1 Year w/ My Semi Rigid Erectile Device

It’s been a full year since I got my semi rigid AMS Spectra erectile device. Below you will find the most frequently asked questions and answers surrounding my ED (erectile device) and my experience and feelings about it.

This is what the actual device looks like:

AMS Spectra Semi Rigid
AMS Spectra

When was your stage one surgery?

I underwent my stage one on February 4th, 2016, my surgeons were Dr Crane and Dr Safa. This surgery consisted of the following procedures: phalloplasty, urethroplasty, scrotoplasty, v-nectomy (colpocleisis). Delayed glansplasty 15 days later w/ Dr Chen.

 

When was your stage two surgery:

I underwent my stage two on October 11th, 2016, my surgeon was Dr Chen. This surgery consisted of the following procedures:

 

How long do you have to wait after stage one before you can get an erectile device?

Typically 9-12 months.

 

How long do you have to wait before you are cleared for sex?

8-12 weeks


Do you have 1 rod or 2?

I have 1 rod. Almost all RFF’s (and even some ALT’s) are only wide enough to accommodate 1 rod. Keep in mind that there is a urethra (if you have UL) as well as ingoing and outgoing blood flow to the penis that can’t be compromised. Forcing a second rod in when you don’t have the space could compress blood flow or restrict urine output. Your surgeon should be able to tell you if you can fit 1 or 2. If they are unsure in the office when examining you, they will certainly know during surgery once they dilate a tract in the penis where the implant is to be housed.

 

How is the ED attached?

I will just speak for how it was mounted in my body through the techniques used by my surgeon, Dr Chen. At the time of my surgery the semi rigid was wrapped in a dacron sheath (looks and feels like a chinese finger trap) and mounted to the pubic bone using 4 industrial sutures. Eventually the bone binds itself to the ED and the sutures are not what is keeping it secured to the body. But initially (first 8 weeks) you have to be very gentle so as not to detach these sutures. This is what the dacron sheath looks like:

dacron graft
Dacron Sheath

 

Do you look like you have a boner all the time?

No. Seriously, not at all. Not even a little bit. Unless of course I want to, in which case, YES, and it’s awesome!.. I actually chose the rod because I wanted to enhance my size. I never thought I would want the rod. I was always planning for the pump even if it meant it needed to be replaced multiple times over the course of my life – I was fine with that. But as you move through these surgery stages, when this process is actually up close to you and not just a dream any longer, you have a more intimate idea about the things that are important to you and sometimes they can shift from what you initially believed you wanted or needed based on what your outcome is. I’m a very thin guy and my penis size felt a bit underwhelming to me. I chose the semi rigid because I wanted to enhance and utilize all of my size all the time, rather than just when erect. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it yourself, but the rod is actually quite versatile. Yes, it occasionally needs an adjustment,  but all men adjust themselves here and there – that just comes with the territory. And frankly, I like that I need to adjust sometimes because it affirms my manhood and makes me feel proud.

 

Does your penis still flop around and swing?

Yes, Yes, Yes! It moves quite freely. Not exactly like it did pre-implant, but it does very much still swing when I walk. And when I jiggle my hips it absolutely flops side to side. I totally get how this seems impossible for it both to jiggle & swing, and also be firm enough for sex, but it just is!

 

Can you point it upward and have it stay that way?

Pretty much, yes. What I do is bend it a bit past where I want it to be and then it will lower slightly and stay. This is mostly applicable when I am standing. So I will bend it up towards my stomach and then when I let go it stays at about a right angle. When I’m lying down it’s quite easy to make it stand erect because it’s not as affected by gravity.

 

Can you lay on your stomach?

I can. I waited at least 2 months before I started doing this though. As a side/belly sleeper, I can atest to this being challenging during the healing process, but it was challenging during stage 1 as well. There are a lot of trying hurdles throughout this process, but ultimately I knew they were all very much worth it to me. After I was fully healed I was able to lay on my belly again. In terms of hard floors, I can lay on my stomach, but I usually prefer not to. If I till my pelvis a bit I can take any pressure off the rod, but there is definitely a different feeling now since the angle of the rod does protrude a bit from the body, at least in how it relates to my anatomy. Again, I’m very lean, so this would likely be a different scenario with guys with some more fat on their bodies.

