Saturday, February 28, 2015

5 Months Post Op Update

This week I hit the 5 month post op (GRS) mark.  Fascinating!  In a way it really doesn't seem like it's been so long but in another way it's becoming harder to remember how life felt before this life changing event.  I am still in the stage where my recovery dominates much of my life but am far enough along that most of my life has returned to normal.  I also have to admit that I'm quite frustrated that in a couple of ways I have not recovered as much as I'd hoped to by now.  The truth is, something is wrong.

I have not posted a true post op update in quite some time.  Honestly, it's been hard for me to write about a situation that is mostly very positive, but has some lingering negative undertones.  It's quite the paradox really. 

I am happier, a little more confident, a lot more content with myself, quite a bit more comfortable with my body and just as positive as ever about my bright future.  Things have never been more right in my world, especially with regard to the way I feel about myself, inside.  Yet there is a little cloud of doubt hanging around and a tiny hint of fear creeping up on the horizon.  I am afraid something is wrong.

I've started wearing jeans again sometimes, with some level of discomfort.

So what's the skinny on my recovery at this 5 month mark???
Right now, I'm dilating twice a day and only using two dilators each time, the medium (green) and large (orange).  The green is supposed to stay in 5 minutes at full depth and the orange stays in 15 minutes.  I usually go a little longer than the recommended times and this is really neither a painful nor pleasurable experience, for the most part.  It's still more of a chore.  People who think we are playing with sex toys are dead wrong and people who think its sheer misery are quite wrong as well.

The dilation process takes over an hour twice a day when you consider preparing everything, taking awhile for the dilators to actually go all the way in, dilating and cleaning up.  No they don't yet just slide right in and I take that as a good thing.  The dilators have to be sterilized and I like to at least take a semi shower when I'm finished, as lube is involved. 

One of the things a lot of people worry about before having this surgery, and I was no exception, is how will things feel when we heal.  Dr. Brassard told me that it can take up to 2 years for sensation to fully return and I know people who went to various surgeons and really have not had adequate sensation return, even after a year or two.  Thank goodness that hasn't been a problem for me.

I have to say that the physical feelings I have are amazing, quite a bit better than before.  I'm told this might get even better over time but even if there's no more change I can say I am very satisfied in this area.  Being satisfied with being satisfied is something that brings me quite a bit of satisfaction, often over and over again.  Perhaps one day I will post more graphic details as I get a lot of questions about this, but I think you get my drift.

Aesthetics wise, I am very happy except for the surgical scars which are finally starting to fade.  The surgeon says that it takes a year for the scars to fade, but he says that about almost everything.  I know I have a tendency to scar, or have scars hold redness, more than most people.  For example, I scratched my hand back in November and it's still somewhat red.  So I know these will go away, for the most part anyway, eventually.

We're told to massage the scars, possibly using some type of oil or cream containing vitamin E.  My doctor in Raleigh even told me to pinch them as well as rub them.  Overall this is not unpleasant but I think this pinching and aggressive massage might have contributed to a new and mysterious problem that I am experiencing.


I think at this point, all things considered, I am about 80% recovered from surgery as far as my general healing.  As far as vaginal healing I will say I am maybe 50% recovered?  It's really hard for me to say because I never had a vagina before (that was one of the big things I was missing) so I am not sure what 100% recovery will be.  I am told the healing takes a year, and I am almost halfway there, so for now I will go with the 50% estimate.  Still, something is wrong.

The granulation I spoke of in previous updates, having first reared its ugly head in late October, persists but continues to gradually improve.  I've been seeing Dr. Keelee Macphee in Raleigh every 2-4 weeks for silver nitrate treatments that seem to slowly chip away at this problem.  I know others who've had much worse cases of granulation, often taking a lot of time and treatment to heal, but yet most of us do not experience it at all.  I guess I am one of the unlucky ones in this regard but it could be much worse, or I could have even more serious complications, so maybe I am not so unlucky after all.

So this brings us to the (possibly) new, mysterious problem I am having.  I've mentioned here that something is wrong.  I wish I knew what it was but at this point I do not.  At the end of January my right labia majora (feel free to look that up) became swollen and quite sore.  The swelling only lasted few days and was gone by the time of my next doctor's appointment.  I did mention it to Dr. MacPhee, but it was like having a car that's acting up and when you take it to the shop it's doing fine.  If it's not broke don't fix it.

