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Category Archives: Gender Affirmation Surgery

16 Months (Past One Year) Post Opt (WooooHooo)

Lisa: a beautiful being

Lisa: a beautiful being

In my last post I thought I was ready and able to start writing again, since the loss of my precious beloved Lisa.  I guess I wasn’t all that ready.  This is coming up on nine months since she passed away and the grieving and loss is just as intense as it was then.  I am a bit stronger, I do have times now where I am enjoying life and times where I feel good and feel like I have my feet firmly on the ground and accomplishing things and proud of it.  It is like waves in the ocean (huge ones):  there are times when I’m struggling to get air and being tossed around like being inside a clothes dryer and there are times that I’m peacefully, calmly and confidently floating on top.

I had promised to write two other posts, one on the ways that Lisa has come to me and is present in my life and the other about handling grief and the process that I’m going through.  I have started both of those posts, but have not been able to finish – partly because of the continuing intensity of this grief.  Someone told me that the intensity of grief is a testament to the greatness of the love shared.  I firmly hold that as true.  Lisa and I had an intense love and life together.  It’s the type of love that as a teenager I had dreamed about, the kind one finds only in novels and great plays.  But it happened – it happened to us.  Terms like twin flame and soul mates don’t come close…

Leaving flowers at Lisa's memorial

Leaving flowers at Lisa’s memorial

It is a week to my 16th anniversary (and the day before my anniversary will be 9 months since Lisa passed away ….).  As a result, my 1 year anniversary of my SRS and becoming who I am inside now on the outside, was a pretty hard day with vivid memories of Lisa and I sharing the hospital room and her being constantly by my side plus all the times in Chonburi getting out and around.

Since the last post, I’m now dilating only once a week – I picked Sunday nights.  There were times when I missed a week and didn’t have any issues or problems the next time I dilated.  Some people I know only dilate only once a month.  I might go to that after my 2nd year anniversary but don’t think that would be a good idea right now.

I’ve traveled to the mainland twice this year already and will make another trip in Dec.   I think it’s important to visit Lisa’s and my family more often then we did before, especially after her passing.  During the first trip I held life celebrations for Lisa with everyone and together we scattered some of her ashes in places that were very special to her.  The second trip was just to be together with them, revisit some of these place but also to reminisce and just be together, as a family.  My trip in Dec will be along the same lines.  Although, this will be the first time back in Minnesota during their winter – not sure how smart of an idea this is, but the grand kids have been remembering me and I want to be there more often for them.

On the way to the airport when I was leaving Minneapolis to come home the last time – I got rear ended on the interstate.  I saw my doctor and she prescribed a month’s worth of therapeutic massages, twice a week!  I like this doctor!!  Those are wonderful, so relaxing and has helped my stiff neck and back that I had after the accident.  I have one more to go.  But I think I’ll come back once a month (on my own) from now on.  These really help reduce stress and relax the body.

Lisa and Mazie

Lisa and Mazie

Another major thing that happened is our (Lisa and my) cat Mazie passed away.  Mazie was a very affectionate and loving.  After Lisa passed away, Mazie would cuddle with me in bed and would always be on my lap when I got home.  It’s very interesting that Mazie came to us (appeared at our back lanai) after Lisa’s mother Mazel passed away.  Hence her name – Lisa named her after and in honor of her mother.  And now, Mazie passed away about 2 months after Lisa did.  She was here for Lisa!  This picture of Mazie on Lisa’s lap says it all.

Last week, a good friend of mine decided she is going to move to the mainland and would not be able to bring her cat along and asked me if I would take the cat (named Bella Marie).  Bella is 7 years old, a mix of Tobi and Siamese and is very loving as well.  At first I wasn’t sure I was ready.  Bella knew me from the times I would visit, so everything went exceptionally well when she was came to stay with me.  She is becoming just as affectionate as Mazie was – sitting on my lap and laying at foot of the bed at night, occasionally coming up and cuddling next to me.  And amazingly, she is toilet trained!  She is an indoor cat, so I don’t have the messes I had with Mazie trekking in all the dirt.  Bella is a huge help with my grief and loss of Lisa (and Mazie).  It’s great having her around the house.  Another loving being is now sharing the house with me!

I’m keeping myself busy – maybe a bit too busy.  For a couple of weeks I helped a good friend of mine with her business – spiced cacao.  I helped package, label, count and load everything up for a ‘Made in Maui’ huge event.  That was a lot of fun and met a lot of friends there.  She also took me out to a couple of Rotary outings, one was a Halloween party put on by a well known doctor here – that was awesome.

I’ve also been elected to the board of  Maui Pride.  For me this is a huge honor.  I’ll be helping with their events and planning.  They have monthly hikes, monthly dine outs, special events, etc.  Their largest event, the Maui Pride Fair, raises enough money to be able to hand out a dozen or so scholarships to LGBT students here.  They also help other organization on island with their fundraisers like “Woman helping Woman” and the AIDS foundation.

Through on of their events – a dine out – I met a wonderful couple.  A couple of weeks later I get an invite to their wedding!  It was beautiful.  They are both chefs and you can just imagine the festivities and food afterwords.  Well, last week was a birthday of a mutual friend, I was invited over to their house.  There were five of us women and we had a wonderful time.  It is so great to be accepted by them and to enjoy their company.  Now, I’ve been invited to share Thanksgiving with them.  What an honor!

Ok, on to transition and what’s it’s like for me at 16 months.  Again, so much has been eclipsed by Lisa’s passing, followed by the loss of Mazie our cat and also all three topical fish (basically every living thing in our house except me!).  It was just one thing after another.  Then that was followed by losing a number of precious items, like the ring from Lisa’s finger (that I took off of her in the hospital after she passed away).  So it’s been pretty tough.

It is nice only dilating once a week – that takes off a huge burden.  My breasts have been sore now and then, just like they were when a growth spurt occurred – and they have grown a bit more.  I had one scare however.  I had my first mammogram and they called me back to get an ultrasound.  It turns out I had a swollen lymph node and not to be worried.  However, this does point out how important it is to be checked.

So, a bit of TMI  (too much information) – stop here if you don’t want TMI ….

Everything ‘down below’ has healed well and functioning perfectly.  As a young boy I could never understand my mother when she always told me to clean myself very well down there.  What was there to clean any more then any other part of my body?  Well … things are sure different now and I now understand what she was referring to!  There are so many folds and creases down there that it’s a lot harder to clean.  I’m not sure what they call that white stuff that forms in the creases but it does not smell good.  Twice I asked my doctor and she showed me yet another crease or fold I didn’t know about, where this hid …. I’ve got ’em all now.

Big news is that I had my very first orgasm.  It was a small one, but it was one none the less!  A lot of trans*women have experienced their first orgasm at around 4 or 5 months post opt. But I had urinary problems when I came home from Chonburi and then a urinary infection back home that took months to clear up. A couple of months after that, the love of my life, my spouse Lisa passed away (she is a nurse and was with me in Chonburi for my operation).   I had a dream where Lisa came to me.  She wanted so much to give me my first one.  So, in a way she did.  Just like Lisa, an orgasm’s effects lasts for days after – sort of a glow – just like Lisa always had.  This is just one of many ways Lisa has been showing up – but that is for another post, perhaps another blog site.

So there were lots of factors contributing to not being able to orgasm when others had.  But, it finally happened.  Just wish my beloved Lisa would have physically been here with me ….. miss her so terribly much …

Those who are post opt and have not yet had an orgasm,  you need to be patient – it took me a year. And ‘yes’ to what most others have posted about this – it is different, both physically and mentally.  As a male we were used to ‘forcing’ it, powering through and everything was very focused (mentally and physically).  This is not the case now.  It’s now more about letting go, feeling the entire body, not being focused at all.  Instead being patient, not forcing anything, being open and sensing ‘all’ your feelings.  Here is an accurate but somewhat strange comparison:  for those of you that have had SRS surgery, it’s like the first time you had to urinate (usually they make you do this before you can leave the hospital).  You find out really quick that you can not do it the way you did as a male – you can ‘not’ force it out.  You have be patient, relax, no stress or strain and allow it to flow.  I’m glad I have transitioned.

