing. I look forward to documenting the experience and sharing it with you!

It has been really liberating to finally feel like things are coming together. It has taken a long time for me to come to terms with being transgender and to finally be in a place where I am truly happy with who I am has been a very long and often painful journey not only for me but for a lot of other people as well. I think realizing that I can't make anyone love me, or accept me has been a really hard lesson. I just have to live to be true to myself and the people who can accept that are the ones that truly matter in the end. That's a lot easier to say than it is to live. I am lucky that my family have been supportive. I can't imagine how hard it must be to transition without the love and support of your family.

I have been getting some really positive feedback through comments and I just want to say thanks to everyone who has written to let me know that they read this blog. I really appreciate your comments and I hope that you can get something for yourself from my experience. I know a lot of times the internet will be the first place you get a chance to really "see" what being transgendered is like for someone else. It is nice to know that you have shared similar experiences and feelings. It makes me happy to know that there is comfort between us in these small moments knowing that we are not alone.


Three Weeks Post-Op

The three week mark passed and I am now officially on the down-slope of my six week recovery. I have Been dealing with a lot of surface pain, wearing clothes hurts my skin and the only way to describe it is  like rubbing sandpaper on a sun burn. The right graft is nearly completely healed now and looking good, the left is not and I have been keeping it covered with an advanced healing bandage which acts like a scab and is supposed to minimize scarring. I am kind of worried about how it looks right now but I will be diligent keeping it covered and clean and hope that it will heal up soon. If not I will be sure to have my doctor look at it at.

When I called the surgeon's office they told me I was to keep the incisions covered with paper tape to help flatten the scars out but I'm pretty sure I developed a sensitivity to the adhesive on it so I tried using the advance healing bandage  on them instead. I wore those over the incisions for a week straight but the pain was finally too much and I took them off which was a special kind of torture all its own. I took everything off the incisions and I am applying high potency vitamin E cream to the incisions at least twice a day and for now I am enjoying a huge releif from the pain. I really want to help my body heal with a minimum of scarring but I can't deal with the aching skin anymore. Constant irritation is making me cranky!

So only a few more short weeks and I see my family doc who will hopefully give me the OK to return to life as I knew it. I plan to make up some time hiking, fishing and kayaking before the summer is over. If I'm lucky, September will be beautiful and warm enough to enjoy at least a few weekends on the water. The countdown to my summer is on!


Back to Work

I have been back home for less than a week and at work for only a couple of days and already I am getting really tired of feeling crappy. I was expecting that I would not be in any more pain but my body apparently has other ideas. Wearing a shirt is like having someone rub sandpaper over a sunburn. Parts of my chest are numb to the touch yet can still experience sharp pain like an electric shock. I am exhausted by lunchtime and have spent more time cuddling ice packs than my cats. While it was great to get caught up on some reading, the two weeks I had off work was far from a vacation.

I don't have short term disability coverage with this employer which means I probably returned to work sooner than I should have. I am happy to be feeling productive but not happy that I am still in so much pain I am unable to return to a normal-ish routine. I am hoping another week of taking it easy will put me in better spirits and help my body heal at least to the point where I am not so uncomfortable.

I am thankful that I have a sympathetic and flexible employer and that getting the time off for surgery was not a problem. I am going home an hour early every day this week to a date on the couch with my aforementioned ice princess.  I am am getting kind of worried that I am taking so much longer to heal than what I am used to. Sure I have never had this type of surgery before but I am still bruised and tender at my IV site and it has been almost 3 weeks now since the surgery.

I am taking vitamins every day, using the Vitamin E cream on the parts that are no longer under a dressing, and keeping the ugly graft covered. Up until tonight I had been using paper tape and non adhesive dressing over polysporin but the tape has been wreaking havoc on my already sensitive skin. Instead I am trying a second skin burn pad (and more paper tape) over the graft to see if it will help the graft to finally heal. I am a little worried that the right graft has taken so easily and the stitches are already mostly dissolved and have fallen out. The left is taking it's sweet time and the only reason I can think of is either it doesn't have the same bloodflow or that the swelling in the right helped the graft take more quickly because of the extra fluid.

