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Sifan’s Vagina Monologue

The Vagina Monologues

The Vagina Monologues

A couple of months ago I was fortunate to be able to see a local production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ here on Maui.  I was invited to come along with six other woman.  It was a quit the experience.  A lot of bonding, a lot of laughing, some crying. but everyone came away with a deeper sense of what it means to be a woman and a sense of ‘owning’ this important part of ourselves.

For me it was an initiation of sorts.  It allowed me to be proud of who and what I am.  It got me in touch with myself – much deeper appreciation of a vital part of myself that was missing for the majority of my life.

One of the monologues had to do with a transsexual woman’s experience.  It was read by a good friend of mine who is a trans-woman like me.  At one point she declared:  “I payed for my Vagina!”  Well, all the way home that night, my mind came up with verse after verse of a monologue that I would have given.  I decided I should put the virtual ink to virtual paper and post this.

I had to pay for my Vagina
(The Voice of a Transsexual Vagina)

I was born a woman without a vagina.  I have had to deal with the confusion, societies stereotypes and misunderstandings for most of my life – like more than 60 years.

From the very start, my first memories are of knowing that I was supposed to be ‘smooth’ down there.  I didn’t know what smooth was supposed to look like until many years later when my baby sister was born.

Early trauma involving my mother and then school had triggered my subconscious into protection mode.  It felt the misunderstandings, the stereotypes and the hatred that society had towards me so it convinced my conscious mind that I wasn’t a woman.

Me convincing me by achieving ‘manly’ goals to prove it:  technical mountain climbing, small plane pilot, long mountain treks, marriage, children and grandchildren, even starting a high risk business.

Who and what am I?  How could I be a woman without a Vagina?  Where is my authentic self and what is it?

But my body knew even if my head did not.  Waking up after surgery, at the birth of my Vagina – I had a visceral feeling that I was now back to how I ‘used to be’.  After surgery, somehow these sensations were ‘known’ and ‘normal’ to my body and I was at peace.  Before, it was a constant irritation and cause of deep dysphoria.

There are many costs that had to be paid:

My Vagina cost me over $20,000 and a trip to the other side of the world.

It is going to cost me almost as much and two years for electrolysis and other procedures to correct what testosterone and puberty has done to my body.  Some of those things can not be changed.

It cost me a month of pain:  5 hours of surgery, 7 days in a hospital and 23 days in a hotel next to the clinic to give birth to my Vagina  Some of this was the most severe pain of my life.

Four months of blood and fluid loss, of intense contractions as my Vagina healed.

A loss of everything I had before:  some friends, part of my family, a great job and a dream house on one of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes.

Other transsexuals have lost their lives to suicide or have been murdered because some people cannot deal with our authenticity, our truth.

My trans*Sisters – OUR sisters – live with this reality daily.

Our Vagina is an integral part of my ‘our bodies.  It is vitally important to be in connection with and ‘own’ our Vaginas.

All my life, my body knew this even though my head did not.  I paid for my Vagina with gender dysphoria.

Puberty robbed my body of many essential feminine traits.

I am still ‘paying’ for my Vagina ….

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Memo to my Former Self (1 of 3: to my 8 yr old self)

I recently read a book (“Letters For My Sisters, Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect. Published by Transgress Press”) compiled with stories that trans* people wrote to their younger selves.  They were asked “what would you say to your former self” and “to what age”?

I think this is brilliant and thought I would give it a go.  But I had a hard time determining the age that I would sent it too.  The best I could do was come up with was three different times of my life that I would have sent a letter to.  This is the first of those three.  I’m sending this to myself when I was in early grade school – about 8 or 9 years of age.


Steven: 7 Year old me

Steven: 7 Year old me

Hi Steven, it’s ok.  I know I must look ancient to you but please don’t be afraid.  I’m not one of those adults that tell you what to do or believe a child should be seen and not heard.  I know how tired you are of always being second tier: adults, older kids, bullies.

Your parents don’t give you credit for what you accomplish.  I know all you want is some recognition for your hard work. You just want to have some say in your life and some control over yourself, your life and your future.  I know…

And yet – look at yourself – one can see in your eyes how proud you are of yourself and of your determination.  Remember this, these are powerful tools that you have and that will get your through life.  And I’m sorry to say: you will need to remember this.

