Monday, March 31, 2014

Smoking with Brassard

I had the oddest little dream last night.  I was right on the brink of my surgery, (GRS), which in reality is not that far off now.  In my dream I was here in my hometown and my surgery was like a day or two away.  I was in a doctor's office that reminded me of where I went as a child to see a pediatrician.   My doctor in this dream was an oriental woman.  She was doing things to get me ready for surgery, running tests etc.  In part of the dream I was laying on a hospital bed in what appeared to be my parents' bedroom in the house where I spent the first 12 years of my life.

The doctor made the suggestion that she could do the surgery herself, right in that hospital.  A feeling of nervous terror came over me.  I started to ask her questions, wanted to see pictures/examples of her work etc.  She was talking about doing the surgery the next day and in this dream I was about to leave for Montreal, Canada for surgery with Dr. Brassard.  After some anxious contemplation, some of it on that little bed and some outside where I used to play, I decided that no way I was going to let this doctor operate on me and that I was indeed going to Canada for my surgery.

Well, now she wanted to perform an orchiectomy on me before sending me on to Brassard.  I contemplated this also but even in my strange dream, this did not make sense.  The next thing I knew I was in Montreal in the parking lot of Dr. Brassard's office/hospital and the feeling of nervousness and dread had disappeared.

I was now walking away from the hospital on the city streets of Montreal and was aware of people stopping their cars, looking over at the hospital and making comments among themselves over what happens there.  It was an odd, sort of out of body experience as I moved along the street.  Maybe a block away, there was an expansive asphalt parking lot with a few cars scattered about it.  I walked up to a car and a man got out and lit a cigarette.  That man was Dr. Pierre Brassard.

I have never met Dr. Brassard and probably won't until I am in Montreal and ready for surgery.  In my dream he seemed like a really personable fellow, smiling and carefree.  He even offered me a cigarette which I accepted and began to smoke while casually chatting with him.  I will note that in my life I was never a smoker.  I never smoked cigarettes habitually but I have smoked them before, occasionally and casually.  It is also interesting that in the dream that I was thinking this was the last cigarette I would ever smoke as a guy and that is what I told the doctor.

In this part of the dream I had more of an androgynous presentation, sort of like I was looking back at myself in the past.  I don't present as a guy now but that is just the thought that came into my head.  I was getting my last smoke before womanhood, weird when cigarettes never meant anything to me.

In the parking lot it was very windy and we stood by ourselves, as the nearest car was quite a distance away.  No one else was in sight.  The doctor handed me another cigarette to light, presumably for him, but I had the notion that I would smoke it myself.  I took the cigarette and lit it with the one I was smoking.  The wind was blowing the cigarettes down very quickly and I stood there thoughts came into my mind like, was the doctor going to wash his hands before operating on me?  Would he smell like smoke in the operating room?  How clean of a person or how good of a doctor is he if he is smoking?  And then I woke up.


So, as usual, when I have a dream like this I wake up reliving the dream in my head and contemplate what it might mean.  Why cigarettes?  For some reason, last week while having a drink with friends, I thought about smoking a cigarette and mentioned this to them.  None of them smoke and of course I didn't do it, I just thought of it.  I used to be around a lot of people that smoked but, like I said, I never did it much.  Not tobacco cigarettes anyway, and that was the type I thought of last week and what was in this dream. 

The part about nervous anticipation before surgery is easy to explain as I am feeling that more and more here in the waking world.  It is not a problem, it's just on my mind a lot.  The female oriental doctor might be explained by the fact that I was just chatting online last night with two friends who just had their GRS last week, in Thailand.   The doctor there is male but he is well known, oriental (Thai) and a top notch surgeon. 

One part of this dream I find particularity interesting is that I was in a hospital bed in my parents' bedroom of my childhood home.  That location, that room, is where I first began to have self realizations of feeling female and began to explore my mom's things etc.  It was also in a bed there or crib that I first remember having a dream that I can best describe as an out of body experience.  Sometimes I think I was a baby then in a crib but because I have memory of it, maybe I was a small child.  In that dream, I was trying to wake myself up while asleep, and I was able to look down at myself sleeping. 

