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.
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!
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.
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).
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 ….
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,