I have some great news and perhaps some scary and unbelievable news – about you and your future!

You know how every body in school picks on Billy, calls him names, thinks he’s slow and stupid and retarded?  You hate that.  You’ve seen how smart he is.  He just has a problem in front of people he does not know well.  But no one gives him credit, they just ridicule him and call him names.  Worse yet, you saw how his other friends attempted to stick up for him and then they got ridiculed and shunned.  I know this has kept you quite and that you held back from supporting him in public.  I know you feel bad about that too.

I’m not going to tell you that you should have stood up for him.  I know that you have something you are hiding that would make it even worse for you if anyone knew.  Surprised?  Yes, I knew you would be.  I’m sorry to say, that even at your very young age, trauma has forced your secret so deep that it will take many many years to reconnect to it.

I know you are scared, you saw how people treat Joey, calling him names like sissy and queer just because everyone thinks he acts like a girl and likes the other boys.  And I know you have some things in common with him.  And yes, I know you like girls not boys.  In fact you can’t understand boys and why they are the way they are.  They are so different than you – right?  And I know you are having problems understanding why you are so different.

You have spent a lot of time thinking about this, right?  A part of you knows you are more like all the girls around you then the boys.  Yes, I know, you ‘know’ you are a boy and just have these ‘extra’ abilities and sensitivities.  And that’s ok.  It really is ok.

I can see how all the kids at school would treat you and the very difficult time you would have if they knew.  And you have already seen what would happen from watching how they treat Billy and Joey and others.  You need to be protected and that is what your unconsciousness has done for you – buried this deeply.  And that is ok too.

You believe fitting in and doing what everyone tells you to do and achieving will make you successful.  And you know from watching others that doing this puts you ahead and in front of everyone else.  You have seen how competitive grade school is and know that success is not on the play ground or being the most popular with the kids.  You see the larger picture – it’s the adults and later life you are getting ready for.

Well, you are right!  But everything has a price.  Your price is burying something so deep that it will take 50 years before you find it and solve it.

Steve: at puberty

Steve: at puberty

This is ok too.  Everything has a give and take.  This will haunt you, you will not fully understand why or what it is.  There will be many times when life will give you huge clues, but you will simply ‘file them away’ only later to look back and finally put the pieces together.  Such is life I’m afraid.

Yes, it’s going to be hard.  There will be times you wish you could just skip forward 5 years – get past the awful times.  At least you will never think of calling it quits.  You are tough that way.

Please, take time to look back at your accomplishments and awards.  You need to know that you are accomplishing some really big and cool things.  I know they seem like nothing, like everyone else and that you feel you are not at all special – you are constantly being told this by your teachers, your parents and family and even the other kids.  But really, as you grow up, remember this:  take time to look back and assess your spectacular achievements – they really are wonderful accomplishments you know.  And you need to know that.

You have a wonderful enjoyment of life.  Your nature is to be happy.  This is going to serve you very well.  You love nature and many times you will go to her to help sooth yourself and solve the issues life throws at you.  Believe me, you have all the ‘tools’ you need and then some…

Let me give you a small peek at the rest of your life.  There are many hard times – much harder then what you are experiencing right now.  But you accomplish so much.  You will find and experience some of the most beautiful and joyous moments anyone could wish for.  The last job you have before retiring will be a dream come true for you.

Steven - about 7

Steven – about 7

You will have a family, grand-kids too.  They will be an awesome part of your life.  But, when you solve your deep secret, you will cause them great pain and will have to leave them.  The jury is still out if they will ever reconcile.  Like I said, everything has a price.  I’m sorry to tell you this.

I’m not going to comment on good or bad.  Life just is.  Things that seem bad usually turn out much much better – although it takes time before that happens.  You will always be happy and content with life.  You will continue to achieve and to enjoy life.

Solving your deep secret will free you – in ways you just can not imagine.  Yes, I know I have not told you what that is.  I’m sorry, but if I did, so much of your life would be different.  I really do wish you could figure it out now, at your age.  Yes, your life would be easier in some ways, but you would miss so many of life’s struggles and these struggles are what will shape you into a wonderful person that you will become.  Unfortunately, these hard times really are necessary.