 

Do you feel limited in physical exercise or sports?

The only thing I’ve chosen to limit myself in is yoga. I used to do a ton of Bikram yoga. I have a chronic cervical issue that was getting triggered by my yoga practice anyhow, so I can’t say that I would still be practicing even if I didn’t have the semi rigid. My main reason for opting out of this activity is that there are many poses that have you laying on your belly on a hard floor with minimal padding. Sometimes lifting upper and lower body off the floor and balancing on the abdomen and pelvis. These are postures I prefer not to do, even though I am able. I just choose not to risk it. In general, I’m a pretty active guy. I run, hike, climb, swim, go to the gym, and I’ve even gone horseback riding – all with zero issues. So I wouldn’t let your level of activity be a deciding factor with your ED.

 

If you sustained a blow to the groin could this cause the ED to break away from the pubic bone?

Is this something that could happen – yes. Is this something that I think is likely – no. Is this something I spend much time thinking about or obsessing over – nope. Again, I think there are inherent risks and sacrifices that come with this process. You have to ask yourself what is most important to you and what you’re willing to lay on the line. If you do martial arts and you don’t wear a protective cup, or you do direct care in a behavioral health field with clients that are frequently physically assaultive, well, then you might want to consider a different kind of ED. Is detachment of the device a risk? Yes… Is it also possible with an inflatable? Yes… Is it more likely with semi rigid? Yes… Both the inflatable and the semi rigid have their pros and cons. You have to weigh these risks and benefits to determine which is right for you.

 

Does your ED make noises or click when you move it?

It did when I first got it. It was stiffer in the beginning before it had gotten much movement back and forth and all around. Now I rarely ever hear it make any noise, but once in a great while I do. In the beginning when moving it I could feel more of the individual joints. After a few months though of moving it all the time and loosening it up this almost completely went away. Now when I bend it, it feels more like Gumby dick than a K’Nex rod. Fuck yes!

Gumby Dick

 

How has sex been?

I’m still hanging onto my “V” card as of now. I’m single and finding the right partner to share this experience with, for me, feels really important. I’ve of course used it solo and it works great for jerking off with my hand or with a masturbation sleeve (similar to a fleshlight). I’ve had no issues at all with it being firm enough.

 

Are you happy with your implant?

I’m content. What I have right now was the closest semblance to what I’m looking for longterm and I see it as a placeholder till my ideal implant becomes available. Waiting till a better implant option came on the market was absolutely not something I was willing to do. It would have been an excuse for me to delay resuming sexual relationships because I wouldn’t have felt confident. I felt impotent before I got my IPP (internal penile prosthesis).  External devices just aren’t for me. Ultimately, I would like to design a different type of implant – but it would absolutely still be a semi rigid. The AMS Spectra is quite hard, even with the dacron sheath over it. My dream implant would be a semi rigid that has more of a dense spongy feel to it, similar to true engorged erectile tissues – almost the exact same texture of the Carvings testicular implants. I’m not at all interested in a pump. The pump is a great option for some folks, but I want a device that fills out/utilizes the entire capacity of my penis, 100% of the time. I like that having a semi rigid means that I can have two testicular implants rather than one ball and the bulb of the pump on the other side with the inflatable. I like that the lifespan of a semi rigid far outlasts pumps and could potentially never need replacement. It feels more “set it and forget it” to me. I also like that the infection risk with the semi rigid is less than the pump. I should add that the lifespan and the infection risks are not what made me choose my device, I just see them as added benefits. If the tables were turned and the semi rigid had a shorter lifespan and higher infection rate I still would have chosen it because it meets my highest priority – which is a very specific kind of experience that I want to have with my penis. If you are having difficulty deciding between the pump or the semi rigid, my advice would be to find your absolute highest priorities and then look at which device comes closest to achieving those for you. When I asked Dr Chen: “which device is better?” he said: “It’s not really that one is better than the other. A better question is: which one makes you more excited to think about?”

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Pre-Op Appointment – 36 hours to go!

