12 Week-Recovery, 12-Month Relapse… & Uncelebrated Anniversaries

About 13 months ago I wrote a euphoric post about my gender reassignment surgery. I do remain extremely pleased about the physical result, it looks like it should, and not half bad at that… but the ongoing overall recovery has been a total disaster! One is lead to believe that the recovery for this type of operation will be around 12 weeks, and this is the length of the sick note one is given before one hopefully then returns to work. Except that, over 13 months later, I have yet to return to work having had what I can now quite accurately state to be a 12-month relapse in my health 😦

My relapse started following the standard follow-up visit to the hospital that performed my surgery, where they check that everything has been healing okay… which visually it was. Now I am not for one minute suggesting that the hospital concerned caused my relapse, because I don’t believe that this was the case at all, it was more the combination of (1) the exertion of actually going over there and back and (2) having to cope with taking a carry on bag with me, even if I did on the whole ask other people to carry this on/off planes, up hotel stairs, etc and did have wheelchair assistance at the airports. I packed it lighter than I would usually do, but I think I was just too fragile after my recovery to cope with that trip… as it turned out.

In mid March I felt quite positive about my recovery, and remember a weekend or two where I felt physically much more capable in my recovery, though I did take it carefully. I remember going to house viewings with my now ex-boyfriend (git), doing a bit of shopping, and being able to drive reasonably okay. But the drive from the airport to my home after the hospital trip was noticeably more painful than the drive to the airport before it… perhaps naturally (?) due to having travelled earlier in the day. But the weekend afterwards I was doing a treasure trail with my now ex-boyfriend (git) in his home town and after a while I got extremely sore. This soreness became a daily occurrence – every morning I woke up with noticeable discomfort but moderate soreness which both always markedly escalated as the day stretched past midday into afternoon and evening. As days and weeks carried on things got gradually worse and worse in my new clitoral area; sitting at all for very long was very painful, driving became very bad where I could feel every bump, lump, and dimple on the road through my clitoris, I would get very sore just getting ready to go out. I phoned the hospital at that time and they just said I should try the painkiller Amitryptiline (sp) in what turned out to be ever-increasing and consistently useless doses. By the end of May I really felt things were not really right at all, suffering throbbing soreness, stabbing pains so bad that I was doubled over in pain, and my soreness getting worse just bending down to pick something off the floor. After many long emails of woe from me, I was eventually given an appointment at the end of June by the hospital.

For the June appointment, I travelled VERY light!! This was because I was still at the post-appointment state whereby I could lift nothing much heavier than a 2-litre carton of milk. I was also helped by a superb spell of weather, so all I had to take was my handbag, with a change of top and knickers, a few toiletries, and my little teddy bear to keep me company. I didn’t even need socks, as it was so warm I travelled in sandals! By the time I arrived at my hospital I was in agony, not helped by the bone-crunching ride up in the bus, where every bump went through me and caused agony to my clitoris. The surgeon gave me a rather brutal examination, causing me to bleed in the op area (which was rectified with silver nitrate), and then told me to get dressed and we would discuss options. Except that I was only given one option… painkillers, and pain management. I tried to discuss further surgery, but was told that that option was considered to be destructive (which, in an ideal world, I agree with) and also that he’d never had to do it ever before… to which I think (but did not say) that there is a first time for everything, given the right circumstances. His parting words were “I’d be surprised if you’re in this much pain in twelve months time” – how reassuring 😦 But essentially, I was diagnosed with having a bad case of over/hyper-sensitivity.

Less than a month later I had more new symptoms! The first was that I started with two sore spots, one on each side of, and above, the op area… which have turned out to be, uh, the severed plumbing that I was unfortunately born with; the left side has been sore pretty much every day since, to some degree. Another symptom is that when my soreness elevates to a certain level then when my body is then subjected to further jolts (such as a big bump in the road, and especially those rumble strips to make people slow down) then my clitoris goes into spasm! I’m not talking just the typical isolated stabbing pains of healing but something much, much worse, essentially a severe warning sign that things are critical in the pain department.

