Eleven Days Post Top Surgery

I don’t know why I’m keeping count of the days other than the fact that every thing to do with surgeries is counted in weeks and I’m coming up on two weeks in a few days.  After two weeks I might start to get a reprise from my very uncomfortable post-surgical binder that I have to wear 24 hours a day.  I might be allowed to take it off altogether and forever or I might just get to take it off at night.  I guess I’ll know soon.

As far as healing is concerned, I’d say the stitches are starting to look more like scars more every day.  The glue they put on me in surgery is almost all gone now and I think the majority of the swelling has subsided.  Every day it looks a little bit better and feels better.  My left side looks dramatically better than my right side.  Even the nipples look very different.  The right nipple is very dark, purple-blackish and the left is reddish-pink.  The scar on the right is lumpy and bumpy, while the one on the left is much smoother and thinner.  I have no idea if this is normal.  I look at my nipples in the mirror for the two minutes I get to see them every day and can’t believe that they are actually going to look like normal nipples again soon.  It’s truly hard to believe, especially the right one which looks like it’s dead.  Yet, I get sharp pains in them once in a while which I take as signs of life.

It’s been a very significant couple of weeks for me.  I came out fully to some close, local friends and to my staff at work.  All of the important people in my life know about my transition and that I’m transgender.  I also asked people to start working on switching pronouns for me as well.  I told them that my preferred pronouns are they/them/their but he/him/his are fine as well.  I also gave them the option to just use my name instead of a pronoun if all else failed.  I expect it to be a long and arduous task to get the pronouns switched over.  And, on top of all that, one of my diplomas came in the mail today with my new name on it.  That’s a very cool thing indeed!  I am looking forward to putting it in the frame over top the old one tomorrow at work.  I had all but forgotten about my diplomas so it was a big surprise when it showed up in the mail today.

The only thing left to do, besides continue to heal, is to change my gender marker on my driver’s license.  I’ve decided that I need to do that to feel like I’m complete.  After that, I will consider my transition complete.  Of course, transition is never completely complete.  We’re never completely done coming out.  There’s always someone who doesn’t know about us transitioning.  There’s the pronoun challenge that will be on-going for quite some time.  And of course, testosterone will continue to works it way through my system and change my appearance even more than it already has.

The beautiful ladies at Dr. Sherie’s office told me the last day I saw them that I looked good and that I was never anything but a man to them.  They’re such angels for saying that.  I told Dr. Sherie that I felt like I looked like The Incredible Hulk because I have muscular pecs now but that I guessed that would change after the swelling went down.  She just looked at me very kindly and said that she thought it might not change that much because I have very good musculature.  Wow!  I used to lift weights a lot.  Maybe it paid off in the end?  Now that the swelling is going down I still see my pecs in the mirror, so maybe she was right.  Just have to work on my beer belly now!

hulk chest

Pecs like The Hulk

The only disappointing thing that has happened with my Top Surgery experience is that my brother informed me that he’s angry that I took my transition this far.  He’s angry with me.  I’m actually incredulous that he thinks he has the right to be angry at me for doing something I have always wanted to do to my own body.  I told him that the only person who has any right to be upset at all is Candace.  It does effect her.  How exactly does this effect him any more than changing my name and telling him that I want him to consider me his brother now.  Maybe he thought I was joking.  He probably didn’t take me seriously about that stuff.  I joked and told him I have a penis now too and that really freaked him out.  He asked me several times if it was true.  I could tell it was really upsetting him (for some reason) to think that I had a penis so I finally told him the truth and he was very relieved.  Why did he care so much?  Candace seems to think I would care if he wanted to be a woman and have a vagina.  Nope, I really wouldn’t.  In fact, I would think that it’s natural for him to want that.

 

On another note, I’ve gotten asked some interesting questions since surgery.  Candace’s mom asked me if I felt self-conscious when they took topless pictures of me after surgery.  No, why would I?  I don’t have breasts anymore.

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Two of the nurses, me and Dr. Sherie after having my drains removed.

I’ve been asked if it hurt.  Yeah, it hurt but pain meds work wonders.  Duh!  I was asked if they tried to talk me out of it.  No.  Why would they?  I was asked if I missed them.  NO!  But, I am concerned with how I’ll feel if my nipples don’t survive.  I was asked how it feels to be a man now.  That one really gets me.  I’m no more a man now than I was before surgery.  I just said that I feel like myself, but lighter.  I’ll admit that most of these questions came from kids, but still I found it kind of humorous and interesting the things they think of.