A couple of weeks ago this problem reappeared, though seemingly not as acute as the first time.  This time I was able to show the doctor the swelling and it has caused a bit of concern for both of us.  There's often quite a bit of discomfort associated with this but no real pain, at least as far as doctors define pain. 

Monday (March 2nd) I am going to get an ultrasound to try to determine what is causing the swelling (if it is indeed swelling) and try to figure out what can be done about it.  Technically, I'm going in for a bilateral groin ultrasound.  It sounds very scary and weird but I have to believe it's not going to be that serious.  Alas, for now it is a great mystery. 


At the end of the day I have to say: surgery sucks, recovering from surgery sucks.  Still, it was not as bad as I thought it would be and not nearly as bad as I feared it could be.  The recovery is just taking longer than normal, with a few more difficulties than I'd like, and now that nasty element of mystery.

While I wished I didn't have to have surgery (in order to be myself) there was never any doubt that it was necessary and it was never a choice.  People who say it is a choice do not understand what it is like (to be in the wrong body) and people who struggle with the "decision" of whether or not to have this surgery may need to look closely at whether they really need it or not.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with my results although I could be happier with my recovery at this point.  I try not to let it bring me down, and most days it doesn't.  It's only been 5 days since my doctor told me I needed this ultrasound, so I'm still digesting the situation. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, right before this last bout of swelling, I experienced a brief few days of pure bliss.  My granulation issue was better and not worrying me so much and physically everything was feeling soo good.  I really felt like I was over the hump and I was on the brink of being fully healed.  Then this new problem arose and I started worrying again. 

Now I have to practice what I preach and believe that everything will be ok.  Deep down inside I feel it will be.  Lots of people have to have revisions (minor surgeries to correct some problem) and if that's what I have to do so be it.  Maybe it will be almost nothing.  Something is wrong, but maybe it will be almost nothing after all.


I've got to tell you that even though I am a little concerned about a couple of things, I'm extremely happy these days.  Content might be a better word, but if you take the mysterious worry out of the equation, there's no better description than happy, fabulously happy.  It's an incredible feeling, after an incredibly wrong feeling for the vast majority of my life.  Things are just taking a little longer (to heal) than expected.

The happy times get happier..
Out with Mitchell on Valentine's night.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oh Well

As prophesized, I've begun some limited travel this year after being on a self imposed (and quite necessary) travel moratorium since my return from Montreal early last October.  In the last half of January I took two trips, spending 4 nights in Virginia with my boyfriend Mitchell and 2 nights at the coast with my BFF Lisa and her girlfriend Teri.


My first trip since my surgery began with a rather long (3.5 hour) drive to the foothills of Virginia to spend a few days and nights with Mitchell.  First stop was Total Hair Salon in Raleigh, where it was time to get a color recharge on my roots.  From Raleigh to Lynchburg is usually about a 2.5 hour drive but I ran into traffic almost all the way and it seemed like I would never get there.
Driving to Lynchburg
This was Friday night (January 16th), supposedly the start of the weekend but my baby had to work Sunday that week.  I did get there in time for us to go out for a nice meal at Texas Roadhouse.  When we got there it was very crowded with a long wait for tables, so we ended up sitting and eating at the bar.  Before we got our seats at the bar one man said it was ok for me to sit on his lap (at the bar), if it was ok with Mitchell.  We declined his offer and waited for 2 seats to come open.
Mitch and I with a lovely, fruit filled margarita.  Waiting for a seat somewhere, anywhere.
Overall the trip was pretty uneventful Except for getting to spend some time with my lover on a weekend he might not have come home due to the odd weekend scheduling.  Saturday we sort of took it easy, but we did eat 2 meals out and visit the mall.  Dilating still takes much of my time and energy and in addition I wasn't feeling my best.