After further emails and calls with the hospital, in September I was put on Gabapentin, a neurological painkiller. During a conversation with the hospital it was implied that Amitriptyline was used first as it works for some people and it is the cheapest drug; great! The nurse I spoke to also admitted that surgery could at some point be considered as a last resort, but that other avenues are best considered first, including long term pain management… for which I am on a 44-week waiting list. The Gabapentin dosage was ramped up from an initial starter dose of 300mg a day to 900mg… with the only obvious effect being some horrendous side effects! These included nausea, feeling like my arms and legs were made of jelly, dizziness, and at times severe disorientation… to name just the main ones. My dose was increased further… to 1200mg a day… then 1800mg… then 2700mg (so nearly three grams!!!) – the benefit of this huge dose was minimal, with only the very edge of the pain dulled just slightly.

Since the start of this year I have been on Pregabilin… starting at 2*25mg a day up to my current dose of 2*150mg a day. Any change? Yep… WORSE side effects, some similar to Gabapentin, such as nausea and dizziness, but also my arms (and face) feeling like they are tingling as well as being jellyish, problems with coordination (I can change direction and end up losing my balance), cold symptoms, problems with blood sugar whereby when I start to get hungry it can fall off a cliff and I get to feel really quite odd, and sudden attacks of side effects in the middle of the night. But I have no benefit at all in terms of pain reduction… and in fact I think only when I take a cocktail of this drug with ibuprofen and cocodamol to things moderate just very slightly… except that my symptoms are now worse again, with some new and quite worrying new developments.

Since Christmas, my clitoris has actually started rubbing on the tissue inside of me!!! My clitoris is also swollen ALL the time! Some days I can barely walk more than 2-300 metres before my swelling and soreness go through the roof… and then when I pause to recover my clitoris actually feels like it is deflating!!! My sore spots have also got significantly worse. And I could go on…. but how can any of this possibly be right!!

For most of last year I would visit my Gender Identity Clinic and tell them about these issues, and they would say “Andrea, you’ve had major surgery, it could take quite some time for you to be fully healed”… except that things have steadily got only worse and worse, and have not actually improved at all. Since about November time though, I would visit my clinic and tell them about my new, or worsening, symptoms and they would say “Hmm, I don’t know” or “That sounds odd”! In my December appointment they admitted that it is just not possible for me to function normally and at the start of January, when things had worsened further, they agreed with my request to take up the communication responsibility with the hospital.

So after all of the above, at the start of March I flew to the hospital again… and, once again, by the time I got there I was in agony. This time the surgeon and his assistant seemed a lot more receptive to my issues, and I was allowed to go through all of my various issues, pains, and discomforts that I have to cope with. After an examination, which was so painful that I was soon reduced to tears, the appointment concluded with the surgeon admitting that surgery was the only option left… and this is what I want, because my body has been telling me for some time that nothing is going to improve until my clitoris is gone. Although this is not ideal, my situation is almost as far from ideal as I can imagine at this stage. I am quite happy to do without it, I feel that I am a loving person and not a sexual one. Some may say that would reduce my chance even more of finding a man who would want to have a romantic attachment to me… but I need this further surgery for ME, I have spent far too much time listening to other people in my lifetime and doing what they want, or think is right – that’s why it took me so bloody long to sort myself out in the first place! I even remember wondering if when I made my operation choice of the cosmetic option almost two years ago whether I should have challenged more the possibility of not having a clitoris… but I was persuaded that it would be best to have one to avoid closing down future options too much. At least, as it turned out, I have another reason that has meant that the cosmetic option was best for me… which is that if I had the full option then I frankly would not be here now because I would not have been able to cope with carrying out dilation with all of the pain that I am experiencing now; I have found life difficult enough to cope with as it is!