With so much love and admiration,

… your future self

 

6 Months Post-Op

3/11/2015 Working at the summit

3/11/2015 Working at the summit

The ‘big’ 6!  This is the second milestone of recovery from SRS (4 months, 6 months and 1 year).  At 4 months the contractions and nerve re-connections pretty much stopped.  Now at 6 months most of the rest of the constant pain has gone away.  Whereas before it felt like something very hard was just inside under everything – that has now gone away.  Before, there was a constant low level pain – every second.  Regardless of what I was or was not doing – I always felt “down there” – constantly.  Only when I took pain medicine was it normal – with out pain or a constant swollen feeling.

Now, it’s just occasionally that there is any pain down there.  Today I didn’t even use my seat cushion at work – and I worked at the summit (it’s harder when working up there).  I’ve graduated to only using my seat cushion if it’s a hard chair.  Trust me – that is a lot of progress!  I can also sleep at night without having a pillow between my legs to keep them apart.

This all happened the day before my 6 month anniversary.  Just like the 4th month anniversary, seems like it took me right up until the day before for things to fall into place – but they did …

I’ve gained about 8 pounds since the operation.  Now that I’m feeling better, I’m going to start my walking again.  I bought a weighted hula-hoop for exercise too.  And oh boy – it’s not so easy to lose weight like it was before.  My goal is to drop another 30 lbs over the next year.

It’s been very cold here in Hawaii, especially upcountry here.  It’s been down in the 50’s.  Now, back when I lived in Minnesota, with furnaces in every house, even at -40 below zero, our house was a nice comfortable 72.  But we do not have heaters here.  So when it’s 50 degrees outside, it’s ever so slightly warmer inside – like 52 ….  That is cold even for Minnesota for inside.  And worse:  since my operation it’s very easy for me to get a chill.  I feel like I’m freezing almost all the time.  Life has changed.

I have three wonderful women that I’m privileged to have had as mentors as I transitioned to full womanhood.  Lisa of course and two others that I work with at the observatory.  One of them now, no longer works there.  She is the only one that would wear a dress or a skirt to work.  Almost everyone else is in t-shirts and jeans.  She was my inspiration for many things, style was one of them.  She is also the person that ran interference for me when I first started using the women’s restroom.  The other woman at work has also been an inspiration and huge help.  I would best describe her as a ‘wild woman’ in the best way – the way we all should aspire too.  Lisa on the other hand is my conservative mentor – right down the middle of the other two.  She keeps my feet on the ground and everything ‘real’.  I’m fortunate to have these three woman around me and mentoring me.

I still see the woman, that left the observatory, for lunch now and then, and just gave her and her sister’s family a tour of our observatory.  They had two sons, 5 and 9 I believe.  The older son was asking lots of very good questions – I wish everyone that I gave tours to would ask these kinds of questions!  But the younger child was getting bored fast.  He raised his hand and when I asked what his question was, he stated:  “I raised my hand three times …”  Oh dear ….

The spring is a busy time for me as I’m preparing and getting ready for some astronomy outreach events.  I am giving a demonstration on how we find NEOs (near earth objects – asteroids that are close to the earth’s orbit) using a 3D virtual model of our observatory.  The first is for the University of Hawaii’s open house in Manoa (Oahu) and then on the big island for their AstroDays celebration.  Later I teach about 320 3rd graders some elementary astronomy.  So I’ve been busy polishing up my presentations.  I enjoy these!

Soon we will be going back to Brookings to look for houses or lots again.  More houses and lots will be coming back on the market with the coming of spring.  Lisa is diligently watching and saving those we are interested in.  I can’t wait to get back there.  That is a magical place – just like Maui is.  Like other times in my life, it seems when it’s time to move on, I get behind it and put my energy into it.  It’s not that I want to leave, it’s just that I know I must.  I am going to miss Maui greatly.  I have spent two decades traveling the globe, have lived in a number of places – none I would actually call home, any more than home was where-ever I was.  Maui was the first and only place that actually was a home to me – and always will be.  This is the only place where the land beneath my feet has a deep connection to my spirit.  I chose my surname to honor this:  literally “the home”.  This is hard, but I embrace this move to Brookings and am investing my future there.