The final part of this dream, having a pleasant experience meeting Dr. Brassard, leaves me with a good, positive feeling.  I don't think I have anything to worry about with him smoking or smelling like cigarettes in the operating room, lol.  What do the cigarettes mean?  I don't know.   Maybe it signifies me putting behind all the nasty habits I used to have, and truth be told I cannot even stand the stand of cigarettes anymore.  Maybe it references a final cigarette, like something you see in the movies, before a part of me dies.

The positive that I am going to take away from this dream is that in the beginning of the dream I was experiencing a lot of anxiety very the pending surgery, and at the end I was totally at peace with it.  That is sort of an evolution I have experienced in the last years and months leading up to this point.  I will tell you that, in real life, I don't really fear surgery now.  What I fear is being put to sleep.......

Sunday, March 23, 2014

BFFs (Adventures with Lisa)

It is great having a best friend, even greater having one that will make a cool photo like this on her computer and greater still having a friend as sweet, caring and cool as Lisa Lesher.  The last person that I called my best friend, the late Mack Wilson, passed away right after I started my transition and I remembered him in this, one of my earlier blogs.  He visits me sometimes in my dreams and I sense that the turbulence that troubled him throughout his life has followed him to the other side.  In a lot of ways we were never that close anyway, and even if we had been, I don't think there is anything I could have done to help him.  In the old days we had some fun times trying to escape the demons that followed us around and I will never forget him.

I've never really had a best friend that I can relate to like Lisa though, where we can be completely honest with each other, not hold anything back and have so much in common.  She says I am a good influence on her and that is scary in a way but refreshing.  She is someone special that I really enjoying mentoring in her transition, but I also learn a whole lot from her.  She is a very good influence on me as she is such a grounded and clear minded sister.  I just hope that my obliviousness does not rub off on her, but I don't think it will.

Lisa started a blog some time ago but has recently revived it and I include it in my links section now.  I highly recommend reading and following this blog!  She had a great post there recently called Roadblocks, that shows how so many of us (most of us really) throw up roadblocks to transition.  At some point those roadblocks come down one by one, for those of us that transition, and after a long battle and often bumpy road, the roadblocks are now falling away for my best friend with one example being getting ear rings earlier this year. 

Every since I have known her, and long before actually, Lisa wanted to get her ears pierced but was too afraid of what family, coworkers etc. would say.  I know many of you can relate to that dilemma, either having been through it in the past or currently trying to muster the courage to have your ears pierced.  I have noticed quite a few of my friends on Facebook, in various stages of the coming out process, have gotten their ears pierced this year.  I wrote about my own experience here, in one of my earlier blog posts. 

I think sometimes that transgender women who are in the closet, to varying degrees, have a harder time getting up the courage to have their ears pierced than anyone else.  We are hiding who we are from the world anyway, and fear that doing something like having our ears pierced will be the clue that will give us away.  It rarely works out that way, but it is a big fear and seems almost universal for those of us working on coming out.  It's always a relief to actually get them (both ears) pierced and can often be a confidence builder when we see that we can do a little thing like this and the world does not cave in on us.  Sometimes such a little thing can be such a big step.  I know it was for me and here is the story of how it was for Lisa too....

Lisa's Earring Adventure

When I was going to get my ears pierced, I waited until after Christmas so as not to cause as much stress over the holidays and that is exactly what Lisa did.  She wanted me to go with her and "hold her hand" when she went for the piercings.  So, this January tenth, 2 years and 2 days after Joan went with me to get my ears pierced, Lisa came to Rocky Mount and we went to Precision Piercing, in the mall.  It was my advice to go to a real piercing place instead of just a store that does them as I think getting the professional needle will give you better holes, 16 gauge, than the little piercing guns.  It is also guaranteed to be sterile and although it probably doesn't make much difference with simple ear piercings, why take a chance?
Here comes the needle
The needle's going in.
Doesn't look painful at all.
The ear ring is going in.
Lisa is happy and relieved to get this over can see the stud there in her right ear. the security guard that took our picture said we looked like sisters..:)
Lisa got her ears pierced, it was over in a couple of minutes.  She got the same type tiny ball studs that I did back in 2012 and, after doing a little shopping in the mall, we went to celebrate with a nice lunch at Outback steakhouse, complete with a few mixed drinks.  Yes, she needed a little stress reliever now that she had done the deal and was worried about what people at work would say the next day. Afterwards, we hung at my house for awhile then went out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday's before she hit the road for the 2.5 hour drive home.
Enjoying a nice lunch and some nice drinks at Outback.
We kind of dressed like twin sisters that day.
It turns out the people at work never said anything, other than making a few little comments.  For a week, Lisa worried that they were going to write her up for "unprofessional appearance", but nothing of the sort came about.  I think this non event has given her a little more confidence, so now she is working on growing out her hair.  So far, no one has said a word about that either.  Sometimes, more often than not, the fear is worse than the reality, when we allow ourselves to begin openly stepping out of the box, to become ourselves.  This was my experience and is also the experience of most trans women I talk to now.  I am really thrilled to see Lisa now driving through these roadblocks and moving forward.