So I finally have further surgery to look forward to at some point… and I sincerely mean that, because my life feels fairly pointless at the moment and I hope that this surgery will finally resolve the majority of my pain issues and enable me to lead a ‘normal’ pattern of life and enjoy the things that I like doing. I just need to wait for a decision to be made on who will fund this surgery…

As you might imagine, I have not just had to cope with all the different issues of pain but also exhaustion (coping with both pain and medication) and mental issues of depression (wondering when recovery will ever happen), loneliness (where many weeks I don’t see a friendly face for six out of seven days in a week), and suicidal thoughts that have flitted through (but not lodged in) my mind. I have cried a lot these 12 months, sometimes while out and about, in shops or on the street 😦

I haven’t written any of the above in the hope of extracting any pity from anyone still out there reading my blog. I tell you all these things for two reasons:

  1. to update anyone that I know (but don’t meet up with at this stage) who reads my blog so that they are aware of my status should they be interested, and
  2. for anyone who is intending to go for gender reassignment surgery then some or all of the different issues that I have experienced are a possibility, however extremely remote, for you too – it is best that you are prepared for this eventuality, because I don’t feel that the hospital sufficiently emphasised just how debilitating the possible pains might be. However, in their defence I suppose, the hospital has said that they have never known anyone in their history of performing this operation who has suffered as much pain and discomfort as I have, and so perhaps some of what I have experienced is new even to them. So I am the new benchmark for pain!

Since I wrote my previous post I have lived another year full-time… and although it has passed without incident from a real-world perspective, it hardly feels like anything to celebrate. In some ways it feels like a wasted year. Similarly, it has been another year without meeting up with my daughter… and she has implied by text that she made a decision at some point that she doesn’t want to see me ever again.

Hopefully, whenever I have the mental strength to blog again, it will contain more positive news…

2 Hours To Rectify 51 Years Of Physical Abnormality (and 48 Years Of Wrongness)

Following on from my last post, I have now been through the momentous event of having my (cosmetic) gender reassignment operation to make the anatomy between my legs match the rest of me, the woman that I should have been from the start of my life… and all it took was two hours of expert surgery! Obviously, there was a long lead up to the operation, with an assortment of pre-op tests, admin, and I suppose when I think about it then the last four years have all lead up to this… but I find it amazing that that is all the time it took to give me the shape I have desired for so long.

I flew over to Brighton (in England for any of you non-UK viewers) on the morning of Monday 22nd January, once my boyfriend had dropped me at the airport. I guess I was a bit nervous, because I went through security and left my boarding pass in one of the trays that my stuff had been in and headed off into duty free… only to rush back in a mad panic – security staff looked through a load of trays, but it eventually turned out a nice lady had handed it in. Then I had a nice breakfast of pancakes with bacon, maple syrup, and berry compote… and splashed my top with berry juice… which I then made ten times worse trying to sponge it off in the Ladies; emergency wardrobe change required, thankfully I had a spare T-shirt. By 1.00pm I had landed at Gatwick airport and then taken the express shuttle train to Brighton, a town I have never been to until now… but my appointment wasn’t until 6.00pm and so I pottered around for a while, struggling a little with my whereabouts until I eventually found a big shopping centre to find my bearings. I had a nice snack lunch (avoiding certain food groups as I was at this time under instruction to be on a low residue diet), did a bit of shopping, but by 4.00 I’d pretty much had enough of wandering around pulling my cabin bag behind me, so I found the appropriate bus stop and was soon heading up to the Nuffield hospital in Woodingdean (on service 22) where the op was to take place. Of course, I arrived rather early, but by 5.00 I had been shown to my (private) room and had a leisurely hour unpacking my bag and making my room ‘home’ for the next few days (a pleasant enough room, with a good size bathroom and a flat screen TV) but I had just a couple of nervy moments – not “are you doing the right thing”, “should I be here”, but “ooooh, big op almost upon me” kinda feeling. At 6.00 I received my gourmet, low-residue-diet dinner (a plate of white egg mayo sandwiches :-/) and shortly afterwards my pre-op assessment took place – mostly expected things like height, weight, blood pressure, medical history, a check of allergies to anything (including penicillin), and so on… and once that was out of the way I washed my hair (for I knew it would be a while before I would feel like doing it again) and settled in for the evening with a bit of TV, with nurses popping in now and again with info about the day ahead as well as a surgical dressing test patch, and then later rang my boyfriend for a good half hour of comforting chat; my head hit the pillow at around 11.30, by which time I was fasting; unsurprisingly I didn’t sleep that well.