The truth is at that time (and even now to a slightly lesser degree) I was having some healing issues and the long car ride seems to have exacerbated them.  I was in some pain and had some bleeding when dilating, so we decided to take it easy for the most part.  No drive up to the Blue Ridge Mountains this time.  Oh well....
Distant views of the Blue Ridge were all I saw of the mountains on this trip to Virginia.
Sunday night, when Mitch came home from work, we watched the NFL playoff game on television and I cooked dinner in the tiny kitchen of the extended stay apartment.  The couch there isn't even big enough for us to lay down and cuddle, but with his chair right next to to the "couchette", we could still hold hands and be close to each other.

Mitchell also had Monday off for Martin Luther King Day.  We thought about going to see "Mockingjay", The new Hunger Games movie, but when we got to the theater it had been superseded by an extra showing of American Sniper.  No interest there, so we went to Best Buy and bought a new movie, American Hustle.  We stopped and picked up a fried chicken and went home to watch what turned out to be a very good movie.

I woke up with Mitchell Tuesday morning and after he left for work I did my dilation routine then hit the road for home.  I picked the dogs up from the kennel then got ready to go with my mom to her historical society meeting.  The speaker that night was involved with an old mill restoration project that I am writing about, so I took this chance to interview her.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by how well I was able to fit in among mom's friends, many who knew me "way back when." 

Never be surprised by how well people accept and embrace change.


Towards the end of the month I headed east for another trip, this time to visit Lisa and Teri in beautiful Jarvisburg, North Carolina.  I've been promising Lisa I'd visit for sometime but having been laid up after surgery, this was my first good opportunity in months.

My first stop was Currituck Sports where I happened to bump into Lisa.  She was looking for a winter jacket and I was just looking, but this place is right up the road from her house so this gave us a chance to get an head start on some "world class shopping" in this rural area. 

I took a (double) selfie of us outside the shop and posted it on Facebook.  Many friends thought we were going fishing in the January cold (we weren't), and one even made a special effects shot out of our original picture.  I like that we'd made a marquee in Times Square!

That night Lisa, Teri and I headed over to the beach (Kitty Hawk) to have dinner and drinks with Lisa's old boss and friend Darlene.  Darlene's mom lives in Rocky Mount and I have spoken with her about going walking or biking here sometimes when she is in town.  We had not had a chance to meet yet, so it was nice to meet her while having this awesome meal with friends.  Lisa and Darlene hadn't seen each other lately and had so much to catch up on, as Lisa has recently come out and gone full time at work.  I have to give her a hand for transitioning in this small community, but it is a beach community so it's sort of laid back.  So far so good for Lisa (and Congratulations)!
Lisa and I Wednesday night before going to dinner at the beach.
We got quite a surprise when we came home from dinner that night.  There was no water.  As in there was no running water in the house.  Here we are 10 miles from the ocean, a few hundred feet from a river so wide you cannot see the other side, in a region inundated and defined by water, and there was not a drop to drink.  Nor was there a drop to wash off in, flush the toilets etc.  Oh well.

We made do that night.  I skipped that night's dilation, drank a couple of (homemade) margaritas and danced around while Lisa and Teri scurried about worrying about and looking at the well.  Maybe my laid back attitude rubbed off on them because at some point the decision was made to live with the well pump being out and get the neighbor (a fix it guy) over in the morning to take a look at it.

The next day, Thursday, was our planned "Big Day."  Lisa and I had hair appointments at noon, then we were to head up to the big city of Norfolk, Virginia to see what kind of trouble we could get into there.  Teri was already going to be in Norfolk for her electrolysis and was going to meet us for a nice dinner.

Our plans got kind of sidetracked by the well situation.  The fix it guy showed up in the morning but had to go do another job and was to return later that afternoon.  Lisa and I ran around to various hardware stores buying pipes, fittings and a pump for the well.  I also missed my morning dilation and shower.  We cleaned up best we could using bottled water, got dressed and headed out.         

Helping with the well repair, carrying some pipe around Home Depot.
Lisa and I did make it to the hair salon on time.  This was a very big day for Lisa!  I'd made the appointments for us to come in to this little local salon and get our hair washed and styled.  The stylist, Susan, was unaware that Lisa had been in her high school class and lives in the same small community.  At least she didn't know she was now living there as Lisa..:)

It was an awesome scenario.  I went first and made small talk with Susan while she washed my hair.  She found out I was visiting and lived a couple hours away.  After she rinsed my hair out I sat at her station while she washed Lisa's hair.  I am glad Susan couldn't see me because I was grinning the entire time.