Well, in the interests of getting this finished and posted, I’m going to finish here.  I can include more details in the next post.  Wishing everyone happy holidays!

With Aloha,

Sifan

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10 Months Post-Op

Posted on
Sifan 7/10/2015

Sifan 7/10/2015

I’m not sure what to say, accept that I feel I need to post something.  Today marks 10 months since my SRS and birth into the physical reality of who I am.  Yesterday however, was the 3 month anniversary of when my beloved Lisa passed away.  This post will primarily cover transition.

The entirety of these past three months have been spent in grief, morning and loss.  People say I’m doing better, but it feels even worse than at first.  Nothing in my entire life has been this hard.  This is one of the reasons I could not post until now.  Not sure I’m ready to post now either but I feel I should.

I think I will be creating separate posts to cover the main things I’m going through and experiencing.  Those include the continuing transition (or perhaps it’s post transition now), the grief and loss of my spouse and what I’m going through and what is helping and the many ways that Lisa is showing up and making herself felt.  This last one is quite amazing.  Lisa is being felt by many and I have heard from a lot of people.  This has been an immense relief and comfort to me.

It does not relieve the grief and pain of loss.  After all these years of cuddling every night, all night long – my body experiences this loss so terribly.  But my spirit knows Lisa is with me and I experience her constantly.  These two things continue along at the same time – loss/grief and comfort.

Of course Lisa’s passing has completely eclipsed my transition.  I am very grateful that during this period of memorials, life celebrations and lots of public exposure that no one has ‘clocked’ me, no ‘he’ nor ‘him’ or sideways glances or inappropriate comments or remarks.  Actually I haven’t had anything like that for more than 1/2 a year now.  I’m not sure if that is because of looking more like a woman, acting more like a woman or because of my confidence in being who I am.  I think it’s all in the latter – confidence.  I’m not even thinking about whether I look like a woman or will I be ‘passing’ ok today, etc.   Thanks to my dearest Lisa, I have a confidence now that carries across.

As far as post op recovery is concerned:  wow, they are right – looking back, 6 months was the magical time!  As I stated in an earlier post, it almost happened overnight, the night before my 6 month anniversary.  I no longer used the seat cushion, the remaining pain went away, dilation was much easier, and on and on.

Since then, I have even ridden a bicycle!  Now that was something that the thought of before would send very unpleasant shivers up and down me.

I had a granulation between my labia on my right side that used to bleed now and then back in the months after I got home.  I was very concerned and was going to have my doctor here remove it.  The advice from Chonburi was to just leave it alone.  But I wondered what would become of it:  would it remain as a protrusion?  Would it fall off?  Would it just go back in?  Well now I have the answer – it goes back in.  It’s gone and everything looks good there.

However, my doctor noticed something else – it looked like a ‘Y’ shaped frenulum split my clitoris in half!  Sent off a picture to Chonburi and they said ‘oh oh – that needs a revision’.  Ouch.  The clitoris has ‘legs’ that come down inside the inner labia on a woman.  Apparently those legs are along the inner sides of the inner labia instead of underneath.  These are sensate, but not to the point of pain or it being a problem.  My doctor here said that unless they were effecting me, to not worry about it at all.  She also said to look at it this way:  I have ‘extra’ sensate areas – be glad !!  So, I have a normal clitoris, clitoral hood, frenulum etc., then directly below the frenulum I have these two longish bumps on each side between the upper inner labia that are also as sensate as the clitoris.  I’m happy with that!

For dilation, I’m now down to once every 3 days.  I am on the largest dilator, have been since before the 6 month mark.  I don’t have any problems, no pain and it’s been easy and fast to get to depth.  I will wait for another 2 months (my 1 year anniversary) before I cut down to once a week as recommended for that time and then for the rest of my life.  Trying to figure out what day I’ll do my dilations on when I get to once a week – hummm – Mondays? – nay, those are bad enough ….

I have finally stopped shaving the upper 1/2 of my face!  The electrolysis has progressed far enough along that she now cleans up anything from about midway from my chin to my lower lip and up, then has started on my jaw line and chin and below.  There is nothing to shave above that!  At last – this is soooo good.  However, hair is still growing on my chest and stomach and that is starting to really bother me.  It has slowed down and others have said that it will eventually stop given about 2 years or more of HRT.  But I’m starting to think I might have her do electrolysis there next if this continues.

I’m also having electrolysis on my eye brows and finding that very very helpful.  She applies a topical to numb the area – it’s still a bit more painful than other places but it’s a huge difference in how I look and I don’t have to pluck anymore.  What a relief.

One of the concerns I had recently was how to shave my back.  Lisa used to do that for me – in the hard places to reach, but now ….  Turns out at my doctor’s office they now have waxing and massage.  So I signed up for a waxing for my back, my ears and my nose.  Yes, nose!!  I was pleasantly surprised!  They use a topical to numb the inside of the nose and it really (for me) was not painful at all.  So this will become part of a tri-monthly routine for me now.

My breasts have grown a bit more – I’m a 42B and filling that in pretty solidly now.  I’m glad I did not get breast augmentation when I was in Chonburi – as they had recommended against it and said I would fill out a bit more.  I did and am very happy with what I have.  Mine are ‘on the sides’ a bit, so when I put on a bra I have to pull or tuck them in (and get ‘side’ control bra’s).  This makes them look a lot better as well.  One thing I learned the hard way however – a mosquito bite just under the bra band in the middle of my back is the very worst thing to have!!!  Can’t reach it plus the bra rubs it raw.  ACK !!!!

Finally, my hair is just below my shoulders and slightly wavy along the sides.  I love how it is styled and layered.  Just right.  Ya, I still have high spots on each side of my forehead and therefore have bangs that cover them.  I wish I could use other styles but I do like this one.  I’ve had my hair up and also in a ponytail – always wanted to do that.  I didn’t think I had that much of a ponytail until I caught a reflection in a cornered mirror – wow, it was nice and long – a ‘real’ ponytail at last!  Now if I could just get more hair to cover those high spots ….

I’m settling on a style!  I’m mostly wearing mid to long skirts with tank tops (here in Hawaii) along with cork wedge sandals (1.5 -> 2″) and almost always earrings and a necklace, sometimes a bracelet as well.  I don’t like pants but will wear jeans when I have to (like going to the summit or taking hikes).

Well, here you have it – my first post about transition after Lisa passed away.  Finally, I was able to write.  Hopefully shortly I will write about how Lisa has been showing up to me and others plus a post about grief/loss and coping.

With much aloha,

Sifan

4 Months Post-Op

01/01/2015 At Mama's Fish House

01/01/2015 At Mama’s Fish House

Progress seems so very slow.  Sometimes the only way to measure is by the week and by seemingly small changes.  However, when I look back at what I have already gone through and realize what is now in the past – it amazes me.

Probably the largest change and one that I will never forget is getting over the UTI complication and being able to use the restroom like a normal woman.  As I’ve stated before – I will NEVER take going to the restroom for granted ever again in my life.  Almost every time I do use the restroom – I remember how difficult and painful it used to be and how it seemed like I would be that way forever.  This is the single most wonderful achievement other then being anatomically correct now.

With all of that behind me, now it’s the ‘normal’ recovery process for SRS that I face.  Of course now that this is front and center it takes over as the number one pain and stress of life and now becomes the next issue that I am waiting to get past.  Everything is swollen ‘down there’ – very normal but as I’ve described it before – it felt like a bowling ball between my legs.  At night, trying to sleep, I have to keep a pillow between my legs because I cannot put my knees together.  But there is progress – it feels like a baseball now.  Slow progress….