I took the paper tape of the righ incision and replaced it with a heal fast bandage. My skin needs a break from the paper tape and the pharmacist said I could put them over the incisions. The burn pad worked wonders on the area before I had to remove it but I am still a little worried about how the right side is healing up. The swelling hasn't gone down a lot yet and there is an area under the incision about six inches along the length of it that seems to be making a real mess of itself. It is hard and puckered and creating a real lip under the skin. I hope that as the stitches dissolve, the swelling goes down and the skin tightens everything will smooth out.  I guess if I still have concerns after healing for three months I can call the surgeon's office and make an appointment for advice. Hopefully things will look a LOT different three months from now....


Two Weeks Post-Op

My cross-eyed Beauty, LiLu
 Two weeks down and four to go till I am back fishing from my new kayak, sleeping on my stomach, playing and enjoying the rest of the summer. I have got to remember that no matter how good I am feeling I need to be careful and take it easy. I have been doing everything my surgeon told me when I saw him to have my drains out. I called his office yesterday to ask a couple of questions about post-op care of my grafts and incisions and the receptionist called me back today with the answers. Apparently there was a few things I missed.

Now I am pretty sure that I wasn't high when I returned to the hospital to have my drains removed and see my surgeon. I wasn't asleep and I'm sure I didn't dream it. I know what I was told at the post op visit and there was no mention of keeping my incisions covered. I was told to clean the grafts, apply antibiotic ointment and change the non stick dressing every day. This was the exact opposite of what he told the nurse I was to be doing. I should have been covering my incisions with paper tape and left the dressings off my nipple grafts. Huh? Is it really possible that I got the information totally backwards?  

So now I am confused and unsure what the heck I am supposed to do to minimize scarring and promote healing. I feel kind of pissed that I missed an opportunity to minimize my scarring leaving the incisions uncovered. I have been sort of making up my own recovery plan which includes treating the nipple grafts with high potency Vitamin E cream and supplementing my diet with zinc, vitamin E and vitamin C.

I have kept the nipple grafts covered but the right one has healed up more quickly than the left. I am keeping the left covered with antibiotic ointment and a dressing until the scab comes off and I can let it live more comfortably under just a t-shirt.

Arnica ointment helped a lot the first week with pain and swelling. It was cooling and not greasy so I am happy to continue using it until the tube is empty. I began using the vitamin E cream on the incisions after having the drains out and the dressings off. Not having the incisions covered has affected the healing for sure. The right side of my chest near my armpit has begun to pucker and get bumpy so I have tried to undo the scarring damage caused by having it uncovered the last seven days: I am trying Second Skin moist burn pads. They are similar to the silicone gel pads but are about half the price.

Once my six weeks is up I will continue to work on treating the scars and might consider trying to purchase some silicone gel pads. In the mean time I will keep the paper tape over the incisions in an attempt to smooth and flatten them out. Bio oil is also something that I will try to see if I can help fade the scars.

The drain sites are still giving me a considerable amount of pain and irritation and my skin is definitely over sensitive to tht pont that wearing a tshirt feel a lot like wearing sandpaper. Things are tight and sore and achy around the incision sites and I get strange sharp electrical pains deep in the tissue every once in a while. The itching I don;t mind too much as I know it means things are healing but not being able to scratch at it because my skin is so sensitive is its own special kind of torture.

Sleeping is getting easier and I find I can roll partway onto my side now which is saving my back and helping me sleep through the night. I am used to sleeping on my stomach and hope that soon I can return to my sleeping position of choice. I will be back in my own bed tomorrow night for the first time since surgery but I'll have to share the space with a cat or two...

All in all the past two weeks have gone by pretty fast. The first week crawled by a little more slowly than the second which seems to have disappeared more quickly than I would have liked. I am feeling sad about leaving the great comfort of Mom's house and care as I don't get home as much as I'd like.


Lucky Thirteen

Although I started this journey almost two years ago I have been on T for just thirteen months. I am now officially starting another year of my transition and it is going to be just as busy as the last. Top surgery fell the day before my thirteen month mark so it is needless to say I've been a little preoccupied. Changes are still occurring but not as quickly as they did during the first few months.  I think that's partly because I am taking a lower dose of T once a week instead of a higher dose every two weeks. At last check, all of my blood tests have been normal including my t-levels as well as my liver function test.