Lisa's Earring Adventure Part 2

Lisa has a new roommate, Teri Tainot, who came all the way from Arizona to live in Eastern North Carolina and this seems to be working out great for both of them.  On Lisa's days off they have been going up to Norfolk, Virginia or the nearby Outer Banks to shop, explore and have a good time.  At exactly the 6 week mark after her  ear piercings, Lisa decided to try on some "real" earrings for the first time.  I wasn't with her and Teri that day, but from the pictures she looked great in them.  They were very flattering, beautiful, dangly ear rings.  They were also kind of big, heavy jewelry for such new piercings and it doesn't appear the holes were even fully healed yet.  I had my own scary experience taking my new studs out at exactly the 6 week mark, back in 2012, which I also described in my blog entry, Ear Rings.  The following is Lisa's own account of the events of that day and evening...

 " What being hard headed will get you,
As you may remember I had my ears pierced for the first time in the middle of January and I was told to keep the bar bells in for 6-8 weeks. Well ladies I have to admit that I'm a bit of a knuckle head sometimes and I want what I want when I want it. That being said I decided how nice it would be to go ahead and put some real earrings in see how they looked then when I got home I would re-insert the bar bells. While looking for a nice pair of earrings in Penny's a nice lady came up and told me she'd love to have my legs. LOL That was a great moment for me. I finally found a pair I loved in Dillards and my plan was a go.

Well things don't always go according to plan in the real world. Teri was able to get the bar bells out fairly easily and the left earring went in easily as well, however the right ear I couldn't get it to go in and I ended up irritating the hole and it was a terror. I kept poking it until I was PO'd big time and the ladies at the counter knew something was wrong and kept asking if they could help and the more a crowd gathered the more I got flustered. I kept dropping the earrings and I admit it I got angry, I mean I got really angry.

Well we finally got the earrings in and went to eat at Joes crab shack. I was worried that when we took the earring out we wouldn't be able to get the studs back in. Teri suggested buying smaller gauge studs, I have 16 gauge now and we looked all over for 18 gauge with no luck. One sweet young lady knew of a body piercing place by the Sams Club in Chesapeake Va. and I went there to have the studs re-inserted. Turns out there were three young ladies working in there and they had no problem putting the stud back and said my ears were fine just irritated. They didn't want to charge me anything but I was so relieved that I gave them what cash I had on hand and all was well in my world. The piercing shop was "Things Remembered" and they were wonderful I can't tell you how relieved I was. The best part was when we left the shop Teri N I got a wolf whistle from a passing car. That goes a long long way towards making my crappy day feel like a dream come true. Who doesn't like receiving a wolf whistle! LOL"

She did look great with the big, dangly ear rings...just a little longer, Lisa...
That post generated 45 comments in our Facebook group, Trans Beauty Network, and needless to say the consensus was that Lisa's new piercings were not quite ready to handle wearing anything other than the starter studs.  I think that next week she is going to try it again, at the Keystone Conference.  She should be ready for "real ear rings" by then, as that will be about 2.5 months since the original piercings, but maybe none quite so big as heavy as the ones in the photo above.  We will see, so stay tuned, and this was a good lesson for people with new ear piercings to not push it and give the holes time to heal before trying to change the jewelry.

New Adventures with Lisa and Teri

Lisa and Teri have really hit it off in the last month or so, since they became roommates.  Lisa needed someone there to help and inspire her at this critical stage of her journey.  I also know how lonely it can be to live by yourself, so I am really, really glad she now has someone there with her.  Teri seems to be a great person and a great new friend for me too.  I know she is glad to find a good home with warm, caring friends, and we are glad to welcome her to North Carolina.  Actually, they may be becoming more than just friends and roommates, but I am not going to go there in this blog.  Let's just say I am very, very happy for Lisa (and Teri too) and wish them all the best the world has to offer.