There is a whole new drama unfolding within the sisterhood that in some ways was expected but perhaps none of us really understood the full ramifications.  That is post-op depression. For some it’s huge.  For me it’s a slight sidelight hardly worth mentioning.  Basically we have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy planning, researching, questioning ourselves and preparing for transition – taking almost every second of our day and occupying our dreams at night.  Suddenly, it’s over, done, accomplished – even the dreams stop.  This was a large enough subject to warrant it’s own post.

Good news from the sisterhood (those of us that were together at Chonburi for our SRS plus others I know that had surgery with a different clinic around the same time):  a number of my sisters have reported that almost overnight, at about this point in time, the swelling suddenly subsided and things looked, felt and became – normal.  Well, I still have a baseball and am waiting for that to go away.  It is a constant low level pain.  I really feel sorry for and sympathize with those that have chronic pain.  Wearing anything puts pressure there.  Mostly I wear dresses or a skirt, but even panties will sometimes hurt.  Usually I can’t wait to get home and lay back, either in my comfy chair (where I can almost lay out flat!) or in bed.

The other good news from the sisterhood is that an increasing number of them have reported going beyond sensate and achieving the ‘big O’!  I am certainly sensate – but in no way do I want to go beyond that yet.  I’m just way too sore and protective of that area.  I can see where, just like I had to relearn how to urinate as that is completely different from a male, that this might be along the same line.  I am just hoping that my protectiveness does not complicate this.  From the sisterhood I know that I must learn to let go, to relax, trust and open up fully.  But this is all for the future – not now.

The granulations that I mentioned in the 3 month post, are still there – I did not have my doctor remove them.  I wrote to the clinic (and attached pictures) and they recommended to leave them alone, that they will heal by themselves.  They also pointed out that the rawness of the vestibule (center/floor of the inner labia below the clitoris) was actually due to two additional granulations, one of which is about 1/4 inch long – ugh.  My doctor agrees:  if it’s not causing pain or getting in the way – leave it.  These will bleed slightly now and then – but never very much and seems to be less and less.  My doctor says she can always remove them later if needed.  I cringe either way…

The other really good news is that I only dilate once a day now.  Usually that starts at month 6.  But I was able to reduce from 3 a day to 2 a day back in month 2, to only once a day now.  I’m also dilating with the ‘big’ one now.  Before it was only the medium.  The important thing is to be able to maintain depth and I have not lost any depth since leaving Chonburi.  Like my other sisters, I check every time I dilate and watch trends.  I will temporarily lose depth if I’m stressed or was sitting or had a car ride.  But I do my dilations just before going to bed.  This way I’m relaxed and can douche, wash up and go right to bed.  I also do not have any issue in getting to depth.  There have been some horror stories out there in the sisterhood of 1 to 2 hours just to get to depth.  Usually it only takes about 20 seconds for me.  One lesson I have learned – the intruitis and vaginal vault are totally separate from all the other parts down there as far as pain and discomfort are concerned.  The outer labia may be swollen and painful, but that has nothing to do with and no connection to dilation.  Wheeee – thank you very much!

Like everyone else in the sisterhood, every time we dilate, we all take out our mirrors and a light to meticulously inspect everything down there, watching for anything new or changed or a different color or troublesome, etc.  Just like everyone else, I am so careful with hygiene, washing before and after, being careful what I sit on, wiping seats down before I go, being selective where I go, using two different toilet papers for front and back, always wiping to the back and doing the back last.  That UTI taught me and others a big lesson…

I haven’t talked about HRT changes since before the surgery – time to catch up a bit.  Today is 19 months (slightly more than 1 1/2 years) since I started taking hormones.   Of course after the surgery I no longer take testosterone blockers – I’m only on Estrodiol.  Recently I have had additional breast growth.  Like before, areas of my breasts would get tender, then sore, then hard and then finally turn into growth in that area.  My aureoles have finally expanded along with my nipples – I’m looking much more natural now – they have caught up with the rest!  That was something that I wondered about – so note to others – this took a year and a half.  In fact I ‘show’ too much if all I wear is a shelf bra cami – I have to either wear a bra or use ‘hidden petals’ as they are called.  My skin is softer, my bottom is more rounded and the hair growth over most of my body has slowed down and changed.  I shave my legs and arms maybe once every two weeks (used to be once a week).  I shave my stomach and chest about every other day to every 3rd day (used to be every day).  So changes are still happening.

My estrogen levels have suddenly dropped this last month.  I see my endocrinologist later this week, so I’ll know more then.  They were normal for a younger woman (which is what I need to be at, at this point), now the level is about 1/4 of what it was – still normal for a post-menopausal woman – but not where I need to be just yet!  I’m going to ask for a retest.  There could be a number of reasons for the drop, including that I missed a day or two taking my hormones, could be where I apply the gel is getting less able to absorb it, could be the test itself or that the lady parts goes through phases where it exudes estrogen..  I’m hoping it’s the latter – just a phase of healing.

My new one piece bathing suit.

My new one piece bathing suit.

Finally after waiting so long, I made it to the beach!  I bought a new one piece bathing suit just for this moment.  The beaches and the ocean have meant a lot to me and having to abstain from swimming and wading for these three months following surgery was hard.  During my recovery in the hospital, swimming in the ocean was one of the things I would think and dream about.  That helped me through some of the rough times.  Here in Maui, especially on the south shore by Kihei, the water is nice (almost warm) even in the middle of winter.  I usually will try to go swimming on Mondays right after finishing electrolysis.  I’ll head down to the beach around noon and spend an hour there before heading back up home to get ready for work.

Oh, speaking of the beach – last Sunday I again went to the beach but the waves were in the 5 to 7 foot range.  It took me awhile to gather enough courage to go in.  Like they say, never put your back to the ocean (except to duck under the wave…).  I tried to measure one of them:  I was in about 5 1/2 feet of water – just before the wave the water went down to 2 feet and the wave topped my out-stretched arm – I figure about 6 to 7 feet worth of wave.  You have to know what you are doing out there – how to duck dive and what to do if you get rolled – which happened when I tried to measure that wave ….  Nothing like being in the ‘washing machine’ on spin cycle!  The water was grey with sand – and this was 1,000 feet out from the beach.  One lesson I learned:  lady parts and sand are not a happy combination – for days after!  I’ve rinsed out my new bathing suit a number of times and I’m still getting sand out (and same with my lady parts …).  Ack!

First time at the beach since my surgery.

First time at the beach since my surgery.

My electrologist found a new, better and much more powerful numbing cream.  She tried this out on me 3 weeks ago and was able to get at the very sensitive hairs beneath the nose (oh girl those used to be painful).  Previously, I had a dentist numb my face directly before going in for a 2 hour electrolysis session.  This past Monday I had my second 2 hour session where she used this new cream.  She would apply it, cover it, then work on a different area of my face as that area would numb up.  She is using topicaine.  She says its very important to occlude it.  Wow, she can get a lot done this way.  I’m seeing a lot of improvements.

Facial hair remains one of the more difficult self-conscientiousness issues.  It is difficult for any woman, but especially so for me as I have to stop shaving on Friday and let everything grow out over the weekend so there is enough to ‘grab’ for electrolysis on Monday.  This makes going out or doing anything on Saturday and Sundays difficult and embarrassing.  Right now, I have a faint 5 oclock shadow in a thin strip above my upper lip.  I noticed at work, that a couple of the women there have this as well.  So I’m getting there.

For the last month, occasionally I would wake up in the middle of the night (3am ‘ish).  I would be very sensitive to everything:  weight of the blankets on me, discomfort of my lady parts, refrigerator kicking in, dog barking in the distance, wind rustling the trees, my spouse cuddling me or being too close (normally we cuddle the entire night as we sleep).  These would prevent me from going back to sleep.  My mind was clear – no issues, nothing bothering me, etc.  My doctor gave me a prescriptions for pain, sleep and anxiety pills – none of which I want to use regularly.  Finally I found that I could take a Tylenol – it would take 30 mins but I would be able to sleep and more importantly, to be able to cuddle!  I’m going to talk to my therapist and doctor more about this.  I also posted to the sisterhood to see if anyone else went through something like this.