Last year in January, I flew out here to San Francisco because I needed to stare into the eyes of the person that was going to do this surgery for me. I needed to see the man! TAKE ME TO THE MAN!… After flying to the other side of the country for a quick 48-hour turnaround, I finished my consult with Crane and was flying high as I walked back to the Lucky Drive bus stop in Greenbrae. I rounded the corner and walked over this bridge and saw this view:

IMG_1155

I remember thinking: ok, this is it. I’m finally making this happen for myself. I have to wait over another year to bring it to fruition, but I’m doing this! I will make it happen! At that point I had paid out of pocket for the trip out west, as well as for the consult fee itself. I did not have inclusive insurance, only an unstoppable determined will to attain it. Surgery felt so close and yet still so far off… It’s been a long 13 months since then, but it’s absolutely been worth the wait and every last bit of hard work. And it took A LOT of hard work… I walked over this bridge again today, and for the last time that my body is as it is.

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Ok, I admit it. I’m not nervous or anxious at all. But… I’m starting to feel a few butterflies! Getting my pre-op appointment out of the way doesn’t really feel like a factor in the sensation I’m feeling in my stomach. I think it’s the anticipated physical preparations and accommodations my body will begin to go through tomorrow morning that is making me feel like: “ok… it’s here!”

My first friend who will be with me till I’m discharged from the hospital is arriving this evening. Planning on going out for a light early breakfast with her in the morning and then returning to my place alone to begin my bowel prep at 10am. – ain’t nobody need to witness that.

PRE-OP APPOINTMENT –

The following is what I can recall to the best of my ability of my pre-op appointment with Dr Curtis Crane. I’ll just list the questions I asked and his answers to make it easy:

Me: When does the Foley catheter (the one in the phallus) come out?

Crane: Before leaving the hospital on the 5th day

Me: Are you able to start the flap further away from the wrist crease in the way that the UK team does? They seem to be able to do that without risking losing any length

Crane: It seems as though the UK team is using a different artery to hook the phallus up to. It’s more central on the pelvis and therefore closer to the phallus, which would need a shorter “leash”. That method ends up resulting in an abdominal scar and also there is an added risk for hernia. We prefer to use the artery in the thigh, which doesn’t result in the abdominal scar and eliminates the hernia risk. However, our method does requires a longer “leash” of artery and nerve to be taken because the hookup location is further away.

Me: So if I start the flap further from the wrist do you think I would still be able to get a solid 5 inches in length?

Crane: The thing with length is that we can never guarantee any length. You can cut a piece of skin and the exact length you want it to be but when you lay it out it shrinks up some. Some people shrink a lot and others not so much. So we tell people you’ll have + or – anywhere from .5 inches to 1 inch with the midline being about 5.25 inches. Some guys shrink up a bit afterwards and others actually get longer as the swelling goes down and gravity pulls things down more.

Me: So if I request to be a certain length it doesn’t really matter with RFF, because so much of it really comes down to how you heal whether you retract more or stretch out?

Crane: Exactly, we always take the largest flap that we can with RFF. As of yesterday we’ve done 171 phallos and with only 2 have we taken less than the full amount of tissue available, and that was because they specifically requested a smaller length and said that they never wanted an implant. Everyone always asks about length and girth but we always do the exact same thing, every single time. The variations you see in length and girth on the website are all a result of different body types and how people heal.

Me: I’m considering holding off on doing the glans until later in order to reduce complication rates because of my pre-existing scar tissue from surgery on my wrist. I’m really worried about necrosis and I have no problem waiting to do the glans till later. My question is, it seem that the glans that are done in the office post-op are a bit more on the conservative side with the cut that’s made – would you say that’s true? That the OR glans are able to be deeper given the environment in which the procedure is taking place – and that the in-office glans are just a bit more on the conservative side?

Crane: I don’t think I would say that. Everyone wants a really defined glans. The reason you see such huge variations, is that some people just really flatten out after surgery and others don’t. It’s all a product of individual healing. We do the glans the exact same way every single time. But as for your scar tissue we may need to make that call intraoperatively. If the tissue is really healthy and bleeding, we’ll be able to tell that it’s safe to do the glans. If it isn’t bleeding so much, then we’ll know we need to wait.