Not sure if I’ll couple a trip back to Minnesota with the next Brookings trip or the one after.  But I can not wait to go back and see my two sons, their wives and the four grandsons I have now.  And also to see many of my friends and some old friends that have stayed with me.  Somehow, now, this is very important to me, this re-connection.  I think a lot of this has to do with feeling that, for them, I’m now on the other side of transition.  The last time I saw them was when I came out to them at the very beginning of all of this.  I know so much more now and am so different from back then (it’s been awhile).  I wish I could go back to that time with the knowledge I have now.  Now, few will ask, most will quietly attempt to accept and carry on.  I wish I would have the opportunity for a full and deep discussion with them – but I truly doubt that a situation would arise to allow it.  Advice for others:  make it good the first time ….

For the first time I’m seeing scientific and medical papers being published about older transsexuals and the uniqueness of our stories, especially my story.  Today, children 4 or 5 years old express their gender truth and because there is enough information out there, parents, schools and society acknowledges them and they never have to live their lives coping with disphoira (it’s getting there – there are still a lot of horror stories).  For those older but not my generation, there was enough information, usually hidden, but enough that they knew they were the opposite gender even though they did not know the terms for it or if anyone else was like them or anything else about it.  They usually fought it – they became ultra-masculine: top navy seal, football quarterback for a top 10 team, even getting married and having children – as a way to prove to themselves they were what society said they were – men.

But older than that – me for example – there just wasn’t such a thing – nothing and society back then was very strict and fierce.  The only option, at least the way I explained it to myself, was that I was different – I was a boy, but I had all these other abilities (which were all feminine – but these all got twisted into somehow being masculine and acceptable).  But it really comes down to what we are inside and when that is in direct conflict with society (everything external to us, family, school, friends, relations, etc.) and this conflict is dangerous – then our subconsciousness deploys protection mechanisms.

When I was very young, I had a number of incidents that wound up driving this deep underground.  I was also a fast learner and when I saw others in deep trouble, this reinforced my protections.  Since there was no way to know or understand what my conflict was all about – part of me simply hid and made up a story – a story that would take 60 more years to unravel (see my beginnings blog for more information).  It’s nice to see these research papers basically stating the same – at last.

A number of people (family, spouse, older friends) have mentioned that they never saw this coming.  Along the lines of “I just don’t see how you could have hidden this for all these years – I did not see any indications of this in you”.  Well, nether did I !!  That is a consequence of how we create these protections within ourselves.  Ask anyone who has had childhood trauma, for example repeated familial rape.  They might even see the perpetrators as benevolent as they have to in order to survive.  These protections last a life time and only when things are ‘safe’ and these protections are no longer needed, will cracks start to appear and slowly layers upon layers peal back to reveal what actually happened – and we slowly heal.  It took seven years with a therapist and a ‘safe’ environment with Lisa to be able to bring all this out and start to understand.  And as I’ve stated before:  “As I allowed myself to become more of a woman, I started to notice something. It was more like my maleness was falling away then a femaleness was being attained. I was not becoming more of a woman, rather, like layers of an onion, my maleness was being peeled back.  I realized, I’m not becoming a woman – I am a woman.”

It is also of interest that both my ex-wife and my spouse now, have said that what initially attracted them to me were these female ‘sensitivities’ in a male.  They both see that it was the woman that I was underneath that was the attraction:  “you are not like other men….”.  Of course neither see themselves as anything other than heterosexual and would not have even giving me the time of day if I was a woman when we first met.  And of course when we first met – I still thought I was a man – only with all these ‘extras’.

These two things have always been difficult for me to explain:  why I didn’t have a clearer picture of myself as a girl at an early age and why no one, including myself, understood this or could even see my transsexualness for most of my life.  Only in hindsight is all of this clear to me.  I hope this post helps to answer this for you.  I’m glad to see research covering this as well.

What a journey!

With aloha,

Sifan

5 Months Post-Op

2015-02-14 Valentine's day in Brookings

2015-02-14 Valentine’s day in Brookings

Lisa and I are spending Valentines day in Brookings Oregon.  We came here to look for and buy a house that we’ll move into when I retire in about one and a half years.  Very exciting!

However, it was a long flight over, then a 7 hour wait at San Francisco before catching a 1.5 hour flight up to Crescent City, then a car ride to Oregon.   This plus all the driving around and looking at houses  – which were mostly out in the mountainous forests – has really had an effect on me ‘down there’.  I’ve been walking all around, up and down and in one case hiking around a 20 acre parcel.  As a result, I’ve been bleeding from those granulations on my vestibule.  This was a bit more than what has happened before, but at least I know what it is and where it’s from.  As a result, I’m much more ‘relaxed’ about it although it means going through pads and liners and checking more often.  And there is a general constant pain down there – had to take some pain medication twice already.