I woke about 6.30am, showered with an anti-bacterial sponge from neck to foot, dressed in a flattering hospital gown, and took my earrings out which are not allowed during surgery. Not long afterwards a nurse arrived to take blood pressure, apply surgical stockings, and confirm I had no allergies (again), and then the anaesthetist arrived, a nice though slightly tatty chap (well, it was early morning, I’ll give him benefit of doubt) and did a thorough job of assessing me for the general anaesthetic. At 8.15am Mr Thomas, my surgeon, came in and succinctly went through my consent form, confirming the option I wanted (cosmetic, no vaginaplasty), obtained my signature, and lightly shook my hand as he left. Soon enough the anaesthetist and a nurse arrived, put the back of my bed down, and steered me out of my room and towards theatre – as I was carried down the corridor, a cool motion breeze caressed my face, and I felt just a tiny panic… but then I closed my eyes, thought of positive things (including my bf, and the fact that my journey had arrived at such a key point), and soon enough I was within the theatre area. Two canullas were inserted with a sting into my left wrist, one for a drip feed for assorted things during and after op, and the other for the anaesthetic, which he began to administer, encouraging me to talk away, and I just bumbled anxiously about goodness knows what and eventually I went to medical-sleep…

…and came to, lying on my back on my bed in my room, within 3-4 hours, feeling sore but not excessively uncomfortable. When I had the energy I peered down and could see the dressing pack around my groin area, looking wonderfully smooth and free of bumps and bits and pieces that should have never been there; I’m sure I smiled with contented glee through the pain. I was on drips during the day for antibiotics and liquid “food”, while a catheter emanated from my dressing taking waste away. I spent most of the day resting and listening to music from the TV’s radio channels, and giving an update to my parents to reassure I was okay. Several times nurses and doctors came in to check blood pressure, and also looking at the wound site, leaving happy that there was no excessive bleeding or anything of concern. I lay on my back the whole day (I was not allowed to move owing to drains being in my wound), periodically receiving painkillers, and it was lights out soon enough; I slept little, buzzing nurses during the night for more painkillers.

The next day, with drip eventually out, I was on a liquid diet, consisting of a succession of clear fruit juices, peppermint tea, sorbets, and fruit jellies; I could also have had consommes but I didn’t feel up to them that day. Consuming any of this was physically quite difficult with me being flat on my back; straws helped… well, not with the jellies! Regular doses of painkillers were also on the menu; pain most of all seemed to come from somewhere around either the catheter or clitoral area. The day after was similar, except with me incorporating chicken consomme into my diet – however, a major bonus in the afternoon was the removal of the two drains from my wound site (which essentially remove unwanted liquidity, primarily blood, I think, during the immediate recovery), which was not too painful; this meant I could then lie on my side, a welcome relief for my achy back… and gave me a bit better sleep during the night. During that afternoon I had a very stressful time arranging travel via the NHS helpline in Northern Ireland for both my trip home and also my friend Kirsty who had kindly agreed to come over to accompany me home; at this stage I was also back on solid food, albeit on low-residue food.

Friday around midday saw me having a suppository to get my bowels going (not so bad), and I was encouraged to potter around and gently sit to try and get things moving… which they eventually did; at lunchtime I had a very tasty ciabatta. Early afternoon saw the arrival of my friend Claire, who had driven all the way from Cornwall – well, not just IMG_20180203_160424to visit me, but it was the primary reason for her trip; she was so kind to bring me two little presents, how kind. While she was there a nurse removed my catheter, which was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole treatment, with a very unpleasant stinging sensation… but once out my overall discomfort was lessened, and I was also able to finally start sitting upright. And then came the greatest moment of my stay… weeing with my new anatomy!!! The first time I did so I almost cried, not just with weeing without an unpleasant (to me) appendage but also just seeing my smooth anatomy. Ideally one has to wee half a dozen times before departure, passing a reasonable amount of urine, to ensure the bladder and urethra are working satisfactorily – well, by bedtime I had gone five times, and by 3.00am I had gone another two times, the last ‘event’ very plentiful, and so that was a relief; talk/documentation of going home with a catheter had worried me. Early evening I enjoyed a really tasty pork dinner and soon after saw the arrival of my second visitor of the day, Kirsty; it was lovely to see her and catch up, telling the tale of my stay.