 Me: What do you think about my wanting to leave my SP catheter in for longer than 3 weeks and delay using my urethra for urination for a couple more weeks?

Crane: That’s totally fine if that’s what you would like to do – no problem. Some teams remove them at 2 weeks no matter what, if you have fistulas or not, it just automatically gets pulled. Other teams will leave them in for 3-6 months at the slightest sign of a leak. I like to wait a little longer, have people try to pee at 3 weeks then if there is a leak, have them keep it in for another week or two to see if the fistula(s) close on their own. But it’s absolutely fine if you’d prefer to leave it in for longer and have it removed back home.

Me: What do you think about doing a urethrogram while I’m in the area, before I leave?

Crane: A urethrogram with contrast? I don’t like to do those till at least 6 weeks. Sometimes the pressure that’s created with that test can actually burst open sutures and cause a fistula. (I hope I’m getting the name of the surgeon he mentioned right but he also said that:) For a long time Monstrey(?) was doing Urethrograms on all his patients and that ultimately he didn’t find that the test was all that useful in giving them any information that they weren’t already able to surmise.

Me: Will I have any staples that need to be removed prior to leaving the hospital?

Crane: Yes, you will have staples attaching the wound vac to your arm that will come out when the wound vac is removed. I will be with you of course all day Thursday and then will come see you again on Friday… Saturday – Tuesday I am away but will be back for your first post-op appointment. The micro team fellows will be seeing you frequently and they will be the ones that remove the staples and the wound vac. I am of course always reachable by phone but you will be in very good hands with both the hospital staff and the micro team.

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That was really the bulk of my questions. Any others that I had I can’t remember at the moment.

OH!!! He actually had another surgeon in there shadowing him as well. A very tiny, quiet, Japanese woman who is learning his technique and hoping to bring it back to Japan to help guys there. I was asked if I was ok with her being in the room during my pre-op appointment and I of course said yes. We need more surgeons doing this work and any small way I can help make that happen, I’m on board with. I’m guessing she might be in the OR on Thursday, but I don’t actually know. That wasn’t mentioned, only that she’s shadowing him.

Ok guys, this is it. I might do one more update tomorrow night. We shall see. The bowel prep fun begins tomorrow morning!!!

36 more hours!!!

Tick… Tick… Tick…

 

 

< 1 Week Till Ceremony

7 days

Wow, I’m in disbelieve today. This afternoon I finished my last shift at work till May 1st, which is my estimated date to return. I feel myself sinking into a deep meditative, peaceful focused state. I had been feeling very distracted at work and knew that I needed to be finished with that as part of my daily routine in order to focus on final preparations.

However, I wasn’t expecting the sort of calm that has washed over me to the extent that it has. While I am busy getting things ready, packing, and tidying up my house for an optimum environment to return to, my thoughts and energy feel eased. I’m grateful to have been able to finish work a handful of days prior to my surgery. It feels very important to me that I step into this embodiment with intention in mind and spirit and that it’s done in a meditative way. I’ve known that since early planning and I feel it will serve me well in my recovery.

I’ve shed some powerfully healing tears today. Soul-cleansing, tears of gratitude. I am humbled to be able to have this surgery. Sooooo deeply. I know that just as I have researched this process for over 10 years and wished and hoped and dreamed for it since I was 6 or 7, that my time has finally come. Meanwhile, I feel pain and sorrow for those that will continue to wait… Know that a part of me stays with you. Extended always, that brotherly hand reaching back, ready to help the next over the wall. You’ve gotta jump for it, but we’ll catch you.

The journey begins Sunday morning at 3:00am when I leave my house and start my travels to the west coast. 2 more days of preparations – then I let go, leaving the rest to unfold as it wills.

2 Weeks Till Phallo

2 Weeks Till Phallo

Well, another week has past. Just 2 weeks left. Today marks the beginning of food and medication restrictions that become increasingly limited as surgery grows near. I have also begun taking Arnica.

Currently I’m waiting on the pre-registration process. I called last week and they informed me that the nurses we were calling people about 2 weeks out right now. They took my phone number and said they would likely call me this week, sometime after Monday, since it was a holiday. I won’t be surprised if I don’t hear anything from them till next week though.