We found a house and made an offer.  I can now rest a bit and keep things off ‘down there’ to help heal better.  Wearing tights and at one point jeans was pretty hard on me.  Perhaps having those two granulations right in the middle between the inner labia is why it seems like this is taking longer for me to heal and get off using the seat cushion.  My third granulation is between the inner and outer labia and that seems to behave itself now.  That was the one that always bled a bit.  I’m hoping these other two will settle down as well.

Up until last month, the pain was mostly in the swollen outer labia and the ‘bowling ball’ then ‘golf ball’ hard feeling was just above the clitoris by the pubic bone.  Although there is still some tenderness there, that has subsided for the most part.  Now it seems the pain has moved down along the sides and sometimes around the intruitus.  The nerve re-connections have diminished but I still have a sudden sharp but bearable quick pain now and then – not enough to make me jerk or jump.

I also have correlated my exercise walks or long rides or anything were it’s either bumpy for a while or where my legs are moving, with increased pain the next day.  This also happens if I work at the summit for a long hard day.  One time I was feeling pretty good, went around the block once, still felt pretty good so I wound up going around 3 times (it’s a big block with a steep section of about 60 feet up and down).  I had to stay in bed the next day, nothing on, legs apart and on pain meds.  That also happened after I had a long hard day at the summit too.  Seems like I’m always slowly learning ….

I saw the endocrinologist and he basically said not to worry about the low levels of estrogen I had on the last blood test.  As I stated last month it could have to do with any number of things.  The levels were great on the blood tests a month before.  I’ll have another blood test just before I see my GP and we’ll retest my levels then.

Last month I also said my breasts were growing again.  Yup, they are.  They are getting firmer (actually harder) and once again are sore and tender at times.  I bought new bras that give me a bit more room and those help.  I can’t wear shelf-bra camis any more without something underneath – rats – those were very comfortable.

I’m finding that I can cut down on my dilations a bit too.  Instead of dilating once every day, I can miss one once in a while and not have any issues the next day.  This is nice, especially when I have had a day that was hard on my new parts and left me bleeding (or ‘spotting’ as they say….).  I always wear liners so at least I’m not going through panties.  I remember at Chonburi, even with pads, I was going through a dozen panties each day – got them washed every day and repeated – what a mess.  I still have a bit of discharge and will go through about 3 or 4 liners each day – but what a long ways from what it used to be.  That is something I’m going to bring up with my GP – I’ll ask her about this discharge and make sure all is well.  I believe it’s just part of the healing process, but want to make sure.

I’m making good progress on electrolysis – I’m supposed to stop shaving my upper lip starting on Wends now.  I think after the next session I will have to stop shaving there completely.  Already I’m not supposed to shave where my sideburns used to be and I think I will have to cut back shaving my lower lip this next time too.  I’m going for 2 hour session every Monday and this is starting to make a difference!  Oh that feels so good.  Normally, on a flight to the mainland like I just did, especially with a 7 hour layover, I would be very concerned about a 5 o’clock shadow – now it’s only beneath my chin and that is almost all white and not that noticeable.  It was always something I would worry about – where would I shave?  Women’s restroom? – no way, and just about everywhere during a flight is somehow always in a ‘public’ area …. ack.  At least now I don’t have that ‘urgent’ of a problem ….

I was a bit concerned about others’ reactions to me in southern Oregon.  This is not the open and accepting Hawaii!  It’s not exactly redneck either but it is more conservative here.  And since this is where I will be living, hopefully the rest of my life – it is important for me to be able to be accepted and yes, ‘pass’.  To my surprise even the most strident and conservative didn’t even bat an eye and I was met with ma’am, you ladies etc. the entire time.  I’m just an older woman that looks a bit masculine as do most others that live in the woods and small towns around here.  I fit in quit nicely.