The next day I returned home. By 11am I had had final medical checks, had mostly packed my bag, and had a shower. Kirsty arrived at around 11.30ish and an hour later I was pretty much ready to go, with a little bag of meds provided to keep me ticking over. I was also given a couple of pieces of admin, both of which were screwed up (sigh) – the sick note was made out for only 10 weeks instead of 12 and the letter for me to give to Easyjet (not necessary as it turned out) actually had the name of the hospital spelt incorrectly; what a good job that I am a stickler for detail!!  At 12.45 Kirsty was trailing all of our bags behind her and I was bidding goodbye to the nurses on duty – Adriana from Romania gave me a hug (she is really nice) while the other one merely said goodbye. We got to the lift and had not even got inside when the nurse came running after us to check meds given – someone had done two bags of meds for me (obviously they were concerned for my welfare), and after checks I was given an extra box of paracetemol… which as I write now I don’t know why I wouldn’t have been supplied with at least as much as I have, because the soreness is very slow to go (after a week at home) though this is hardly surprising after such a major op.

I had got the hospital to arrange a taxi, and this turned up just after 1.00pm – I rode in the front, with Kirsty obviously in the back, and I would seriously recommend any patient being in the front after this op because it is valuable to be able to anticipate any bumps in the road before the car hits them, and also you can try and control the car temperature, especially important if like me you get hot flushes when off hormones. The journey took longer than anticipated owing to a motorway closure but we got to Gatwick more or less on time… at which point I paid the driver and was left to my own devices with Kirsty (not quite what I had been led to expect). Kirsty was about to march into the terminal out of the rain, but in my state I couldn’t do that and reminded her of my wheelchair assistance requirement – make sure you have this if you are in the same position. I had spotted a ‘shed’ with disabled signs on it, so we ambled over and a guy within settled me in a wheelchair and summoned an assistant who arrived within ten minutes and took us quite efficiently to departures and through security – Kirsty put all the luggage on the X-ray conveyor and then we went through the security gate, me in my wheelchair… which I was then searched in, which although of course necessary felt a little uncomfortable as they frisk quite close to the op site (though they did at least ask where I hurt once I told them I’d had an op). For some reason my carry on case got pulled in the security check, although nothing was found to be amiss – perhaps they don’t like people smuggling mermaids through… which I had bought for myself on the trip out, an op mascot if IMG_20180203_160220you will, although honestly I bought it because if I had been lived as a little girl I think it’s the kind of thing I would have wanted to buy… and so I did. Then we were in ‘duty-free’ and I was parked in the assistance area where Kirsty left me to hurriedly grab some lunch. About an hour before take off time a buggy came for us special-assistance passengers, and I gingerly got in beside an old woman from Lisburn area who was kind to hold my coat and was nice to chat to… even if she got a bit confused by some questions; Kirsty had to make her own way in our direction. We ended up at a different gate from where the special-assistance minibus departed from – after out tickets were checked and a little wait we were bussed over to the plane… and then waited for a while before getting into a ‘cherry-picker’ van which lifted us up to the level of the plane’s front-right door – my pre-arranged seats were right at the back, but the staff member kindly was able to move us way forward to a set of three seats just for Kirsty and I, and I have to say that the plane seats were quite comfortable for someone who has been ‘repaired’ in the groin area, nicely sloped such that the main pressure is on the buttocks and not between them. Our flight was short enough and trouble free… although, as usual, the inevitable ongoing crying of a toddler grated me. At Belfast, once everyone else had got off the wheelchair/cheery-picker process was followed as per Gatwick, except in reverse and no minibus (as the plane parks close to the terminal)… and also a cumbersome delay after another assisting passenger pressed the emergency stop button with her bum which left us stranded for a while. Anyway, eventually we were through the terminal, the airport staff guy kindly took me all the way to Kirsty’s car (after a loo stop) which she drove as close as she could.