Acne: I am still battling acne and while the antibiotic has helped, I am starting to wonder if my skin will ever clear up.

Body: I guess with the top surgery finally completed I can say there is a significant change in my body – though not as a result of T! I am definitely going to need some time to fit myself into this body now that it has changed again. I am excited to see how things finally turn out but I am really happy with my results so far. The top surgery page is similar to this T-journal so if you're interested in reading about that of course check it out. Otherwise, not too much to mention except I had been doing push ups to build up my pec muscles but looks like now I'll need to work on the sit-ups!

Hair: Probably the slowest change and for me most one of the more frustrating parts of taking T. I've wanted a moustache for so long but it really is taking its sweet ass time getting here! I shave as often as I am comfortable but with the acne problem I have quit shaving quite so often. With my job it is not imperative that I am clean-shaven every day so I take advantage of that by shaving only twice a week and even then I only shave my cheeks and neck and keep the hair on my chin tidy with an electric razor. I doubt I'll be able to grow a beard by winter but it would be nice if only for the extra warmth. Oh moustache, where are you?

Mood: This has been pretty good lately. Although I experienced a significant amount of anxiety leading up to top surgery, I am feeling pretty good about how it all went. I really feel like I can be myself a little more each day and the feelings of self consciousness have almost completely disappeared. I am confident once I am out of pain and picking up speed at the bottom of the recovery hill, I will feel a lot more like getting out and getting on with my life. Hopefully I can keep busy and continue participating in things that are fulfilling.

Voice: I'm pretty sure this has settled. I think they say two years for it to completely change but I never get mistaken for a lady on the phone so that's a good place to be. I still sound like myself.  People I haven't talked to in a while still recognize my voice over the telephone so it's not like I have to fit into both a new body and a new voice. I keep trying to remember to take voice samples but since I never took one before I started T it is hard to know how much my voice has really changed.

Other: Aside from top surgery, not too much has changed. I am making an effort to involve myself in art related endeavors as the winters are long and cold and having opportunities to meet new people and show my work is a way to make the time fly by. I am going to try the novel writing again in November and I am still debating making a real commitment to Camp Nanowrimo which would give me two months to write a novel instead of one....that's only 900 words a day instead of 1667. Yeah, I guess I can do that. The next year is going to be extremely important: my body will likely have completed the majority of its changes by this time next year. Testosterone will be maintenance not a renovation, my chest will have healed and the scars flattened out and faded, my voice will be permanent, and hopefully my body and facial hair will have filled in and I won't have lost any more of  my hairline. I will have been at my job for a year and summer will once again be on the horizon. A year from now seems a long time away but then again, a year ago feels like just yesterday.


Peace and Quiet

First Paddle
I ordered myself a Pelican fishing kayak in March and it finally arrived at Canadian Tire in June, don't even ask. I was thrilled to finally get a chance to get off the shore and out into the water and do a little sight-seeing and fishing from the middle of the lake.

I went out after supper around 8pm and paddled my way to the end of a small lake near my house. It was beautifully calm and relatively quiet- the airport is right near the lake so there were a few planes coming in for their landings. It took about an hour to paddle all the way to the end of the lake but I tok my time and gawked at the scenery trying not to get too close to the shore as the mosquitoes were ravenous.

As a kid, my dad and grandad often took us out in a canoe when we went to our cabin during the summer holidays and I'm pretty sure learning to canoe is a part of many Canadian gym or Rec Ed programs. Kayaking is a different story. The thing I love most is that it will float in about three inches of water. The thing I love least is that it is way more tippy than a canoe.

For my first trip across the lake I left my fishing gear back in the car: no sense in losing it all if I dump the boat first trip out. I took my time getting used to turning around and moving forward and backward. I pulled into shore and organized the foot pedals which gave me a little more control and helped with my balance. I need quite a bit more practice with paddling though as I got pretty wet from all the drips off the handle, (good thing it came with a spray skirt)!