Jan. 3, 2015 Snow at the summit of Mt. Haleakala

Jan. 3, 2015 Snow at the summit of Mt. Haleakala

Seems this winter has it’s share of storms.  In the beginnings of January we had this ‘small’ storm come across the island of Maui.  The information from radar and satellite didn’t concern us at the observatory so no extra precautions were taken.  Oh girl – this storm flared up as it hit us and wound up dumping a bunch of snow and ice at the summit.  Could have been worse – the big island had blizzard condition on top Mauna Kea.  As usual, one of the engineers and I were the ones that had to run up and rescue things the next day.  It was freezing cold up there.  I had to fall back on my Minnesota experience: dressing in layers, shoveling snow and chopping ice just in order to get into the door of the observatory!   I had fun making a snow ball – first time in about 7 years since I had left Minnesota.  Next day, I found a little snowman in this same spot. I wound up having to go up to the summit three days in a row before the observatory was back on-line and on-sky.  Even now there are 5 remaining non-critical issues that I will have to get back up there to fix (I’ll probably go up this week sometime).

Dec 25, 2014 Christmas dinner at the Makena Beach resort

Dec 25, 2014 Christmas dinner at the Makena Beach resort

Lisa and I had a wonderful holiday.  I bought a new red dress for Christmas dinner.  We went out to the Makena Beach resort.  It’s a beautiful resort situated on a beach and overlooking the ocean.  Of course we got there a bit before sunset and watched as the sky turned beautiful pastel colors out over the ocean.  They have a huge smorgasbord of food from around the world.  It was a quite the feast with so many different foods and flavors.  It was difficult to choose from as there is no way a person could taste even a small piece of everything and not be wheeled out in a wheelbarrow!  Plus we celebrated with a bottle of delicious champagne – what an evening to remember!

For New Years, we went out to another favorite spot here on Maui – Mama’s Fish House.  This has got to be one of the best restaurants in Maui – if not all of Hawaii.  It’s on a cove on the north shore and is filled with memorabilia and nick-knacks, its architecture a bit eclectic with twisted tree limbs and roots for some walls, ship’s propeller and outrigger canoes as parts of the ceiling!  The food is very delicious.  This is where we go to celebrate my birthday.   Hummm, how do I convince Lisa that we should celebrate my new birthday (the date of my surgery) by going to Mama’s twice ….

01/01/2015 Celebrated New Years at Mama's Fish House

01/01/2015 Celebrated New Years at Mama’s Fish House

For the holidays, Mama’s Fish House put up a ‘sandman’ (a snowman would not last very long in the cove with the sea mists blowing over …).  So I had to get a picture with the sandman!

Overall, four months out from surgery, I would summarize by saying life is starting to settle into a new rhythm.  I am finding out more about myself, my body, as everything meshes and comes together.  Looking back, I think the biggest realization occurred right before and directly after surgery when I discovered that my body had disphoria in addition to my head.  I had spent all that time ‘in the head’ beforehand – that was very important – but I had missed all the clues from my body.  Perhaps being on the right hormones and now finally having SRS, I’m able to listen to my body – to be in touch with it and to love it.  Maybe it’s because of the lack of testosterone, perhaps it’s finally being congruent or maybe it’s just being female.  Such a difference from before …. such a difference …

With much Aloha,

Sifan

Post-Opt Depression

depressionThis is a ‘second’ transition – a transition to living a normal life – and this is not talked about or at least not mentioned to the degree that it should be.  In some ways this was expected but perhaps none of us that have gone through SRS really understood the full ramifications of.  That is post-op depression. For some it’s huge.  For me it’s a slight sidelight hardly worth mentioning, but yet, very important to mention…

We have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy planning, researching, questioning ourselves and preparing for transition – taking almost every second of our day and occupying our dreams at night.  Suddenly all that planning etc. is over, done, accomplished – even the dreams stop.  And here we are – marvelously and finally our true selves, whole at last – but all that action is gone, finished, leaving us somewhat devoid and that sends some into a depression or just feeling down.

I use the word ‘we’ as I’m mostly talking about others in the sisterhood (I use ‘sisterhood’ to mean all those that I went through SRS with plus many others that are post-op).

I’m quite active in a number of areas, so for me I was able to simply ease into a relaxed life.  The greatest effect for me was being physically handicapped and unable to do a lot of the outdoor activities I enjoy (hiking, climbing, swimming, kayaking etc.).  But I’m also creative, love learning and do a lot with computers.  So I have many ways that I find rewarding and fulfilling.  I also had spent a lot of time pre-op getting my psychological self in order.

In addition to this sudden lack of intense activity, there is a low level pain that is pretty constant for 4 to 6 months as down there is swollen and still healing. I can see the progress, but it is very slow, measured by the week – not the day.  This has a couple of effects for me.  First it either prevents me from doing activities I love or at best it makes me think twice if I should do something or not.  But the thought is constantly present.

When I was researching SRS, as I was initially looking into the possibility that I wanted to go that far.  I read about the maintenance that is required and was taken back by how much there was.  Dilation for the rest of your life is a big one especially when you understand what and how and how often it must be done.  Add to that the normal but new (for us) activities a woman has to routinely do:  cleanliness, pads/liners, checking yourself/making sure all is ok and how to use the restroom – how to sit, clean, even how to urinate.

All these take additional time that before we never had to even think about.  And now, the time to do all these duties constrains our ability to get into the things that bring us joy and keep us (anyone actually) happy and away from depression.

At times we feel so good, but then something else happens and back we go.  The pain will sometimes abate, only later to come back in a different form.  Just when we think things are getting better something else starts in.  This is a long journey – it’s takes a year to recover from an operation this massively huge.  But relapsing after feeling so good can be very difficult to take mentally.

So we have this seven pronged threat:

  • Intensive mental activity leading up to surgery
  • Physical handicap keeping us pent up and unable to do activities we enjoy
  • Constant low grade pain
  • Things taking so much longer to heal than expected
  • The new duties
  • Maintenance required with our new parts and the lack of time to do enjoyable activities that keep us out of depression
  • Relapses after things were going so good

In a way, it’s equivalent to soldiers coming back from a war.  It’s suddenly over but perhaps too suddenly.  Everything keeps going around in our heads.  It’s hard to let all of that go and settle down.  It happens just too fast.  And the ‘way of life’ is completely different.  Whereas there was so much to do before, now there is a lot to do, but it is totally different.

For my sisters:  this is much larger than you think or possibly can imagine.  This is more than a change of your physical sex.  It’s more than just living as the opposite gender.  It’s also more than how society views you or more importantly, your own insecurities and fears. In addition to all of that, this is a profound life style change – right down to how you ‘wipe’ yourself in the restroom!

My advice for those that are contemplating SRS:  Do your due diligence in researching this.  Join online groups and social media that are targeted for pre-op’s.  Once you settle on a surgeon – ask that clinic what pre-op and post-op social media they have and get invited to those (these are almost always private).  Once connected – read back one year to get a good clear idea of what you are going to face.  You will read about complications, about troubles and issues, but also about marvelous achievements and proud moments.  A word of caution:  everyone is different both in what they experience and the timing for various healings to take place.  Take it all with a grain of salt as they say.  But at least you will have a better idea of the full spectrum of possibilities and outcomes.

