It’s been a whirlwind of a last 4 or 5 weeks. Last month (September 19th) I received a phone call from Dr Crane stating that all Austin surgeries were OFF due to Arise Medical Center cancelling all of Crane’s cases. I was given the option to wait till April or very possibly later for Austin when Forest Park Medical Center opens, or I could reschedule in San Francisco… This isn’t news. Everyone knows about all this already, as it has effected many many people. However, it seems worth documenting in terms of my timeline and progression towards surgery on here. That phone call was the beginning of 4 weeks of hell for me. Everything in my life, surgery-related and non-surgery related started to fall apart. Everyday there was something new and it felt like the universe was throwing a stumbling block in my way at every turn. I couldn’t catch a break. I’m not going to list all the things that happened, because that seems pointless and like I would be just drawing that negative energy back in. I’ll just say it’s been a really shitty 4 weeks and I’m hoping that by the end of this month I’ll have some resolution and good news about things getting better surrounding at least one one of the whirlwinds that is still threatening to sweep me away into chaos.
This experience has felt like the universe testing me for this upcoming ceremony… I refer to my phalloplasty as my ceremony. I don’t use that word in all circles, because it has deep, deep meaning for me. But I think it’s important that here, in this space where I share the depth of this experience, that I’m honest about what this upcoming event in my life means to me. I don’t want to look at all the chaos that’s happened over the past weeks as a preview to my ceremony in February… I know it will be hard, I know I will be challenged. I expect to struggle with physical pain as well as a host of emotions including but not limited to: joy for a new wholeness in my physical body, sorrow for a closed chapter, amazement, post-op depression, wonder, frustration and very likely some form of complication(s) ranging from the minor to the major. But I was thinking this morning and realized, this isn’t the storm before the storm. This is the storm before the calm.
Emotionally, with all the stuff that’s been going on with me the past month I’ve been all over the place. I had numerous mini crises (at least 20) that really made me feel like I was going to have an emotional breakdown if I couldn’t catch a break and have just one day without things falling apart. I had thoughts that made me feel like this whole process is more than I can withstand. I wondered if things started falling apart around the time that Crane called to cancel my surgery in Austin because the universe was trying to tell me that this wasn’t right and that I was headed in the wrong direction. I even was considering changing surgeons and switching to Dr Schechter because one of the issues I was having was with communication with Crane’s office and continuously being brushed off with no answers or resolution to issues. I spent probably 7-10 days seriously considering flying out to Chicago and consulting with Schecter again. In the end, I decided to stick with my current plans. I could have started the booking process with Schecter when I met him in NY back in March. There were many reasons that I didn’t, some just being my own personal internal compass directing me along my path, and it just never felt like Schecter was part of it, even though it’s clear he’s a great surgeon.
What have I learned over the past 6 weeks? Well, I feel like much of this was a wake up call and a reminder that I am not in control of a lot of things that I might think I that I am in control of. I believe that we have tremendous power to manifest and bring forth possibilities in our lives and to have experiences that would never had happened had we not brought them into being by the sheer force of our will and determination. However, there is still a lot of blank spaces surrounding those dreams and visions which the universe fills in the gaps for. Sometimes, what feels like chaos, makes it’s way into those spaces.
I would like to update on some basic logistical things.
- Donor Site
- Hair Removal
- Medical Supplies
- Surgery Timeline
- Health & Fitness
DONOR SITE & HAIR REMOVAL: There are a few friends that I’ve been processing with surrounding my choice of donor site. There has been a lot of flip flopping between RFF and ALT over the past year for me. I’m grateful for my friends who have been able to be unbiased but informative in hearing me out as well as offering advice and suggestions while I continue to settle on the donor site that is best suited for my needs. I am back firmly in the the RFF camp. Last I updated I had gone for a laser treatment on my right thigh in order to start clearing that for ALT. About a week after that treatment I was already back to RFF. It’s been almost exactly 2 months since I had that laser treatment and I wanted to share some pictures that show just how much hair was removed and has continued not to grow. It’s pretty crazy! I didn’t think that one treatment was going to be that effective, but this should serve as proof and a reminder that when it comes to laser hair removal, the darker and THICKER your hairs are, the higher likelihood that you will have quicker and better results from laser treatment.