Lisa strung her along for a little while and then asked the big question.  She revealed that they'd been in school together and she asked Susan if she remembered her.  Susan asked a few more questions and said that she did know a Crane in high school.  She asked Lisa if that was her brother. 

Oh well, this is when Lisa dropped the bomb on her.  That person Was her, but Now she is Lisa.  That bomb went over on Susan like a flower bomb.  We'd passed with flying colors.  She was surprised, very happy and quite supportive from that moment on.  She asked Lisa many questions and me a few, as we spent another hour or more in the salon getting our hair styled.  Of course, Susan said she didn't have a clue (then or now) but she did remember Lisa's old self seemed mired in sadness.  This is something I could certainly relate to.
Lisa, Susan and I having fun at the salon.
Lisa getting her hair "did" while I check out the back of my head.  Fabulous!
The back of Lisa's head was also fabulous!
We Had to go somewhere after getting our hair done, so we headed over to the beach to a local favorite, Hurricane Moe's.  This is a little dive bar/restaurant with a trippy surfer theme but I actually got some of the best seafood of my trip there, a spicy, blackened tuna sandwich.  I also had something else I'd not had since weeks before my surgery, a beer.  In fact we ordered a pitcher of the scrumptious, amber lager.  I believe Lisa let me have one mug before she whisked the rest of it away.  I didn't even get to finish my one mug, as we got called away when we got word that the well fix it guy was on site and ready to start fixing.
Reacquainting myself with this strange liquid..
With the repair to the water source well on the way, I decided I would go ahead and get a dilation in.  Surely the water would be running by the time I finished so that I could shower and get ready for dinner.  When I got through dilating I laid there for awhile, then went to talk to Lisa and realized that nothing happened.  The man couldn't figure out how to fix the well.  It had gotten dark, he was tired and it was time for him to go home.

Oh well, I cleaned up best I could and the three of us went back to the beach, to another highly rated local favorite restaurant, Tortuga's Lie.  Here I enjoyed more tuna, fancily done for such a homey little place, and enjoyed another amber colored beverage. 
Lisa, Teri and I at Tortuga's Lie.
When we got back from dinner I didn't bother to dilate since there was no water so we just hung out, had a couple of drinks and talked.  We touched on some deep subjects but tried not to talk about the well.  We had a promise that in the morning everything would be fixed. 

As a matter of fact, it was raining the next morning, Friday, and the guy was late showing up.  When he was over an hour late I went ahead and rinsed off with baby wipes and bottled water, got dressed and packed my bags.  Lisa was going to follow me to the beach for a little shopping, a walk on the ocean pier and one last seafood meal before I headed home. 

I forgot to mention that Lisa always cooks a great breakfast every morning I am there.  I can't say I always return the favor when she visits here, as I usually have cereal and fruit, but I cannot turn down sausage and eggs when they appear, steaming, on the table.

About 11 AM, just when I got all my things packed into my car, the well began to pump again!  Water flowed but had to heat up before anyone could take a shower.  I was already ready so we decided to head on out but at least Teri could get a shower before going to work and Lisa had a warm bath to look forward to when she got home.

Lisa and I braving windy, freezing conditions to walk over the Atlantic Ocean at Jennette's Pier in Nags Head.
My last seafood meal of the trip, a classic fried seafood platter from Darryl's in Manteo.  When at the beach, I usually only eat seafood when dining in restaurants.
By the time I made it home I had not showered or shaved (not tragic, thanks to electrolysis) for over 60 hours and had missed 2 dilations.  I learned that this wasn't tragic either and I quickly got back on schedule.  As a bonus, I made it (barely) back in time to pick up the dogs from the kennel.  They weren't scheduled to be picked up until the following day.  As a second bonus, Mitchell was on his way home from Virginia and got here in time for a late dinner.