We popped into a supermarket on the way to my home, where Kirsty kindly did a food shop to keep me going for a week (with some assistance phone calls in-store to enable her to decipher my list); we were home by about 8.30pm… at which point we noted that she had forgotten to buy a key ingredient for dinner, so off she went while I unpacked some of the shopping (that I could handle) and made a reassuring “I’m home” call to my parents and text to bf. Belatedly, we had a very nice fajita supper before bedtime came; I was pretty tired by that point, both through the travelling and also my lack of sleep at hospital, but overall at least it had been a pretty trouble-free journey. Kirsty left the next day about midday, and then by 2.45 my Huggy Bear (boyfriend) arrived, complete with a pair of pork chops (I’m sure there’s a euphemism there somewhere) that he cooked with lovely seasoning to make a tasty dinner. He stayed for the next three nights and it has been good to have someone close on-hand in case of any immediate medical emergency (which there hasn’t been)…

…and I’ll leave it there for now, and maybe post again in a few weeks to update you on the healing process. I know it’s a bit more verbose than usual, but this post marks the final, and next-to-biggest milestone in my whole journey… the biggest milestone of course being 30th January 2015, over three years ago now when I began to live life full-time as the real me; so far it’s been 99.?% flippin brilliant!!! And most of all, sooooo reassuringly right!

Thanks if you’re still reading…

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…

…and no, the title isn’t supposed to end with the words ‘blast off’! Nope, this is MY final countdown, to the culmination of my medical journey that stipulates me as being a transsexual woman, and I suppose the reason that I originally started this blog. This coming Tuesday, in only FOUR days, I am scheduled to have the operation of my lifetime  that will finally fix me physically so that between my legs I will look like the woman that is the rest of me.

I have been living full-time as me, the woman I now know I should have always lived as, for almost exactly three years, and so I suppose it is quite timely that the operation is so close to that anniversary. The main reason though for having the operation early in the new year is that it is most convenient time of year for me, in that I am not able to indulge much in my main hobbies because they are of an outdoors nature and in January in the UK/Ireland the weather is at its most unpalatable… not that it is particular marvellous most of the time in Northern Ireland! So I asked the hospital concerned (the private Nuffield hospital in Brighton) for an operation date some time in January and they were able to oblige.

Getting to today however, over the last few weeks, has not been the easiest part of my journey. I have been off hormones for almost six weeks (which is required to reduce the possibility of clotting during/immediately after the operation) and although I have been lucky in that this has not resulted in the moodiness that some women in my position encounter, I have had quite a time of it with hot flushes many times a day with increasing frequency… which I actually find quite ironic, and perhaps flattering, considering that some cis-women go on HRT for PMT, which does address a primary symptom of hot flushes for them. For the last week and a half I have also been off alcohol (which is to reduce the possibility of bleeding during the operation), and although that has not particularly been a trial, especially as I am not much of a drinker or a fan of those who think it’s clever to drink a lot, I do miss a half glass of red in the evening which does help me wind down.

10 days ago I had to undergo several pre-op tests, including things like height and weight (to ensure my BMI is under a stipulated level of 28… which it is well under), my blood pressure, several blood tests, and also a couple of MRSA swabs, one nasal and the other one (perhaps obviously) for the groin area. Alas the swabs have caused me significant stress because last Friday I rang to check all of my tests were fine and was told that they were… and so I thought no more of it, rather foolishly… until Tuesday when I thought I better check that the test results had been forwarded to Brighton hospital… and they hadn’t!!! :-O So eventually the results were faxed over… and then it turned out that some incompetent individual had screwed up the swab tests because although they were a pass (i.e. no reading), the wording had been messed up so as not to indicate the proper area being tested – so Brighton rejected them… and ten minutes later I was hurtling out of my office at 3pm, hurrying back up to Newry on the train and then down to my doctor to get repeat swab tests done! I actually took the tests up to the hospital myself, but the doctor told me that they take 48 hours to turn around and so it was going to be a very nail-biting portion of the countdown because I had to book my travel on the same day as the revised results were due. I thought I would chance my arm and check the results yesterday afternoon, just supposing they had already been completed… and surprisingly they had, I was told they had been forwarded to Brighton, and I even got them to read the actual result text to check all seemed okay… which it was. Then I rang Brighton but nobody answered the phone… and so I left a voicemail and also an email to be contacted ASAP to confirm all was okay. By 10.30 this morning I had heard nothing and so I rang Brighton myself… and was told the nurse concerned was doing rounds on the ward and I would hear back from them. Two hours later I still had heard nothing and so I rang again… and got hold of my designated nurse… who claimed she was just about to ring me; yeah, sure! So I asked for an update… and was told she hadn’t received the new test results! AGGHHHH! She offered to ring my doctor for me, so I left her to do that… and then three minutes later she rang back to say that someone else had picked up the results and filed them. So FINALLY, literally in the nick of time, I got confirmation that it was all systems go for my op. Phew! So this afternoon I booked my outward flight and rail ticket for Monday.