A bit of a soapbox moment:  I saw so many sisters that carried high sexual expectations once they completed surgery.  It bears mentioning that around 50% of women (gender) born female (birth sex) ever have an orgasm.  A transsexual after completing SRS is no different and has the same statistics!  We are all sensate (feelings and able to have an orgasm) – but the big ‘O’ is more than just being sensate.  It requires a heavy mental aspect as well.  What it requires is an opening up, being in tune with your body and being calm mentally and letting go.  All of which are completely opposite of what is required of a man and is therefore even more difficult for a transsexual.  My soapbox is this – do NOT go into this for sexual reasons.  You really should only be doing this because you have a deep down need to have your life be congruent, to be whole, to embody the essence of who you are.  Let the rest come – it will.

For most males (birth sex) under the ‘influence’ of testosterone, they have an almost daily urge.  For me this was confusing and at odds to the woman (gender) that I am.  Those urges caused a conflict in me as the male influence of testosterone had it’s way.  This is part of what I called the testosterone poisoning.  Getting on HRT and now completing SRS solved this and got that poison out of my system along with all of it’s effects.  Mind you, if you are a cis male (meaning your birth sex and gender match), testosterone is perfect and wonderful and I appreciate that in others.  However, for me, a transsexual, that was an awful burden that caused great disphoria and conflict.  Of course for some this is a concern – will they still have sexual urges after HRT and SRS?  And for a lot of sisters going through SRS this translated to worries about size/depth (again think testosterone – how many males do you know that are concerned with ‘size’ …) and orgasmic potential (especially after being able to, on demand).  Granted, for those that are young and have or will have a male partner, these things are important – I’m not saying otherwise.  I’m saying these should not be the top priority nor the reason for coming this far.

You are changing into a female (you are already a woman). Your body is now going to act and respond as one.  This includes the much more subtle urges, the relaxed sexual tension (compared to before) and a completely different way that we orgasm.  Many worry (I did) about how will we be satisfied if perhaps we can not orgasm or as often and ‘easily’ as we could before.  When you come out of the ‘testosterone fog’ and into femaleness, the urges change too.  In other words, you are now a female and your urges and abilities will match a female’s as well – do not fret over this, let it happen.  Let me put this yet another way:  your new body and self will match … perfectly!

And for those that have had surgery:  This is HUGE!  You had a major surgery – it does things to your body that take a long long time to heal.  You might feel ok at the moment – but is it not finished.  We need to take this one day and one thing at a time.  Conquer it and it alone, then focus on the next.  Don’t get overwhelmed – it’s so easy to do.  This is going to take up to a year – all the adjustments, all the issues that come up – both physical and mental.  So many times, the clinic has told us – recovery is 90% mental and it’s very true.  I remember the first time I saw blood on my dilator – omg I went crazy worried.  I reread the ‘manual’ the clinic sent me a dozen times.  Did what they said – and no problem.  But the mental anguish was difficult.  Of course now I just put pressure on the spot (always a granulation) and it’s gone and done – not a biggie.  And that is how most of recovery has to be dealt with.  One day at a time, one thing at a time and put-in the time!

For some, this is a difficult period and an unexpected complication.  I have a feeling that this may have been the reason two people I know of that committed suicide. So this is serious.  If this is you – please, there is so much help out here – reach out – please ….  There are a lot of us that have been through this – we made it, it’s more than possible – it’s just more hard work.

With so much Aloha

Sifan

 

Surgery in Thailand – Part 6, Trip Home

10/6/14 Business class lounge in Bangkok waiting for our flight home.

10/6/14 Business class lounge in Bangkok waiting for our flight home.

The day finally came (actually very early morning) when we had to leave to go back home.  It turns out this was a very very sad time.

To leave this wonderful clinic, their staff, the new sisters and the sisterhood that I’m now part of – was a difficult thing – I have tears as I write this just thinking back to that day.  We had everything packed the day before, except for what we needed to sleep and for my dilation.  The fresh clothes we were going to wear were put out neatly.  We got up at about 2am (ouch), I got up, emptied the catheter bag, did a long dilation, showered and emptied the bag again, then got dressed as Lisa got up and showered.  I then cleaned the rest of my dilation kit and packed it away.  Once we were ready we did a quick inspection of the room to make sure we didn’t miss anything (we did, we left a nice ice pack in the freezer part of the little room refrigerator).  Then we called for bell service to carry our luggage down to the lobby.

Once at the lobby, we didn’t wait long before the driver showed up with the clinic’s van.  It was so sad driving away from the hotel for the last time, driving down the main road of Chonburi, leaving …  He stopped at a place to buy water for us just on the outskirts of the town.  Right after that the road turned into a major highway and off we went.  It takes about an hour to get to the airport.  This was a very very long trip in my condition.  The seat cushion only helps a little.  I would put both arms down straight to lift myself up off the cushion every time I saw a bump coming.  I missed a lot of them ….  Once there, he got us to the check-in gate.  However, we were about 45 mins early and had to sit and wait before it opened.  Once they opened and because Lisa got us in business class, we were able to check in pretty fast.  They got us wheel chairs and whisked us through security.

Leaving Thailand - lots of water down there.

Leaving Thailand – lots of water down there.

Unfortunately, I packed a large bottle of benedine that the clinic gave us in my travel bag instead of check-in.  Security did not like that and confiscated it … grrrr.  After I got home, I posted this to the sister-hood and no one else had any problems like this.  I must have gotten the early morning security guard ….  In fact, I had posted this question before I left and was told there was no problem, especially with the note that Dr. Suporn gave us for the airports.  Oh well …

Then they pushed our wheelchairs to the business lounge – we were on JAL and oh my, what a beautiful lounge.  And there was a bar (that didn’t matter, I was not going to drink before a long trip) and a smorgasbord of breakfast food set out.  Lisa would get me settled (it was still painful) and then get something to eat.  Eventually I had to get up to use the restroom (meaning undo the catheter pinch then empty the bag), so after that I got some food myself.  It seemed like a long wait before the ‘wheelchair guys’ came back to get us and bring us to the plane.

A week ago, on our only outing in Chonburi, Lisa and I went to the huge mall they have there in an attempt to purchase some souvenirs for ourselves and friends back home.  This didn’t work out because the entire mall was stocked with ‘western’ goods that the people there wanted!  So we had planned to shop at the airport.  Unfortunately the JAL lounge was far from the shops – way to far for to Lisa to walk and forget it if you think I was going to walk anywhere at all.  So the only souvenirs we had were the couple of things we bought from the hotel (purse, jewelry boxes etc.) and a dress, shawls and earrings from the mall.

20141005_203247

Typhoon Vong Phong receding to the north as we land in Tokyo. Gad it won the race to Tokyo!

There was one tiny ittsie bittsie little problem …..  seems a certain mega-typhoon was in a race with us to get to Tokyo! Typhoon Vong Phong, dubbed the ‘most powerful storm on earth’.  From the headlines of the day “The most powerful storm on earth this year is heading for Japan” (http://mashable.com/2014/10/07/super-typhoon-vongfong-japan/).  It was a race, one I didn’t care to win.  So leaving Bangkok we were racing this pretty bad typhoon that had Tokyo as a target.  Turned out we lost, the typhoon won by about 4 hours. By the time we got there we had blue skies.  We landed with just a little turbulence. Out the window to the north we could see it receding in the distance.  Leaving Tokyo however, was delayed as all the planes that were grounded by this storm were now queuing to take off. We had about an hour delay.

The plane ride home was long and hard especially because I could only sit on my seat cushion and that is not very comfortable.  Fortunately Lisa had booked us on business class for the trip back.  The trip was about 25 hours long which included two 6 hour layovers.  On the longest seqment we were JAL’s ‘dreamliner’ airplane.  The business class seat had everything, including a ‘bed’ mode.  That was great because it was the only position that was comfortable at all for me.  The windows had electronic darkening – 6 levels of darkening so you could adjust to just what you wanted and still see out.   It had colored led ceiling lighting that changed depending on what was happening: boarding, meal time, sleep, etc.  What a plane!! Really glad Lisa splurged on the flight home …..