After gaining confidence with my first two hours of paddling I returned to the car and grabbed my fishing gear. It was only about 10pm so I figured I had at least an hour or two before I would have to pack it in. I set up my fishing rod in the rear rod holder and stuck my gear bag between my legs. I grabbed my hoodie in case it cooled off and fought the mosquitoes again as I fumbled around on shore. I had to paddle fast to out run those little suckers and finally left the hungry swarm behind.

I caught a couple little jackfish (northern pike) while trolling behind the kayak and only got stuck a few times. The nice thing about that is that I could just paddle backwards and free my lure instead of trying to fight it from shore. Fishing from a kayak is challenging. I am glad the fish I caught were relatively small....a larger one might have taken me for quite a ride! While the boat does come with an anchor I think perhaps in pursuit of larger fish I might just paddle to an island or location where I can fish from shore if I'm hunkering for a lunker!

I have to say I am really happy with my investment. The kayak is light and easy to carry weighing only 40 pounds. I can load it and unload it myself and it allows me to do a lot more exploring. I can venture up the river and across lakes, and portage through to smaller lakes that are inaccessible to motorboats. I had the entire lake to myself and as you can see from the photos it was a beautiful calm night for a trip. I was able to see parts of the lake I could never access and found a couple really nice little fishing holes as well as some potential campsites. I shared the lake with nesting ducks, muskrats, ravens and arctic terns who were too busy fishing too try and peck my eyes out (they defend their nest with rabid vengeance).

I have to spend July recovering from my surgery but the prospect of getting back out on the lakes to enjoy the quiet beauty of the outdoors is reassuring. I can't wait to paddle out someplace and set up camp for a night or two, sleep under the aurora and count the stars. I can spend a day or two fishing and exploring, taking photos and maybe even go for a swim. Summer is short enough but with a six week recovery plunked right in the middle I am going to be sure to enjoy every second of whatever is left, especially in my new body.


One week Post-Op

This time last week I was waking up in the recovery room at the hospital after having my top surgery. Today I am sitting out on the patio at my mom's with the cat enjoying the beautiful weather planning my trip home. I want to sleep in my own bed, have more than four shirts to choose from and take a long hot shower under the faucet with pressure like a fire hose. I want to see my cats and the midnight sun and maybe just maybe make some prints before I have to go back to work. I want to get out with my friend in her new boat and watch her reel in my giant 20 lb lake trout, (hey I can dream).

The first week honestly seemed to fly by but since I haven't been very mobile - unable to drive or walk too far, I have felt pretty stuck. As the swelling goes down, the bruising is starting to take it's toll. My skin is sore to the point that even goosebumps are painful. The area around my stitches is hard and bruised and really sensitive to touch even though it's numb.... I know it doesn't make any sense. I found a gel-roll which is basically a tensor bandage that has silicone on one side. I leave it in the freezer overnight and wrap my chest tightly in the morning. The light compression helps immensely with the pain and the cool helps relieve pain and reduce the swelling. I have been using ice packs under my arms and on my chest at least three to five times a day. I tried using second skin burn pads over my incisions but because they are still very uneven they didn't stick. I had to tape them in place which was extremely uncomfortable.

My nipple grafts are ugly. There's really no other way to describe it. They are black and scabby and coated with ointment which makes them weepy. I have to change the dressings every day which means more tape on my already sensitive chest not to mention yanking out some of my precious few chest hairs. Also, now that the swelling has come down a bit and the nerves aren't quite as compressed I am getting weird stinging pains where I used to have nipples....great...phantom nipples...just what I need.

I am happy with how things are progressing for the most part. I am uncomfortable if I move around. Reaching for things over my head is not happening but I am not having any troubles washing my hair or putting on a t-shirt. Now that my breasts are gone I find that my belly sticks out quite a bit more than I like so I guess some sit-ups will be in my future!

I finally got a haircut which is great in the hot weather but will have to go to my guy back home to get it cut properly. I tire out pretty easily and will definitely take advantage of the next week taking it easy and resting up, not lifting anything heavy and making sure that I can make it through an eight hour day when I finally return to work. It's not really a vacation feeling this sore and not being able to do things like drive. Unfortunately I think I will have used up all my vacation time by the time I return to work so getting a vacation to actually relax will be a long time coming. Perhaps I'll even go someplace that has a pool!