There are a couple small strips where dense hair is growing but I think that she might have missed those spots when she was zapping me with the laser. Otherwise there are tiny hairs growing still but it’s very sparse… If you are someone who is quickly coming up on your surgery date and you haven’t started any hair removal, even doing just one laser treatment on your thigh could yield results like this, or even better if your thigh hair is thicker than mine. My buddy who is getting RFF with me is REALLY hairy, and his arm had thicker, denser hair than my thigh and after his one treatment his arm looks pretty much like my leg. I never had those results with my forearm even though I responded well to the laser. The hair was black, but much more fine and soft. Anyway, I say these things because there are really a lot of factors to consider when determining how to go about hair removal, especially if time is of the essence… Meanwhile, I have been finishing up the hair removal on my forearm using electrolysis exclusively since September. I have been doing 1-2 hour sessions weekly. It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared photos of my arm. So here it is, 8 months into laser and electrolysis:
As you can see, I have left the hair from my wrist towards my hand untouched. This skin will not be needed when they harvest the skin flap and so I wanted to leave it attached. I will very likely get a full tattoo sleeve at some point 1.5-2 years post-op and once I do, that hair will look natural rather than having one hand with hair and one hand without. I have removed all hair from the wrist up to just past the end of my tattoo. This is more than the length of skin that will be used for the flap but I figured a little more was better than less and wanted to be on the safe side. If you look closely you can see some slight bruising near the character tattoos, this is a rather common experience that some people have with electrolysis. I’ve gotten a couple bruises with treatments. They go away just like a regular bruise does. Also, you might be able to see some dark spots on my arm. Those marks are tiny scabs, not hairs. Any hairs currently present are far too small to be picked up in a photo. They are quite fine and my electrologist uses a black “paint” that she covers my arms with in order to make the blonde and light colored hairs stand out. There are a some black hairs still growing, but not many and you really have to strain to see them even in ideal lighting. Also, just by touch you can’t feel any hairs on my arm either. So it’s certainly cleared a very decent amount. Nevertheless, I plan on continuing with sessions and zapping away any of them that are in random growing cycles that still need to be treated. If I end up needing any hair removal post-op, it will be minimal.
Medical Supplies: I started ordering the medical supplies that I will need for surgery about 2 weeks ago. I have one more order to place and I’m also still waiting for one package in the mail. Otherwise, I have everything that I need. My plan is multi-fold on sharing about supplies. I will be writing a very comprehensive post here including photos, prices and links for where you can get those supplies and I will also be making a video sharing much of the same information. I would think that should be underway within a few weeks time.
Lodging: I’m currently working on lodging plans. This has been tricky and I’ve felt hesitant nailing down plans because I feel gun-shy after all the changes that happened last month with my surgery location and date changing with the Austin, Texas nonsense. However, the most reasonably priced homes that meet our requirements (4 beds, close to Crane’s office, comfortable furniture to recover on) on AirBnB are completely booked out and unavailable for the dates that I need in February. This was a big part of why I wanted to have surgery in Austin. San Francisco is f*cking expensive. I had my top surgery out there in 2006 and I spent close to 2k for a 10 night stay, and that was 10 years ago! I feel grateful that my insurance company offers some travel and lodging benefits but it will only help offset the costs in a very minor way. I’m hoping to confirm lodging plans in November because I fear the longer I wait the fewer and fewer options I will have in terms of finding an apartment or home that is even close to my price range.
Surgery Timeline: I have been consistently keeping track of all the steps (big and small) along the way of working towards surgery and all that it has entailed. Currently it’s just a list form document in my notes app on my phone, but I would like to turn it into a more visual timeline that might be useful for others in their planning/envisioning stages. This will likely not happen till many month post-op, possibly not even until I’m done with all of my stages, unless I come up with an easy way to continuously update it. I definitely won’t have it ready till February or March at the earliest.
Health & Fitness: Tuesday, October 27th is my 100 day countdown! I can’t believe that in three days my countdown will be in the double digits. It’s been a LONG time coming. I keep reminding myself when February seems to far off that when I moved back to Massachusetts in September of last year with phalloplasty as my absolute number one goal, I was starring down a 17 month wait. Now it’s just a touch over 3 months away. Even 100 days seems a long way off, but my goal is to be as proactive with that time as possible. DIET and FITNESS need to move to the top of my priority list. Right along with those need to be SELF-CARE and plenty of REST and SLEEP. Our bodies go through some pretty major trauma with these surgeries and it’s incredibly important that we set ourselves up for success. Much of that includes the actual logistics of preparations, setting up support systems, and saving money for an unknown recovery process. But the care of the mind and body really truly must not be overlooked!… In a perfect world I would be able to take the next 3 months off work (or at least from one of my full-time jobs) and really focus on my health and well-being. However, it’s just not financially possible. I will however be quitting my 7-day a week paper route that I picked up in August, come January, 1 month prior to surgery. This will allow me more time to focus on all the things that I just mentioned above being an important focus. I would like to do some sort of 90-day food cleanse. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet but I know I need to drastically decrease my sugar intake and up my whole foods, vegetable intake. I also plan on doing some kind of supplement regimen prior to surgery (vitamin C, zinc, multi-vitamin, cranberry extract, not sure what else). If you plan on doing this, be sure you check with your surgeon to ensure what you are taking is approved in the lead up to surgery as some foods and medications need to be discontinued for a period of time before surgery. I am also signing up for a 3-month gym membership. Gyms aren’t really my thing as I find myself getting my exercise out of doors or in a yoga class, but with the cold weather approaching some exercise indoors will be a welcomed ritual.
I guess that covers the bulk of updates for now. My next post will likely be on the medical supplies that I’ve almost finished gathering. It will be nice to check that one off my to-do list.