The last few days I have also been doing handover at work. That has been fine, apart from my boss realising he would have to be picking some of my work up and then suddenly figuring he would get me to do some extra, new stuff before I went… sigh. Most people have no idea why I’m heading for an op, which is just the way I like it. As I have always done, and continue to do, I travel this journey in stealth… and not just because I can (as I fit in very well as a woman… as time has told), but because I choose to… albeit at the risk I suppose of revealing all through this blog which, after all, is potentially available for anyone to read… but I took this risk at the start in the hope that my blog helps at least someone out there. But otherwise stealth it is, I won’t tell anyone who doesn’t know my history about it unless it is absolutely necessary, and I won’t be making any broadcasts on Facebook either about where I am going or what I am doing… and hope that others won’t mention it either – for me, this is a very personal thing, I am a very private person, and something like this I only directly tell friends who have supported me on this journey.

So considering all of the above I have had a significant amount of stress over the last couple of weeks and been tearing my hair out at times; at least I have been able to alleviate this somewhat with lots of hugs from my boyfriend. Yes, I have a boyfriend!!! 🙂 This is the same guy who was “boyfriend for a week” as per my blog post back in September… and this is actually the third time I am girlfriend – third time lucky, hopefully, for this time things are looking pretty good… and he has told me that he LOVES me! Maybe I’ll tell you more about it on the other side, for I’ll have an awful lot of recovery time to fill, about three months of it altogether.

I’ll leave it there – thank you for reading, thank you for being part of my journey (even if you no longer are in one way or another), and good wishes for 2018!

Next Stop Surgery

I have to admit that I am losing interest in writing this blog and thus posts are likely to be quite infrequent from now on; I doubt they will be particularly missed in this disposable society that we live in. I had a lovely holiday in Austria at the end of August but now, at the end of October, it seems a bit pointless writing about it… even if, should I write about it on a grey, miserable day, I might enjoy the reminiscence. But I set this blog up to write about life as I transition and live life as my true, female self, and I suppose I feel a tiny obligation to continue writing about pertinent matters if only so that it will help others on the same path.

At the start of October I had four health appointments. One was with Endrocrinology to check my progress with hormones and to do a blood test to check oestrogen levels, during which I was told that in 2-3 weeks I’d get a letter confirming those levels – unsurprisingly, three weeks have passed and I have heard nothing. Another was for a non-transition health issue which remains and worries me after an appointment with my doctor today – more tests and a scan on the horizon. The third appointment was for my three-monthly blocker injection… which does not seem to have been totally successful this time… causing some distressing moments. The final, and most significant, appointment was a milestone on my transition path which was an assessment for surgery.