 

I saw my new chest for the first time the day after surgery.  It wasn’t an emotional moment for me like I had thought it might be.  Maybe it’s because I was still on pain meds, but it was just kind of an anti-climatic moment for me.  I think I might have hurt my surgeon’s feelings that I wasn’t more excited about it.  Normally I wouldn’t have been asked to come back the next day but they were really concerned about me because I had such a hard time waking up from the anesthesia the night before.  They called Candace twice that night to check on me and again in the morning to ask if she’d bring me in for a once over and some massage.  The massage was simply pushing on my chest to help remove some fluid.  There was no new age music and candles or scented oils involved.  I still haven’t had a big emotional reaction to my chest.  I think I’m still in a wait and see mode with a little bit of I can’t believe I actually did this thrown in for good measure.  Up until the night before I was still second guessing myself and thinking about backing out.  Eventually I decided that I was past the point of no return and I needed to make peace with that.  And I did.  The morning of surgery I wasn’t nervous at all or hesitant.  I had made my decision in the 11th hour and was putting my life in the hands of Dr. Sherie and her team.  I’ve told them from the beginning that they are the boss and I will do whatever they tell me to do.  And I meant that.  I’ve been following her orders to the T (whatever that means).  I just hope it pays off.

Four Days Post Top Surgery

Surgery was on Thursday.  The following Monday I went in for a follow up appointment and they took my nipple stents off and checked my drains.  Everything was looking good.  Wednesday I go back and they will probably pull the drain tubes out.  Originally they had said they would pull the drains on Monday and take the nipple stents off on Friday but for whatever reason she changed her mind.  Taking the stents off was no big deal at all.  They are loosely stitched in place and she just snips the stitches and pulls them out.  I’m still so numb that I couldn’t feel a thing.  She let me look at them in a mirror but, honestly, they’re just black and bruised and don’t really look like nipples at this point.  They assure me that will change quickly.  The nurse took a swab and put a tiny amount of nitro glycerin cream on both of them and then covered each one with a waterproof Band-Aid so I can shower without getting them wet.  The nitro cream helps to open up the blood vessels and get good blood flow into the nipples so they heal well.  I hadn’t heard of anyone doing this so I thought it was important to mention here.  They told me the reason I don’t have any bandages on my incision is because they use glue over them, which will flake off over time.  Still they had me start using an antibiotic cream on the incision at this point.

Today I’m planning on taking my first shower and I’m really looking forward to it.  They told me I could shower the day after surgery but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it so Candace has been washing my hair in the kitchen sink and we’ve been doing “sponge baths”.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of itchiness on my chest and back so I’m really looking forward to letting the warm water massage those areas some.  It will also be nice to have the binder off for a little while.  I really dislike the tight binder I have to wear for two weeks.  I had a bit on an anxiety attack a couple of days ago because it felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.  It hasn’t been as bad as I had feared but it’s still really uncomfortable.  On top of that it makes my belly look huge!!  Well, my belly is kind of huge.  I’m hoping some of that is just water retention and maybe some left over gas from the surgery.

On another front, my sore throat has persisted and I actually think I might have a cold or something.  I’ve been feeling really crappy from it and don’t have much energy.  It could be allergies or a sinus infection.  Not sure.  I’m on anti-biotics, which I just took the last of this morning, so hopefully that is enough to keep it from getting worse.  If it does get worse I’ll have to find myself an urgent care doc.  Candace told me that she woke up with a sore throat this morning too.  She thinks it’s allergies.  Mostly I just don’t feel like doing much.  Laying around watching stupid shows and napping is about as much as I’m really interested in doing.  Still, I do go out with Candace and our dog to the dog park and hang out with them for a while.  I don’t think the lack of energy is as much due to the surgery as it is the cold, but it could be both.  I know my body is busy healing and that takes a lot of energy.  Either way, I’m enjoying not having to do much and just relaxing a lot.

Three Days Post Top Surgery

Well, folks, I survived my top surgery, though, anesthesia and me don’t seem to get along too well.  They had a really hard time getting me to wake up and kept me in recovery for quite a long time.  Even when they finally cleared me to ride home I was still heavily sedated and remember very little of surgery day after I went into the OR.  Around 11:30pm I finally felt awake enough to want to eat and chat a little bit.  Both of my arms and my right ankle felt very stiff and swollen and are just now starting to feel ok.  The other thing that I’ve been complaining about is my throat.  It’s been very sore and it’s hard to eat or drink.  I think it’s a little bit better today, so I’m hopeful that things will continue to improve.  Last night I was thinking that I might be getting a cold or a sinus infection.  Time will tell on that, I guess.

As for the surgery, I think it went very well.  Dr. Sherie does things a little different than most surgeons I’ve read about.  She called me the night of surgery to check in on me and twice the day after.  They asked me to come in the next day to get some massage on my chest.  When we went in, she took my binder and padding off of me and I got to see my chest for the first time.  It looks awesome, even with the fresh scars.  My nipples have those little pillows on them which they call stints.  The massage was interesting.  She and one of the nurses gobbed petrolatum on my chest and started rubbing down towards the drains to get fluid and blood out of my drains.  I just have about an inch of tubing sticking out from both sides of my chest under my arms.  No bulbs to empty.  They attach menstrual pads to the foam pad under my binder to catch the fluid.  Candace took my binder off yesterday and repeated what Dr. Sherie did in the office.  I was surprised that it didn’t and doesn’t hurt for them to do this.  My chest is very numb and hard at this point.