My last day of work is next Thursday. So I have just 7 more days of work then I don’t return till the beginning of May. I plan on taking a full 3 months off to heal the best that I can. I absolutely don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize my healing process and I feel grateful to be in a position where my savings, and my job are conducive to making that happen.

The biggest thing that’s happened for me over the past week is just feeling more anxiety over my donor site choice. I have a huge fear of ending up with a tiny penis. I have small arms. I worry that I don’t have enough subcutaneous fat to really give me anywhere near the thickness that I desire which is solidly in the 5 inch girth range. On the contrary, I have never had a need to have a large dick. It’s just not something I feel compelled to have. I want something manageable (for me) but also to not go through these huge surgeries to end up with something that is difficult to penetrate with because of it’s small size.

So all that to say that there is still flip-flopping happening in my mind about which donor site I will end up using. What I DO know is that whatever the donor site ends up being, 2 weeks from now I’ll have a penis, and it will be mine, and I will love it.

In terms of lodging, I’ve had 2 Airbnb bookings cancel on me thus far! I’m not sure if this is a common experience because this is the first instance in which I am using the service. But it’s really unnerving to have what you thought to be stable housing plans, be pulled out from under you. My offer was accepted, I had paid and everything was set. The money ended up being applied to another booking, but still. You would think it was pretty final. So the place I have now is in Oakland and it seems set. I’m sure what I experienced with the two cancellations was a rarity. At least I hope it was. Either way, if you use that service for lodging, maybe just be mindful of other options available to you in case there is a need for a change in plans.

People keep asking me if I’m nervous. That’s a hard question to answer. Yes and No. I’m anxious for it to be here. My stomach is in knots – has been for well over a week now. But I’m not scared. It’s more that the waiting is really hard right now. I feel the energy in my body. Each week keeps seeming to go by faster and faster and yet, none of this feels real. It doesn’t feel like I’m going to be flying to California next weekend… But I am… The momentum is building and I’m sure my stomach will be even worse as the time gets nearer, but I’m ready. It will be a whole new experience being on the other side of all this. One that I can’t possibly imagine right now.

Tick…Tick…Tick…

2… More… Weeks…

 

 

3 Weeks Till Phallo – A Year In Review

3 Weeks Pre-Op

Today marks exactly 3 weeks till surgery. I’m trying to be better about updates on here since things are coming up fast. In addition to the groups I’m participating in, this blog was where I wanted to keep a documentation of my experience. Countless blogs during my research phase (lasting more than 10 years) have been endlessly helpful. It’s nice to be able to kick back and watch someone else’s process unfold. As I logged in here just now to make an update, I started wondering exactly when I wrote my first post. Turns out it was January 15th, 2015. Today marks the close of a full year! Then I started thinking about where I was at emotionally with everything at that time and feeling like this was absolutely going to be the longest 1 year wait of my life. And yeah, I mean, it was. It was actually more of a “hard” wait than it was “long”, if that makes any sense (excuse the pun). But at the same time, I feel grateful to have had the time. I do tend to be more of an optimist, but it’s for good reason. Truly, in all honesty the wait has been unbearable at times. Some days I’m in a downright foul mood because of how uncomfortable I am. And really, wait times for these surgeries are insane and absolutely unacceptable. But for the time being, while they still exist, I’ll continue to be grateful, especially looking back.

While I’ve been waiting, I’ve had time to: 

  • save money $$$
  • do 11+ months of hair removal
  • thoroughly plan a cross country trip to have this done
  • really game out whether or not I needed to have a vaginectomy
  • do extensive research on techniques, ask every question possible, and make pre-op, and post-op plans with endless suggestions that have set me up for success
  • contemplate donor sites – and all the intensity that came with that uncertainty
  • come together in ceremony with queer community on a wilderness retreat to show gratitude for and say goodbye to this current physical form while preparing to step into more wholeness, physical alignment, balance, and spiritual authenticity

It’s been a really full year. It was hard, trying, painful, and very much a time for grieving… but ultimately so rewarding. I saw the fruition of numerous large goals that I set in motion come to life before my eyes. I have been shown this year more than ever about both the power of gratitude and the art of manifesting one’s dreams into reality. I feel deeply blessed. It’s been a REALLY long and trying road to get here and I feel equally blessed and grateful for the pain I’ve endured and processed along the way. It was all necessary and sacred. It’s become both the wound and the medicine.