Teri and Lisa have met me halfway between our homes a couple of times recently, in Williamston, NC, and last week they also followed me back to Rocky Mount to stay here for the night.  There is not a whole lot to do in little Williamston, but we found a Belk's department store there that we love, so we can get our shopping fix in.  We also met a great makeup artist there, at the Estee Lauder counter, who has the most vibrant, bubbly personality and has become a good friend to us all.

Me, Lisa and Pam..right after Lisa got a makeover.
Mirror shot of Teri, Lisa and myself at the Estee Lauder counter in Belk's
Pam works on my eyebrows.
Lisa and I having the most fun imaginable, shopping.
Lisa, Teri and I on our first day shopping together, at Belk's in Williamston.
Having Lisa and Teri over for the night, last Thursday, was fabulous!  It was so great having house guests again, and now that I'm getting my house in order again (slowly), hopefully I will have more.  They are supposed to come back in May, and now that my Dad has a sitter to help at the house, maybe I can start traveling some again too, visiting friends. 

We started the afternoon back in Williamston, where it was Teri's turn in the makeup chair.  Lisa and I had gotten makeovers on the previous trip, and there were a couple of things Teri wanted to work on so this was a perfect opportunity.  When we left Belk's my friends followed me back to Rocky Mount, dropped their bags off at my house, then we headed over to Chico's Mexican Restaurant to meet two more friends who drove up from another town to have dinner with us.  Donna, Sabrina, Lisa, Teri and I enjoyed a great dinner, complete with a few margaritas for those of us who were staying very close by.  Chico's is actually within walking distance of my house.

Oscar's style selfie, with Pam, Lisa, Teri and myself
Teri's turn in the makeover chair
Donna, Sabrina, me, Lisa and Teri at Chico's
Friday morning we got up, got ready and drove to Raleigh for a full day of shopping fun.  We started off at Ulta, then went to DSW where we all bought shoes, then headed next door to Triangle Town Center for lunch.  Next we drove over to Durham to hit Nordstrum Rack, where Teri bought more shoes and I got a couple of skirts.  We probably should have gone across the street to Southpoint Mall, as that would have given us a grand slam, a mall trifecta, 3 malls in one day.  Because Lisa had to drive home later so she could go to work early Saturday morning, we skipped that one and drove back to Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, my favorite mall.
at MAC in Belk's, Crabtree
Tres Amigas in Macy's: Crabtree Valley Mall
My shopping haul from Friday
We spent a few hours at Crabtree, capping off a great day of fellowship and shopping.  Lisa and I bought makeup at Sephora and I bought a couple of gowns for my upcoming stay at Dr. Brassard's hospital in Montreal.  Plus, we got a Lot of walking in there and Lisa got some compliments on her minskirt clad legs..:) 

The picture of Lisa and I at the top of this page now sits framed in my living room, a symbol of friendship, hope and a new life.  Lisa sent me an 8x10 in the mail as a surprise gift and it sits on my mantle along with other pictures of Mitchell and I, and my family.  It was funny, but the night before it arrived I was admiring how much I loved that picture, my friendship with Lisa and how proud I am of her for her recent progress.  She went out to malls and other places as herself dating as far back as the 80's, but I think now she is finally breaking through the roadblocks to actually start a new life.  She and I will always remain bff's but now she has a new friend, roommate (maybe partner) in Teri and this makes me very happy. 

I feel as if my life has not quite started yet but is getting ready to start.  I'm looking forward to being a complete person, a complete woman, and wishing and looking forward to a life with the love of my life, Mitchell.  Lisa's journey to being complete is well on the way now to, I believe, and I love watching her grow.  We are going to have many more more fun times coming up, so stay tuned, as you navigate those roadblocks in your own life.

Teri and Lisa at Kanki, where we capped the day off with an excellent Sushi meal.

Recommended Link: Lisa's Place

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Positive Power (eyes on the prize)

Some call it the Law of Attraction.  It has gone by the name The Secret.  It is also known as the Power of Positive Thinking.  Most religions incorporate this principle into their teachings and it is a basis for the widest range of philosophies.  Motivational speakers would go out of business were it not for this principle, which is basically all they are talking about.  Any successful person, no matter their field of success, uses this principle either consciously or sub consciously.  There is no scientific basis for the Law of Attraction, but I am here to tell you that it's a proven truth, and has worked wonders in my life.