The best compliment I received was from Lisa after seeing me standing next to and talking with our Realtor (a guy named Tiny and of course he was huge).  Lisa could not believe how perfectly and normally feminine I was. She said I looked like a relaxed, casual woman.  The best part of it was that I was just being ‘normal’, I was not putting on ‘airs’.  Now, compare this to any situation before as a man where everything was posturing and every situation analyzed and having to act appropriately as a guy ….  Now, not a thought is placed, not a posture imposed – I’m just letting it flow, being natural and being my true self.  Oh this is so nice.  Feeling more as myself, being comfortable and being accepted as is.   This is part of what this transition was all about!

I had mentioned before about ‘owning’ my new parts.  The clinic in Chonburi had mentioned this a number of times:  “You need to stop treating your new parts as a surgical wound that has to heal and instead ‘own’ it, know it, let it become part of you”.  Well there are levels of understanding this.  When it’s sore and painful, requires lots of attention and every little change, regardless of how minor but especially if major, causes great concern and worry, it’s very hard to treat this as anything but a surgical wound requiring the utmost of care, attention and paranoid cleanliness!  And of course this is a ‘catch 22’ – the more care and attention the more it’s a surgical site – the more it hurts or causes pain the more care and attention …  It’s inspected daily, it’s carefully cleaned at least twice a day, etc.  That is one level of the meaning of what they said – know it.

Another level is slowly letting it ‘become’ me.  Now this part is tricky:  on a very visceral level my body knows this is me, so does my head.  I think others have had problems adjusting to this change of anatomy – I have not – it was immediately acknowledged by my entire being the moment I came to after surgery.  For me this is more of an issue with the constant low level, almost chronic pain that causes me to still see this as a surgical site.  This will take time and the acknowledgement that so much progress has already been made.  And I have previews of what it will be like.  When I’m on pain meds (which is not that often now) I have a wonderful taste of what life will be like with out this chronic pain – and it’s awesome!

I’m finding yet another level to their saying as well.  Even though this was also told us and is in our ‘care’ booklet – I never connected it to ‘owning’ my new parts.  They highly encourage us to ‘get to know’ our parts.  And they don’t mean the names for all the parts and pieces – they mean to explore, touch, feel and experience all/everything there is.  See what does what, what feels what, how different parts react and what does not.

I was amazed:  last month I talked about how dilating was separate and didn’t have anything to do with where the pain was (thank goodness….).  But in exploring around I’m finding out a number of things.  One is that everything ‘down there’ is pretty tough!  Even though there is pain – everything is still sensate and can take quite a lot and just like dilation – it has nothing to do with the pain areas.  Not only that, if there is too much stimulus, instead of hurting, it slowly shuts down – not quite a numbing effect – but sort of dulls out gradually.  Even the granulations behave!  This does connect me with my new parts in a way that I had not contemplated and is allowing me to fully accept this as ‘me’ – to own it!

This is not something new – this is advice that is given to every woman, not just transsexuals.  Very few women understand or know themselves and as a result accept this essential part of ourselves.  Too often it is looked upon as a handicap, source of pain and constant care and cleaning: paranoid cleanliness (I’m starting to understand my mother’s obsessions with cleanliness…).

This last bit brings me to a wonderful production I just saw:  “The Vagina Monologues”.  The stylist I see invited me to come along with her and 5 of her friends.  Seven women sharing our experiences, stories and emotions during this show.  We laughed, cried, cheered and clapped.  We shared pride, horror and commonality with all women.  We connected and were inspired.  This is a wonderful way for ‘any’ woman to reconnect to our being, to bring us up out of the oppression and taboos surrounding our Vaginas and to celebrate that which is a part of us and to ‘claim’ it!  So very powerful, so necessary and so inspiring.  Mahalo nui e’ tita!

A good friend of mine was part of this production.  She and one other transsexual woman performed a ‘monologue’ on transgender.  Beautifully done and well received by everyone in the theater.  This has inspired me to write a monologue.  The entire way home that day I came up with verse after verse.  When I got home I quickly jotted everything down.  When I finish I will post it here and place a link to it from this post.

In summary, this was a major surgery – like any other, it is taking a very long time.  Progress is slow, but progress is being made.  My unique process of ‘owning’ my new parts is taking a new and deeper turn.  This combined with experiences both with public acceptance far from home and acceptance and sharing on a deep and personal level with women at home in an inspiring production of the Vagina Monologues has allowed me to be a natural, casual, relaxed woman.  It is so awesome to be authentic!

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 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”!!