There have been quite a few bumps along the way this past year in working towards surgery. I intentionally tried to see each of them as preparing me for a massive surgery, physical transformation and the psychological shifting about to take place in my life. It’s honestly been like a training program for what’s certainly to come as well as the potential hurdles that could lie ahead. I know nothing can fully prepare you for this experience, but I tried to see every obstacle, from the very minor to the major crises, both as a test of my will and an exercise in persistence. But also as further experience in surrendering to the unknown and letting go of the things I have no control over.

Most everything is in place at this point, however, there have been a handful of moderately important things that keep going arye. Absolutely fixable things, but still things that have needed to be addressed immediately. As I get closer to surgery, I’m feeling like I’m more able to handle these issues with less of an anxiety response. And since anxiety has always been a constant in my life, it’s a really great experience to know it LESS. I’m at the point where this really does feel like it’s happening. I know it’s happening. I (mostly) no longer have that fear of: “something might get in the way and prevent this surgery”, or “what if something happens (illness, losing my job, not having enough $$$ saved) that doesn’t allow me to have surgery”. At this point, I truly do know it’s only a matter of days, 21 days in fact… Now all that’s really left to do…is show up.

3…MORE…WEEKS…

4 Weeks Till Stage 1 RFF Phalloplasty

FullSizeRender-2

Hey guys. Sorry, I’ve kind of abandoned this blog. I’ve been updating elsewhere but have neglected this space a bit. Thanks for those of you that nudged me to keep this current.

What’s new?!?!

I’m exactly 4 weeks out from surgery today!!! It’s still completely unreal to me. This is the last big final push now. To think I’ve been dreaming of this for decades and it’s finally just a few weeks away is just a fact that my brain can’t truly comprehend. I never thought that this would happen for me. ..

Tuesday, January 5th was my 30 day mark and I went and did my blood work so that it would be sent in plenty early to the office. I’m just getting over a really bad sinus infection and I’m on antibiotics. I’m hoping none of that effect the test results. If it does, I should still have enough time to do another draw before the cut off time for results to be in, which is 7 days before surgery. Today I should find out about the pre-registration process. I’m seeing conflicting information about when we can actually pre-register with the hospital. Info from Crane’s office say 2-4 weeks prior. The CPMC (California Pacific Medical Center) website says 1-2 weeks prior. I have a phone call with Ursula (the office manager today) so she should be able to confirm for me which information is correct. Especially since before she worked for Crane, she was a nurse at CPMC.

I am feeling solidly comfortable and set within my decision to do RFF. I know my last posts talked about switching my donor site to ALT and beginning hair removal on that location. Part of the reason why I haven’t posted much since then is because the pendulum kept swinging back and forth between donor sites and I couldn’t make up my mind. After weighing my options to exhaustion and considering the lack of hair removal on my thigh to-date, as well as the potential of having a phallus that is a bit smaller than my preference or one that is a bit (or a lot) larger than my preference, I decided that as far as I can tell, it seems as though it’s in my best interest to go with RFF.

There is really only one thing that still feels like I need to make a decision on, and that is whether or not I want or need to have a vaginectomy. I do still have some apprehension surrounding removing/closing that area. Conversely, I worry that not having it closed will leave a lot of lingering dysphoria and not “change things enough” for me to feel comfortable. My feelings on this matter I think should really be another post in and of itself. So I’ll leave that topic here for now.

I finally figured out lodging for myself and my caretaker, both the first few days when I’ll be staying in the city prior to surgery and then the 5 nights I’m in the hospital and my caretaker will need to have a place close by to retreat to. I found a really basic AirBnb place that is going to perfectly meet my needs and the needs of my caretaker during that time. Then I have another 17 nights booked at an Airbnb in Oakland for my time in the area following my discharge from the hospital. I was really trying to avoid staying in a hotel because I wanted more space and privacy than I thought I’d be afforded in that kind of space. And depending on where you look, Airbnb places can be pretty comparable or even cheaper than most hotels.