Wikipedia defines the Law of Attraction as "the belief that like attracts like and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results".  There are doubters, no doubt, to the power of positive thinking.  As they sit in the dim glow of their negativity, they search for answers as to why things don't work out.  Surely it could not be, the inner circle or their doubt.

In the darkest moments, it can be a struggle to keep one's mind focused on a positive outcome.  Even to an avid believer in the Positive Power, there are whispers of negative thought always waiting to be heard, there beyond the silence.  Where your heart lies, your mind will follow.  Often difficult to control, the way to obtain your goal, is to look deep within your soul, and keep your eyes on the prize.
Victory, with razor like focus, must fill the mind.  What is victory?  What are your goals, what do you want from life, what do you want your life to look like, what do you want to be, where do you want go?  What are your goals?  Victory is not letting the dark cloud of doubt creep in.  Victory is doing what it takes to stay focused, to stay positive.  Keeping your eyes on the prize.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Incidents on a Tuesday Afternoon (inspection and insurance)


I just got a call from the city inspector that they were coming to inspect my new tankless hot water/floor heating system. It turns this is my cousin who I have not seen in several years, since our uncle's funeral, as I don't have any real contact with that side of my family. I never talk to them but I know that they know about my transition, although my parents don't have much contact with that side of the family either. I consider this to be the "redneck" side of the family, so I didn't expect them to be too accepting of me as they made a big deal when another cousin came out as lesbian awhile back. She is much more involved with them than I am though and I never see or speak to any of this set of cousins unless there is a funeral. Anyway, he called me Tammy on the phone but when he came in he tried to give me a firm handshake, called me "man" twice during the few minutes of small talk, and when he was leaving he said, "alright, guy, have a good one." There is no changing people like this so I wasn't going to go on a crusade with him, he is what he is. This goes to show that although everyone may not accept you, it doesn't have to affect you. I don't know what he thinks of me, but I think even less of him than I did before and am glad it was a quick inspection and that he is gone. If I see him at the grocery store or somewhere I would just keep right on walking past him....


Pulling my hair out over my insurance company, who shall remain nameless (BCBS of NC)!!!.....
Even though I changed my name/gender back in December, I didn't get that change updated into their system until this month. Actually they had changed my name but I realized recently they had not changed my gender so I called them about it. Now they have backdated my policy to December, complete with a retroactive rate hike of almost $80/month. My Annual rate hike was $7 this year but now with this change it has gone way up from there. Further complicating things, this insurance company claims to have no record of me filling prescriptions in January or February of this year and so they have no record of me paying my deductible, which I paid In Jan. As a result I have not been able to fill my prescriptions for March yet. Now I have to go to the pharmacy, print this stuff out and prove to them that I paid the deductible, plus pay this retroactive increased premium. Plus pay the higher premium every month. This sounds mighty fishy to me and Thanks Unnamed insurance company!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Hair Removal Journey.....

Facial hair removal is an important part of male to female gender transition.  Hormones do not remove the pesky facial hair that is a product  of our genetics and so we need permanent hair removal in order to have a smooth face and never have to shave again. It can be an incredibly expensive and time consuming process, sometimes taking years and tens of thousands of dollars. Electrolysis is the long established "go to" method for hair removal for MtF transsexuals, but laser hair removal has gained a lot of popularity for those who have the right hair and skin types for it to have a chance of working.  Still, the FDA only rates laser for "permanent hair reduction" and recognizes electrolysis as the only method approved for permanent hair removal.  Everyone's experiences are different.  My journey so far with hair removal has been extremely interesting and quite unique. This account is the fist time I have completely shared my adventures in the often frustrating process.....

My Experience with Laser Hair Removal:

This was such a traumatic experience that I have never fully written about it before but in sharing my experience with facial hair removal I am going to describe my experience with laser.  About 2.5 years ago I went to a licensed hair removal business in Cary, NC.  The provider I went to see had the highest rating of anyone in my area and in addition to electrolysis, she was a laser technician.  I had been studying hair removal for more than a year and after doing my research, decided that electrolysis would be the best way to go for me considering my extremely sensitive skin type, hair color and the way I react to the sun.

Despite my research, almost everyone I talked to was advising me to do laser first, then finish the job with electrolysis as I had some light hair and some grey hair on my face in addition to mostly dark hairs.  So I decided to go to this particular technician partly because she was so highly rated at electrolysis and partly because she did laser also.  I was not full time or on hormones yet but at our first consultation she told me that she worked with many trans clients with great success.