Honolulu at last - oh what a beautiful sight!

Honolulu at last – oh what a beautiful sight!

Around 21 hours after leaving Bangkok, we came in for a landing at Honolulu.  The first words spoken to us as we got off the plane here: “Aloha, e’ komo mai” (hello and welcome) …. mmmmmmm, yesssssss, home!  Oh how wonderful it was to have someone speak to us in English and understood right away what we said and not having to repeat or mimic – wheeeeee. Little things that say “you are home now”.

At last HOME !!!!! Wowowowowozie. Left Chonburi today at 4 am in the morning, arrived home at noon today (still Monday).  That’s a total of 25 hours driving, flying, waiting forever in airports on layovers, etc.  It’s weird – we left Narita at 8 pm Monday and arrived 11 am Monday …..9 hours BEFORE we left. Ah, the wonders of the international date line.  So, am I 9 hours younger now? Personally I think the stress of this long trip more than made up for that.

My bottom is sooooo sore ….. And it feels so good to be back on Maui. OMG just seeing the beaches and mountains as we flew in …. Of course it helps when all the other people on the plane are tourists and were also very excited. Now I just have to figure out what is night and what is day.  Before I went to bed I had to do the ‘infamous’ first dilation at home.  Infamous because due to the long flight and stress, this would be a difficult one – it lived up to the hype …

A very tired Lisa and Sifan on the DreamLiner - what an airplane!

A very tired Lisa and Sifan on the DreamLiner – what an airplane!

Well, my turn has come to say aloha to Chonburi, to Dr Suporn, to the marvelous staff and especially all the beautiful sisters I have had the pleasure to meet. What an experience this was. What a glorious sisterhood we belong to. I think Shakina coined the phrase ‘supornista’ – yesssss! And we are all Suporn butterflies – this one is starting to feel the wind beneath her wings.

There is a sadness here – both Lisa and I started feeling it as we drove out of Chonburi – we are missing everyone so much. I have tears in my eyes just writing this. Lisa and I want to wish everyone else still at Chunburi their own safe journeys. And to everyone we have met, aloha nui loa (very much aloha/love) – may all of our life journeys lead to joy and happiness!

With much aloha,

Sifan

La papillon Dame Sifan sent le vent sous leurs ailes

3 Months Post Opt

20141127_173748Oh this has been a long 3 months….  part of it was the most painful of my life.  I’m still quite sore down there but remembering what I went through – this is nothing. See my previous posts for details of the SRS operation, my recovery and painful complications I went through.  For the most part the pain had to do with the complications – the UTI, not being able to urinate and extending my bladder.  Without that complication this operation and recovery, especially in the first month would hardly rate as discomfort or low level pain.  For that I am glad – glad that I didn’t have to deal with anything else over and above the complication.

Normally (with out complications) the first month is pretty easy.  It’s the second and third months that are hardest.  This is due to a number of factors.  First Dr. Suporn’s technique is very ‘accurate’ and true to the female anatomy – his technique is the different from all the rest and results are as they say, the Cadillac of the business. This means there is a lot more surgery and construction underneath/inside and this takes longer to heal.  It’s like scare tissue which becomes swollen and hard and progresses from one area to another as it heals.  This is one reason we have to dilate, to keep the neo vagina open, soft, and to depth.  One of the ‘sisters’ called it “beating the dragon” (I prefer to call it ‘training’ the dragon …).  By the way, I call the other women that were there in Chonburi having SRS along with me – ‘sisters’ as we formed an international closeness and constantly keep in touch.

This becomes difficult during the 2nd and 3rd months where most of the healing takes place.  It gradually gets easier and for some even pleasurable.  For others this period is very hard – even extremely hard.  I’ve heard of some that took hours to get to depth – which you have to do before you can start timing your dilation.  I was lucky this way – the worst I had was maybe 1 min before I reached depth.  It is recommended that we do 3 dilations a day – so you can imagine the pain and agony some have had.  I had cut down to 2 a day because I was able to maintain my depth.  I feel lucky that way.  It was hard for a while and I had a hard time preparing mentally for them.  But they gradual became easier, less painful and became routine.  I will have to dilate the rest of my life – but the frequency tapers off to once a week after 1 year (3 times a day until month 4, 1 once a day after month 6, then once a week or so after a year – mostly to check depth).

Those are the major milestones as well.  After the 3rd month things get easier and we can start doing just about everything (swimming, hiking, long trips, working, baths, some exercise, etc.).  Then month 6 is another milestone and 1 year basically marks completion.  Ya, one year ….  Of course every ‘body’ is different and these are only approximate timings for the majority of people that go through this.

In this next section I’m going to tell it like it is – this could be TMI (too much information) for some, so be warned.  However, for those who are going to have surgery, I think this is important to know – I wish I had known this beforehand – not that it would have changed anything – just so I could have been more prepared and aware.  Of course this is ‘my’ experience and reading the private accounts of others tells me that I’m in the middle as far as my experience and pain/discomfort is concerned.

By the way:  most surgeons or clinics have a private FaceBook page that is only for ‘post’ opts.  These are very helpful for us to a) keep in touch b) ask questions c) see how others are doing d) peer into the future to see what to expect.  Unfortunately they really do need to be kept only for those that are post-opt or immediately pre-opt.  But this information is invaluable if you are going to have surgery.  They recommend that once you are invited into their group, that you read back 1 year to get a full understanding of what to expect.

For me, right now, I’m going through multiple phases where ‘things get tight’ down there.  First a very hard ball (size of a marble) formed just above everything (up by the pubic bone).  I had to stay in bed for a couple of days with nothing on down there (as everything, even the weight of the bad sheet, hurt).  This gradually ‘morphed’ down along both sides of the frenulum, basically tightening that entire area up (it was all swollen, so this is actually ok, just a bit painful).  Now the same sort of thing is happening starting at the tops of the outer labia and working down.  Which is also good because my outer labia is huge (swollen) making it difficult at times to close my legs, especially when I want to sleep on my side at night – I have to place a hard thick pillow between my legs.

I still can not sit without using the infamous seat cushion although it is getting better.  I forgot it once and was able to carefully sit on a hard chair for about 10 mins.  However, if I do too much, like a long car ride or sitting too long at work, or like one day I had to go up to the summit to work – the next day I wind up in bed, legs spread apart and nothing on to let it heal.  Sometime I have to take pain meds – sometimes I’ll take a pain pill before I need to do something (like a long ride) where I know it’s going to be hard.  At times, it feels like a bowling ball down there between my legs – and I walk like I’ve been riding a horse for hours.  My panties feel like they are crushing me during those times and I can’t wait to get home and lay down in bed and allow my bottom to ease up.  These times seem to coincide with the ‘tightening’ phases I mentioned above.  So I’ll be ok, even ‘great’ for a few days and then another one of these ‘phases’ kicks in and I have to take it easy, stay home and sometime stay in bed.  But these ‘seem’ to be getting less as time goes on – progress is being made (although soooo slowly it seems).

I saw my GP doctor today – another checkup.  My UA came back ambiguous – but at least it didn’t have the bacteria  (e-coli) that caused all the pain and agony before.  I sent a question off to the clinic regarding this and they said (and my doctor agrees) that if none of the symptoms are present than all is ok.  There are high levels of something I don’t remember what, but those can also be do to the SRS surgery.  So we are leaving things alone unless symptoms come back.  That is good news!

I’ve been having bleeding  (very minor) about once a week, all coming from the same spot (at the bottom inside where the major and minor labia come together on the left side).  The doctor examined that in more detail and found it was the equivalent of a ‘skin tag’ – an 8th in long growth protruding out.  This can happen as internal ‘sacs’ sometimes comes out through the skin (the labia are created with many layers of internal stitching and sometimes as these heal one of these small sacs can pop out).  So the middle of January I go back and will have it removed (plenty of local anesthesia ….!).  I’m relieved to know that is all it is.