I’ve wanted to post an update on here since Friday but I’ve been pretty doped up on oxycodone and find it hard to stay focused enough to sit down and put together a post like this.  Last night was the first time since surgery that I’ve gone all night without pain meds.  The oxy makes me itchy so I have to take Benadryl along with it to keep the itching to a minimum.  While I did sleep through the night I woke up feeling pretty sore today and took more pain meds.  I’m hoping to get off of them completely soon because they really knock me out.  But, I’ll keep using it as long as I need to.  No worries there.

On Monday I go in again to the surgeon’s office and, at that point, they say they will take the stints off of my nipples and leave my drains in if I’m still draining.  Right now, drains will stay in until next Friday but that could change.  It’s possible that they will take them out on Monday if my drainage has stopped.  They don’t bother me at all so whatever they want to do is ok with me.  The other thing she isn’t concerned with is me lifting my arms up too much.  Still, I avoid doing that as much as possible.  Basically, I’m pretty mobile and able to do a lot when I’m not drugged up and sleeping.  Also, at this point, there is not tape over my incisions.  I’ve seen many a picture of top surgery results and they all had tape over their incisions.  I don’t know if I will have to put something on them or not later on.  She’s never mentioned it.

Dr. Sherie and her staff have been amazing to work with and super attentive and caring.  Right now I give them five stars (out of 5).  Other than my throat hurting and a little soreness under my arms I really have no complaints at all.  Candace saw my chest the day after surgery and didn’t freak out so that makes me happy too.  I’m getting awesome care at her mom’s house.  They’ve cooked me healthy and delicious meals since I’ve been here and taken care of everything I’ve asked for from them.  Today I’m hoping to maybe get a little shower, but if nothing else Candace will wash my hair and we’ll do a little sponge bath.

I hope this post makes sense and isn’t too full of typos.  My drugs are kicking in again and I’m getting sleepy so I think I’ll leave it at this for now.  I’ll try to post again on Monday or Tuesday to let you know how my first official follow-up went.  So far, so good and I’m still kicking.  Happy Sunday everyone!

T-9 hours to Top Surgery

It’s so hard to believe that in just nine hours I’ll be laying down on the operating table to have my chest (top) surgery.  It’s surreal, to be honest.  The last few days have been filled with anxiety and stress over whether I’m making the right decision.  I hate to admit that I still have any doubt in my mind because, well, we’re supposed to be 100% sure before we do something as life altering as changing our bodies.  But, I’m not 100% sure.  I haven’t been without breasts since I was a kid.  I can’t even imagine how it will look or feel.  I look at pictures of results and it’s hard to connect that to my own body.  I don’t know how it’s going to turn out in the end.  How can I be 100% sure?

I made the trip down to Charlotte, NC yesterday and got in late at night.  After not getting much sleep I had to be at my surgeon’s office at 10:30 for a pre-op appointment.  I met Dr. Sherie and three of her staff members.  All of them were super sweet and caring people.  Dr. Sherie is very warm to talk to and open about answering my questions.  Candace really liked her too.  That made me feel a lot better as well.  Going over to the office and seeing the surgical area really helped to calm me down and settle some of my nerves.

So tomorrow morning I have to be over there at 7am.  Surgery starts at 8am.  They will give me a valium to calm me down and walk me into the surgical area.  After that, I guess I get to take a nice peaceful nap and wake up several hours later feeling a lot lighter and freer.

One of the things that sets Dr. Sherie apart from other surgeons that I’ve studied is how she does her drains.  Instead of the long tubes with bulbs at the end to catch fluid and blood she inserts shorter tubes that only stick out a tiny amount from the incision.  She attaches pads, similar to menstrual pads, to the surgical binder to catch the fluid.  The pads have to be changed periodically as they fill up.  I will go back on Monday to have the tubes removed.  Then on Friday I will go in to have the nipple stents taken off and see my chest for the first time.  After that, if all is well, I will be traveling home.  I’ll have to baby the nipples with gauze and cream for several weeks and continue to wear the binder constantly for at least two weeks.  After that I can take it off at night  for about four more weeks.  At six weeks I should be free of the binder and gauze pads.

A lot of my angst about the surgery is how this will impact my relationship with Candace.  I worry that she will not handle it well.  We have had some hard and emotional discussions since departing for our trip south to Charlotte, which is part of why we got here late on Tuesday night (actually Wednesday morning).  Also, I’ve had to tell some folks about the surgery and why I’m doing it and that’s a huge stressor for me.  Everyone has been great, though several have been surprised at how quickly I’m doing it.  I’m actually not doing it quickly.  I’ve been thinking about this for years now and done a lot of research.  But they don’t see that because we don’t talk that often about this subject.  Their reactions sort of set me back a little emotionally and have me second guessing myself.  It’s really not fair to me to let that happen.  I’ve thought this through and given it plenty of time to make my decision.  I’m not jumping in without my eyes wide open.  I’m wishy washy because that’s how I am.  But I’ve made my decision.  The thing that most folks tell me is that they hope it goes well and that it makes me happy.  Me too!  I can’t really ask for more than that.