She strongly advised me to have a number of laser sessions first and that after maybe 6-8 sessions the dark hair should be taken care of and then she could move on to electrolysis and finish me up in a much shorter time than if we started with electrolysis.  I had a bad feeling about it but I agreed to do a test laser removal session.  This was not a test on a small area of the face (In hindsight I would strongly advise anyone trying laser for the first time to do a small test area first!) and I paid full price, which with her was about $260.

It didn't hurt too bad and after a couple of days I noticed shedding and a great reduction in the dark hairs on my face.  She told me the first 48 hours were the time to watch for any adverse reactions that I might have and to let her know if I had any persistent redness, swelling etc. during that time.  A week or so passed and I thought I was out of the woods and maybe getting laser was a good decision. 

After that I began to experience itching and redness on my neck, particularity on the sides.  It was not severe but it seemed to get worse over the next couple of weeks and finally I went to a dermatologist to have him take a look at it.  By this time I was experiencing constant redness, some puffiness and intermittent itching and soreness on my neck.  The dermatologist diagnosed me with Poikiloderma.

"Poikiloderma of Civatte refers to erythema associated with a mottled pigmentation seen on the sides of the neck, more commonly in women. Civatte first described the condition in 1923."  Medscape

He described it as a form of sun damage he could not treat but he referred me to another doctor at Duke University who treated Poikiloderma as part of his practice.  I went back to see the laser practitioner and she was perplexed.  She had never seen anything like this before and was not familiar with the condition.  She wished me luck and wanted me to report back after I saw the doctor at Duke. 

Duke University Hospital is a premier medical facility and the doctor I met with there told me he could treat my condition using a different form of laser (Pulse Dye Laser) with a blue laser beam instead of the red one used for hair removal.  He also told me that this laser would not remove hair and that this was a cosmetic procedure that would not be covered by my insurance.  I was looking at a series of treatment that would cost me about $800-$900 a session and I think I ended up doing 5 treatments.  The first treatment removed the redness in circular shapes and subsequent treatments removed the rest of it until it was all gone.

Both doctors told me that this was a condition caused by sun damage, usually long term exposure to the sun.  My skin is extremely sun sensitive and for most of my life I have not been good about wearing sunscreen or protecting myself from the sun.  Part of my job during my 13 year fisheries career put me outside for long periods of time at all times of the year and I also had a lot of sun when I was younger.  One of the posters in the doctor's office stated that the majority of sun damage occurs before we are 18, even if it shows up later in life.

I will never completely know if this skin condition arose simply because of long term sun damage or if the laser treatment played a big part.  I did have some very mild, persistent discoloration on the affected areas prior to my laser treatment so my feeling is that I may have had a mild form of Poikiloderma before my laser session but it became magnified several fold in a very short period of time after the hair removal session.  I will never know but I feel like this is something a dermatologist might have caught f I had gone to a doctor who also does laser hair removal.  In fact, the doctor at Duke also performs laser hair removal, but after my experience I no longer wanted anything to do with any lasers.

Today I think I am free of the Poikiloderma although I have other issues with sun damage.  A follow up visit to the dermatologist I originally saw revealed that I had a very small skin cancer less than an inch away from eye.  For this he sent me to yet another dermatologist who performed Mohs surgery which removed the Basal Cell Carcinoma but left me with a scar between the bridge of my nose and my eyeball.  The little bump that was diagnosed as skin cancer was smaller than the tip of a ball point pin but the area of skin that was cut out to the bone was almost the size of a dime.  The part I could see on the surface was just the tip of the iceberg for this cancer, it seems.  The scar isn't too bad but it is another scar on my face. 

Needles to say I do not leave the house without wearing sunscreen even for 5 minutes now, summer or winter, cloudy or sunny day.  My little foray into laser hair removal cost me over $4000 and set me back over a year on facial hair removal as well as causing me a lot of pain and, for a time, an unsightly skin condition covering most of my neck.  Maybe the silver lining is that because of all of this, the skin cancer was discovered.  The surgeon that removed it told me that if this cancer was left untreated it could have taken my eye or worse. 