In the UK, or Northern Ireland anyway, one is considered for surgery at some point after having been on hormones for over 12 months and as this target passed for me in July then I was therefore due for surgical assessment at some point. In the past, patients have been sent over to Brighton, where the surgery takes place, for this assessment, but due to what would seem to be a sensible cost saving measure, perhaps due to the increasing number of transsexual people passing through the healthcare system, Dr Thomas from Brighton and two of his assistants were invited over to the Belfast GIC for an ‘assessment open day’. The near two-hour appointment was split into two parts. The first session was conducted by a very pleasant lady who talked to three girls including myself through the surgery path from admittance to care and procedures once at home again a week after surgery, including pre-surgery preparations. The second session, following a form-filling exercise, was with Dr Thomas himself who asked a few questions about my path and my health and medical history, answered my questions on surgery and explained risks, and conducted an examination to confirm if I would need electrolysis to the male appendage that I am still lumbered with; although this session was informative, it all felt increasingly rushed to me just like a lot of sessions at the doctor and in the end it was as if he couldn’t kick me out quick enough.

Now, as some/many of you may know, there are at least two options as regards surgery… well, three actually, because one can decide to have nothing done at all… although unless there is some particular health reason or circumstance to not have anything done at all I personally find it bizarre to be a woman but remain with the deformity of a male organ. Anyway, casting that option swiftly aside, the option chosen by many is the full works, with the male genitalia dispensed with and parts of it used to fashion a realistic female anatomy including a full vagina and also a clitoris – sorry, can’t use the male anatomy words vividly, I hate them too much, but you can Google details on the surgery procedure if you want to. However, there is a third option, which is a cosmetic option consisting of the full-works option minus the vaginoplasty, such that cosmetically everything looks just as good but there is no functioning vagina. Now I have to say that so many people seem to assume that every transsexual would have the full-works option, and indeed someone said to me last year “don’t even think about not having a vagina”… but how does anyone know what is right for me except for me?!? Another opinion I have heard is that they “wouldn’t feel complete as a woman without a vagina”… and it is fine for them to have that opinion for them… yet I feel complete already, everyday I live as woman, do everything in a typically female fashion, and get along fine with practically never any bother from anyone, even if I do hate having the male appendage that becomes visible when I am inside a toilet cubicle… and so to remove it will make me feel physically right. Going back to the appointment, it seemed to me that the people from Brighton also assume by default (unless advised perhaps of any medical issue) that everyone is going for the full works option, and never at any point was any mention of the other option made, apart from when I brought it up in private… because, you see, I have pretty much always been in two minds since I started this path as to which of the two surgeries are most appropriate for me. There are pros and cons with both options of course – for example, to not have a vagina obviously rules out penetrative sexual activity and consequently rules out a relationship with a proportion of male partners who would want that (although, let’s be honest and realistic, I’m already ruled out from having a relationship with the majority of available partners because of my transsexual gender history), but on the flip side to have a vaginoplasty means a variety of increased risks with surgery, having to dilate for the rest of one’s life (or have intercourse with a partner on a fairly regular basis – not a problem for some if they have a partner I guess) to keep the vagina open with a very time-consuming dilation routine in the initial few months, having to have (what I presume to be painful) electrolysis on the male appendage prior to surgery, having a prolonged recovery period, and so on. Another factor is one’s current attitude to the male genitalia – some people can put up with the bits without too much bother although do want to get rid of them while I am to the other extreme and loath them, have almost developed a phobia of them such that I can’t even imagine having intercourse with a guy (although like the idea of close companionship and kisses/hugs), and can’t watch a couple making love on the screen (for other reasons I won’t go into)… and there are others whose opinion is in between. Therefore, I went back into the lady conducting the first session on my own and went through the whole thing again on the premise that if I went for the cosmetic option then what would the revised schedule be… and I explained my current preference more for the cosmetic routine and she understood my view… even if she had not considered age to be a factor as she thought I was about 35! 🙂

Having considered the pros and cons… I am still considering them… and I will continue to do so for a while, especially as I am soon likely to experience some interaction with one or two potential male partners and when I eventually tell them of my history, if they don’t run a mile, I will broach the subject of intercourse (although have already done so with one) and consider reactions. But at the moment, having had the assessment, I have verged even more towards the cosmetic option taking account of my age, my work lifestyle which involves a huge amount of commuting time, that I live in an isolated location with little local support should anything go wrong, consequent risk aversion, my hatred of male genitalia (if only due to being stuck with it for such an awful long time), and my dislike of sex. I will go think some more… my opinion may change… or may not…