Other than that, everything looks and operates correctly now.  There is sensation is all the correct places.  Still sore so I’m very careful with my new parts.  A number of the ‘sisters’ that had SRS the same time as me are now reporting they had their first umm, “The Big O’ ….  For me, the surrounding areas down there are still too sore for me to even contemplate that ….  Put it this way, I still cringe when I see another woman riding a bike or motorcycle.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to do that but right now I have that automatic ‘pain’ – same as when someone talks about getting a flu shot – you automatically feel pain in your arm … or when someone talks about going to the dentist … ya … that kind of thing:  my bottom immediately goes into panic mode!

So today is the 11th, my 3 month celebration as finally being the true authentic me.  I can not tell you how absolutely wonderful it is.  First you have to understand the shear disphoria that was before – I’m not sure I have words to describe that horror – the pain of my complications can not come close to the lifelong battle I have gone through attempting to live in the opposite gender.  Now I am free to ‘be’, to express myself and to live as who I always was.  It is a fantastic and welcome change.

It just struck me – theoretically I am finished with transition!  I say theoretically because I could argue both sides of that.  Some transsexuals go stealth now that they are fully a woman, truly marking this as the end of transition and simply blend into society as women.  Even though this is a completion – on so many levels – I feel that it is important, especially today, to be visible to some degree.  The more society sees that transsexuals are ‘normal’ people, involved in normal or credible vocations or even honored/esteemed positions, the better it is going to be for those that follow.  The more professionals like myself that come out, the more that society will start seeing us as part and parcel of the human condition.  Just like red hair or blue eyes, transsexuals are but one more variation of the human condition.  There is a balance of course – this can be and has been deadly (we just honored those murdered on Nov 20th – TDOR – Transgender Day of Remembrance).  I am cautious:  I do not proclaim who/what I am to just anyone – but I am an advocate and will do what I can to help achieve parity for everyone.

With much Aloha,

Sifan

PS: I’m hoping to swim in the ocean this weekend – I have missed that soooo much ….

Surgery in Thailand – Part 5, Complications

20140929_115815This post also contains what some will call TMI (too much information).  If you are squeamish, please skip.  I had two complications post surgery that each masked the others symptoms making it difficult to diagnose and cure.  In fact one of those I’m still suffering from and only now does it become obvious I had this all the time since I left the hospital.  For those that do not wish to read this entire post – here’s the key point:  if you are having urinary problems, suspect a UTI (urinary track infection) immediately and get tested!  That would have saved me more than a month of torturous pain.

Before we could leave the hospital we had to prove that we could urinate.  I had difficulty and had to stand up in the shower to accomplish it.  Now urinating at first is something that is difficult for anyone post SRS.  Women do it much differently than man do and of course up until then I was used to doing it the male way.  A male feels he has to go, then basically pushes it out, but a woman when she feels she has to go, sits, relaxes and when it’s ready it comes out.  A very big difference that is hard to get used to at first.  One has to relax and not push – if you are in pain and have an intense urgency to urinate – this is impossible.

As a result, myself along with the nurses and clinic staff chalked up my difficulty to this difference.

Then, about one or two days after I was back in the hotel, I had a very bad case of constipation.  Constipation is normal after a week in the hospital when basically everything down here is shut down and they gave me laxatives to take the first thing back at the hotel.  However, those were not doing the job.  After a couple of days it became obvious I needed something more powerful.  Finally they sent over an enema kit and dupalux which is a very powerful laxative.  The next morning, and all that day, I finally emptied out.  Meanwhile, I was in pretty bad pain for about 3 days as all this was figured out.

Once that was solved, the second, worse and more painful problem became obvious.  I could not urinate.  And this degraded each day, getting worse and worse.  It started out that I could only urinate standing up then squatting over the toilet.  But it was only a small stream, not enough to empty my bladder.  The progressed to having to stand in the shower, rock back and forth until I could go – then even that turned into just dribbles and drops, with very little coming out.

Worse yet I had an intense urge and pressure to go, but could not.  This would be very painful, I would almost collapse – I had to hang onto something to keep myself up.  My entire body would shake and spasm until a little urine would come out.  Then things would calm down and after about 5 mins I could urinate – but just a little.

This would repeat every 45 mins to an hour – day and night.  Plus, during the night, I would ‘leak’ due to the intense pressure building up in my now fully extended bladder.  Basically all I was able to do was relieve the ‘over’ pressure from the bladder – never emptying it or even reducing it.  Each hour I was get this very intense urge to urinate along with this racking pain.  I would pace back and forth in  the room until I was calm enough to attempt to go.  Then I went through the entire process of standing in the tub rocking back and forth, dribbling a bit here, raising a leg would sometimes helped get a bit more out – waiting for more to come out, holding onto the shower curtain rod (being so careful not to pull it down) and racking in pain.  I had placed my hands on my hips so much that my hips became painful and I could not compose myself that way any longer either – what a horrible mess.

Sometimes nothing would come out but the intensity and urgency to go was still so overwhelming that I would revert to pacing until that pain once again went down and I would try again.  I had to use a cane when pacing – it was that bad.  Then, clean up (small 1/2 shower) and back to bed for 30 mins or so before all this would start again.  Even in bed, I could tell my bladder was painfully full.  I had to find a way to lay down that hurt less that other positions.  Even the weight of the bed sheet on my lower area was painful (I would prop up a pillow next to me down there to keep the sheet off of it).  Poor Lisa had to sleep on the far side of the bed and give me lots of room (this was probably the hardest part for us as we both always cuddled as we slept all night long – this was/is very important to us).  As a result it was very difficult to get back to sleep and it seemed the second I did – boom – it started all over again.  The most beautiful part was the morning sunlight starting to shine in the sky – it meant not only that I made it through another night, but that the staff was up and the clinic would be open and I could try to get help.

On top of all of this – I had to go off of my HRT meds for the surgery and was only allowed to start taking estrogen again after the 1st week back in the hotel.  Going off estrogen is like going through menopause – hot flashes, cold flashes and mixed up emotions etc.  A number of times I soaked my pillow at night because I was so hot.

Throughout most of this Lisa (who is a nurse) was in contact with a nurse friend of hers who has a lot of hospital experience with UTI and in fact the two of them had written a training manual for nurses.  So, during the long nights, everything I would get up, I would email her with the latest and she would get back with advice (due to the time differences she was up at those times).  It was with her help that I was finally able to describe my symptoms correctly to the doctor here.

This went on for 3 excruciating days and nights, hour by hour, no sleep and the worst pain of my life.  I remember one night toward the end of this, just before I finally got the catheter in – I was holding onto the door frame of the bathroom, rocking back and forth crying and telling Lisa that I can’t go on like this, we ‘HAVE’ to get help, this ‘HAS’ to stop.

I think my problem was that I thought this would go away because this was probably due to the surgery and something down there was still swollen and pinching off the urethra and time would heal this. When I described my symptoms to the staff, they were concerned if I could urinate at all – which I could.  So this was not taken serious until the 4th day when I called the clinic and explained how much pain I was in and how little I urinated.  I have a high pain threshold – so it took a while for me to understand that this was much worse than I thought.  And of course the times I explained this to the clinic – I was not telling them a pain level that concerned them.  Finally, I had just had enough and once I explained how much pain and that only dribbles were coming out – they got me into the clinic and the doctor put in a catheter.

What a huge relief!  As he inserted it, the nurse held my hand tightly.  It hurt a little.  But the second it reached my bladder and started draining – this relief was beyond belief – I started to cry with happiness.  More than 1000cc came out – way too much and means that the bladder was over extended.

I wore the catheter for 3 days.  Then, an hour before they were going to take it out, I was to empty it then drink a lot of water.  I probably over did it and drank 3 bottles!  Well, they took it out – but I still could not go – only just a little.