My final thoughts on this fiasco is that when I first sought hair removal I may have had a very mild skin condition that was not noticeable and probably not worth treatment.  Over time that may have changed but the fact remains that after this single laser session this condition escalated at least 10 fold at least in a matter of weeks.  I don't know the laser caused the condition but I do think it exacerbated it to the point of making it intolerable and I am just thankful I was able to find a specialist and had the resources to treat it.

My experience so far with electrolysis:
After the laser hair removal fiasco in December 2011, and the with treatments for Poikiloderma beginning  the following Spring, my start with electrolysis was delayed until mid 2012.   I found a provider in Raleigh, recommended by my therapist, who had 25 of years of experience with thermolysis (a form of electrolysis), so I began seeing her weekly for hour long sessions.  I found out that electrolysis can be just as painful as most say it is and it also seemed to be a slow process, as far as noticing progress.  This electrologist spent the hours randomly selecting hairs on different areas of my face and I didn't let her work below my jaw line because of the continuing Pulse Dye Laser treatments at Duke.

My doctor prescribed some numbing cream containing lidocaine that, when applied topically, made the electrolysis bearable, though still painful.  I was also researching places I could go that would clear my entire face at one time, which I thought would be a much more effective treatment with quicker results.  My main problem there was that I would have to travel out of state and, since I was not out to my family yet, I did not know how I could pull that off.

After about 30 hours of treatments with the lady in Raleigh I noticed a problem, areas of minor scarring along my chin that I had not noticed before.  I found out that electrolysis can cause scarring if not performed correctly, so that was it, I cut my losses and was finished with that electrologist. 

My next stop in the electrolysis journey is detailed in this post, about my Electro Thundersnow Adventure.  This adventuresome trip to Charlotte, NC proved to me that electrolysis did not have to be extremely painful, with the right operator and machine, and that I would need to travel out of state to receive the full facial clearings I was looking for.  The technician there was just too slow and unsure that she could clear my entire face in even two full days. 

Right after this trip I had the skin cancer next to my eye removed, as described above, and it would be June 2013 before I started hair removal again.  By that time I had come out to my family and been full time for nearly 6 months.

Last June I made the drive to York, Pennsylvania to get my entire face cleared, as I detailed in this blog.  This was quite an experience and took almost 14 hours over 2 days.  I used the lidocaine cream on sensitive areas of the my face, but even though the first clearance is by far the toughest, I did not experience any real pain.  For some areas of my face, it was the first time they had ever seen or felt the electrologists' needle.

So far, I've had 4 full facial clearings with James Walker of Executive Clearance.
  I decided to go to to him because he was highly recommended by a couple of friends, one who had experienced scarring at another business specializing in full facial electrolysis clearings.  He was also one of only three providers I could find nationwide that specializes in the full facial clearing.  I was fortunate that one of my friends had some pre- paid time with him that she could not use, so she sold it to me at a very good price, and that he was doing work in the York, Pa. area which is half the distance from my home to his office in Buffalo, New York.

Having extremely sensitive skin, I don't seem to be a good candidate for most facial hair removal providers.  I have been very pleased with James Walker's work and I will say my experience with Executive Clearance is night and day compared to what I have gone through with other providers since starting the hair removal process.  For a day or two after a massive session I might have a couple of small bruises but no real redness or swelling.  The main thing I am noticing now is the real reduction in facial hair.  People that I encounter say they cannot see anything on my face at all, no shadow, and the only makeup (foundation) I typically use is BB cream.

I've made three trips to York and one to Buffalo and have another clearing scheduled two weeks from now  in York.  I can easily go a day without shaving now, maybe 2, if I want to and still pass with no makeup.  After my fourth clearing I am seeing the biggest difference.  The hair does come back in a day and I can feel it a little bit, but it really isn't visible in that short a time.  There are some areas, mostly where I had electrolysis in 2012, that now seem to be hair free.  The best part about my experience with James is that I am experiencing no skin damage or scarring.  For me and anyone concerned about their face, going to the right provider who uses state of the art equipment makes all the difference.

With my 5th and 6th clearings set up before I go to Canada in June for SRS, I feel I will be good shape for the summer.  I am not where I want to be with hair removal, as I would have liked to have been completely clear before going full time, but the full facial clearings will have me caught up to where I Need to be, for now. Electrolysis continues....

Me with light makeup the day after a massive, 8 hour full face electrolysis session...only a a little, barely noticeable bruising on my neck that was soon gone and no swelling.