It had been an awesome trip and a lesson that things don't have to be perfect in order to work out well.  All we can ever do is make the most of the situation wherever we are and whatever we are doing.  We can take a greater lesson from this experience as well.  We want things to be perfect, just right, but that is seldom if ever the case.  Oh well, things can (and usually do) work out really great in the end!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I was talking to a friend the other day and she mentioned that my voice seemed much better than it did the last time I spoke with her, which was before I left for Montreal.  Another friend told me recently that she was impressed by the voice message I'd left her and that she could tell I'd been working on my voice.  While I am getting ready to participate on some more voice therapy, I really haven't been working on anything specifically of late outside of normal day to day conversation.  The only thing that may have made a difference in confidence.

Confidence is something I've had since beginning this transition.  I would never had gotten through it without a high degree of confidence, but yet I have not always been as confident as I could be and maybe not as confident as I've seemed.  There is always room for improvement and lately I have noticed there's been change.  I am more confident than ever.

There are two messages here.  One is the surprising element that after GRS I am more confident in little ways that I never expected would be affected by achieving that goal and continuing to move along this road.  The other is a more basic, core message that cannot be emphasized enough.  Confidence, however we acquire it and wherever we manifest it, is one of the most important elements in life.  It is important in everything we do but it's simply vital to such a monumental undertaking as gender transition.


Apparently my confidence is soaring higher these days, most of the time anyway.  There are still certain times when I allow the inner fear to creep in.  Are people looking me, I wonder?  Can they tell I'm different?  Do they know?
Sometimes I look in the mirror and see the timid face of a child staring back at me.

Those feelings are becoming fewer and far between.  I don't know if it's so much that I've had GRS or just that I am continuing along the road of increasing confidence, through transition, and am making the break to the other side.  That other side being the fabled nirvana of a normal life where one doesn't think about gender and fits into the world as any other "normal" person. 

I've had those feelings of normality, increasing over time, for the last few years.  When I began going out as myself and experienced feeling normal for the first time in my life it gave me the confidence I needed to begin my transition. 

So now that my transition is over, physically anyway, how does life change?  I don't think that transition will ever truly be over.  In fact, someone told me once that transition beings with GRS.  There's more than one way to look at it for sure, but having made no other major changes in my life since the surgery I can see some little differences already.  Differences that I didn't expect.

Maybe it's because when I look at myself (naked) in the mirror I see myself the way I should have  always been.  Maybe because I don't feel there is something fraudulent about me when I deal with other people.  My it's because I finally, truly feel like myself.  Somehow I am more confident after my surgery. 

These are just some of the ways (that most people may not realize) that gender dysphoria can affect you.  Don't underestimate the power of doing what it takes to become who you really are.


Sometimes I see people wallowing in lack of confidence and the "woe is me" mentality.  Sometimes this is due to unfortunate circumstances in life that are beyond our control, but many times we are just simply not confident in ourselves and own abilities.

I've been there too so I know those feelings all too well.  When I finally decided to break out of my shell it was confidence that paved the way.  It took an act of confidence (and almost an act of God) to make that first crack in the shell.  When I stuck my head out to look around, I didn't see any monsters so I pulled together the confidence to break the shell away and walk out into the world.  As I took those first timid steps I began to believe that maybe I could walk this road.  As I walked further I lifted my head up and really started to believe I could make this work for me.  I was walking on the road of confidence.  It has taken me far and it can do the same for you.



It's not just confidence that makes all the difference.  We also have to project a positive image and think positive thoughts.  This is so fundamental, but success in life is constructed on the building blocks of basic elements like confidence, positivity, kindness, gratitude, hope, etc..... 

If it's going in the wrong direction, you can turn your life around.  If things are going well, they can go even better if you harness the power to believe that they can.  If you are achieving your goals, you can lend a hand and help others achieve theirs.

People, you control your own mood, your own destiny.  If you say life sucks, it most definitely will. Say that life is amazing and watch things turn around for you.  Project happy and feel happy.  It's not always easy but if you have to, make yourself do it.  Feel it!

Confidence is the key to success.  Confidence is the most important element in transition.  Confidence is the pathway to happiness. 

Do you want to know how to achieve your goals?  Have confidence.
Do you want to know how to get confidence?  Believe that you can do it.

You have to believe in your dreams in order for them to have any chance of coming true...