Later that day it became a repeat of when I came back from the hotel – same hourly urge, same pain, same dribbling and not being able to empty.  And it got worse as time went on.  I over extended the bladder again and again was in intense pain and only dribbled, repeating this every hour that night, just like before.

I stupidly kept going until 9 am the next morning when the clinic opens.  Later I found out I could have called any time during the night and a nurse would come to my hotel room to reinsert the catheter.  As it was, I made it to the clinic and they put it back in.  Once again, more than 1000cc emptied out.

Now the problem was that is was the last week in Thailand – I was going home in a few days.  So we decided to keep the catheter in until 2 days before I left.  If it worked – great, if not, I would get a special catheter for traveling home.

I got the catheter out early in the morning so that if I didn’t urinate by say 6pm – the nurse would come and put a new one back in.

It didn’t work — so I called and the nurse came right to my hotel room and did it there.  Just before we left for home, Dr. Suporn saw me in the clinic and went over the options.  The best option was to wear it home – that way I would not have to worry about a complication 1/2 way home – on the airplane!

I was to keep this in for 2 weeks after I got home.

The leading theory was that there was swelling or something that was blocking he urethra.  And indeed, each time the catheter was out, there was progress.  The first time out I was actually able to urinate sitting down.  The second time I actually had a stream instead of a dribble.  Both of those were short lived, but it did show progress and point to perhaps swelling that was slowly going down.

In the last two weeks of our stay in Chonburi, most patients are recovered enough that they get out to see the sites, go shopping, eat somewhere other than the hotel, etc.  I could do none of that.  Walking too much would irritate the urethra possible making it swell worse and extending my issues and pain.  So we never ate outside the hotel and at most would walk around the hotel itself – going down to the lobby for an ice cream cone, or visiting the garden.

There are good things about having a catheter (as well as bad).  First I did not have to worry about emptying my bladder – each time it was emptied!  They had me on ‘training’:  instead of having the tube open all the time, I had it closed/pinched off and would only open it when I felt like I had to urinate.  This trained the bladder and me.  I would still have to get up in the middle of the night – but it was like before – I always would get up once or twice during the night – a huge difference from the hourly painful mess I just had.  Some of the bad issues were: hiding the bag – there is a strap that you can attach it to your panties, then I’dd wear a long loose dress and make sure the tubing didn’t show below the hem (in the top picture of this post, the bag is in the large purse I’m holding and you can just see the tube coming from under my dress).  The other is that there was constant draining from the irritation from where the catheter entered.  And with a tube going straight down from there – this would circumvent any liners or pads I was wearing.  As a result I was going through panties and pads like crazy.  I brought a lot of panties and would wind up washing almost all of them every day.  And of course this cause my inner thighs to chaff no matter how much I washed and dried them.  When I didn’t have the catheter in, I was leaking from all the pressure, so I had the same issues then too.  What a huge terrible, painful mess that was.

Sifan at Thailand airportThe plane ride home was long and hard especially because I could only sit on my seat cushion and that is not very comfortable.  Fortunately Lisa had book us on business class for the trip back.  The trip was about 21 hours long which included two 6 hour layovers.  On the longest flight we were JAL’s ‘dreamliner’ airplane.  The business class seat had everything, including a ‘bed’ mode.  That was great because it was the only position that was comfortable at all for me.

The very next day that I was back, we traveled down to Lahaina to see by GP doctor and to figure out how and when to have the catheter removed and what to do if I still had problems.  I live in upcountry Maui and this was about an hour long trip – one way.  That was difficult and once I had the catheter removed, if I were to have a relapse, that trip would be horrible.

When the day came, we rented a room in a hotel in Lahaina just blocks from the clinic.  My appointment was first thing in the morning so that I would have plenty of time to attempt to urinate and if not, would still be able to get back into the clinic to have the catheter reinserted before the clinic closed.

Well, it worked – sort of.  I have not had the catheter back in.  That day I went about 10 times in a row, sitting down, with a nice stream each time. However, when night came – it was back to every hour and the hour.  Sometimes I would have to either stand or squat in order to go.  But the good news was that I was going and in a good quantity so that I was not extending my bladder.  But I was still having the intense urge and the pain.

This would only get worse in the next few days until on Sat. with nothing else open I went into the ER in Kahalui.  OMG what a horrible experience that was.  I was there for 6 hours, in my condition that was an eternity.  When I got in they had me give them a sample.  The restroom was so filthy – there were blood stains on the floor.  I did everything I could to keep both the sample and me, my skirt and anything else from touching anything!  Then hours later I was admitted, they did a bladder scan that showed I had about 650 cc inside.  The test came back positive – I had an UTI (urinary track infection)!  They put me on Cipro and Pyridium (standard treatment).  They also took a culture and in three days, depending on what they found, they might have to switch medications.

Four days later, I still have the same symptoms – it’s not working – and no call from the Hospital.  So we called and for about a hour was passed around between departments only to be told “sorry I can not release that information”.  Now I can understand that they can not tell someone else – but this is ME asking about ME!!  What a screwed up mess that place is.  At least we found out that I was on the WRONG medication – but that is all they would say.  We called my GP doctor and she fought the good battle to figure out the rest and she then wrote me the correct prescription (assuming their test results were correct that is….).

Once I got the medication I read what it had to say about UTI’s:

Cloudy urine (mine was slightly cloudy)

Burning sensation when urinating (not really – was like a constant burning sensation all the time)

Have to urinate very often and usually only can go a little bit (bingo – me to a ‘T’)

Have a very strong urge to urinate – usually suddenly (oh boy do I ever)

Pain and muscle spasm in the genital area while urinating and or right after (yes – so intense that I can not go – I have to pace or do something to relieve this)

Pressure over the pubic bone (yes – in fact I was asking the doctor what was under there that would cause this – this only happens when I have to go)

Back pain – would mean the kidney is involved (nope)

Chills and fever – would mean the kidney is involved (nope)

When I read all this — it was the proverbial light bulb moment – this is what I had when I left the hospital in Chonburi and the entire time I was in the hotel and here at home.  Holly cow – if I would have described this correctly or if someone could have put all this together back then – well – that’s over a month of the most excruciating pain I ever had in my whole life.

UTI’s are somewhat common when you have a catheter in – like I had those 7 days in the hospital.  I’m pretty sure now this was the cause all along.  Boy I wish I knew more back then like I do now.

As I’m writing this, I’m on day 2 of the new meds – waiting for them to work – could take up to 5 days.  At night, I am still getting up almost every hour (something every 20 mins).  I have some pain but not like before.  I am able to get ‘enough’ out, but not emptying.  During the day I can sit and urinate ‘normally’ and in good volume.  However at night I usually have to squat and use pressure, sometime stand to get it going.  They gave us this 1/2 moon shaped 2″ deep yellow plastic tray (called an emesis basin) and I would place this between my legs so that I could urinate standing up.  It was graduated as well so I would keep a running record of the time and amounts.  I was still averaging getting up at night every 1 to 2 hours and about 100 to 300cc.  It is still hard to get enough sleep.  I would be woken up because I had to go, would only go a tiny bit, but then if I walked out to the living room by the I walked back to the bathroom I could go about 200cc.   Then back to bed, try to sleep before I had to do all this again.  I was always soooo happy to see the morning twilight ….  just like the hardest days in Chonburi – the breaking new day was a really big thing for me.

It is very frustrating and I hope the medicine kicks in soon.  This is just too much and too long of a horrible ordeal.  And now I’m paranoid about cleanliness.

With Aloha,

Sifan

Postscript:  On the 5th night of taking the new medicine the symptoms stopped!  Right down to the wire.  I was really worried when all I had was one pill left and everything was still a mess and painful.  Now 3 1/2 months later as I write this postscript, every time I sit down I have a nice stream and easy time and the thought comes to me – every time – “I will never take going to the restroom for granted ever again in my life”!!