Earlier this week I submitted claims for all the electrolysis I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to get reimbursed for this for many months and I’ve made a lot of headway, but don’t have anything to show for it… YET! I was told that I would be reimbursed but it’s been a long tedious process. Aside from the reimbursement, I only have a single 1 hour electrolysis session left before surgery. I’m at a really great spot with hair removal! My arm is INCREDIBLY hairless. I have been working on hair removal for 11 months now. Of course regrowth can and will happen to some degree, but I doubt it will be very much. It will be interesting to see what grows back during the healing process. Because during that time I will absolutely not be even thinking of doing any hair removal. Still, I can’t imagine I will need more than 2 or 3 hours post op. It’s likely that I’ll do some 15 or 30 minute clean-ups a few months apart to really let things grow to a point where they are easily visible.

All of my medical supplies are gathered and I figure if there is anything else I need I can just get it once I’m out in CA. I’ve spent waaay more money on medical supplies than I had intended and it just seems crazy. I don’t want to buy anything else unless I have a legitimate existing need for it, rather than just thinking about possibly needing something. I already have all the required items. I do still want to pick up a thermometer though. A friend suggested that, to keep track of whether or not you’re running a fever which would indicate a likely infection. Good call!

In terms of packing, I’m sure even with pairing stuff down and bringing the basics that I’ll end up over packing. Ultimately I want to make sure I’m as comfortable as possible. I’m also really worried about getting the sheets at my rental really gross. I suppose if I was staying in a hotel I wouldn’t worry about keeping the sheets so pristine since there are so many people coming and going that I’m sure there is a need to replace sheets on a fairly regular basis. But when it’s someone’s home you’re staying at, it just feels different. I plan on picking up some underpads (chux) when I’m in the area, but I just cant see that really providing 100% coverage, since it will likely shift throughout the night and also, there is the whole top of my body to consider which is where my thigh graft site will be, obviously my penis, plus my donor arm which will end up moving all over the place. So I will likely bring my own sheets so that I don’t have to be quite so worried about getting theirs utterly grimy and disgusting.

I’m in the process of getting all my paperwork together for short term disability insurance through my employer. I feel really grateful. I have both short term and long term disability insurance through my employer.  This both ensures that I will not lose my job to a medical leave and it also provides me with 60% of my earnings while I’m out on leave. Short term leave covers up to 22 weeks of leave. If for some reason I needed to be out longer than that, the long term insurance would kick in. This is really comforting because I plan on taking the full 3 months off work to heal from stage one and I knew that FMLA only covers 3 months of medical leave before your job is at risk. So knowing that if I needed longer from just needing a bit more time to heal, or if I encounter come complications is really helpful. Also, there is the second stage of surgery to consider as well. I fully intend on getting testicular and erectile implants which will be another stage. Ideally I’d like to have all surgery completed by the end of this calendar year in order to only have to pay one out-of-pocket max for everything. But the ultimate goal is to do what is best for my body, and I won’t know till much later in the year what my plans for stage two will be. I will probably try to secure a date this year during my post op appointments, so that I have the option of completing things this year. Anyway, I say all that because short and long term disability insurance might be something to look into through your employer as they are covering me WAY above and beyond what FMLA offers – both time off wise and financially.

I think that’s pretty much it for now. This is the bulk of everything going on and the last things I’m tying up here at home. I know these last weeks are really flying by. Ever since I hit the 90 day mark things sped up. Then since 50 days I don’t even know where the time has been going! Everyday feels like a half-day and it’s over before it’s even begun. I only have 16 more days of work before I leave. I fly out in 3 weeks, 3 days! I’m feeling really really good. Surprisingly relaxed. Ever since I quit my second job delivering papers on January 2nd, my life has quickly gone back to normalcy and my stress levels have plummeted. I’m feeling like a human again now that I can sleep past 1 or 2am and have time for self-care. Once I completely heal from this sinus infection and finish these antibiotics that are tearing up my stomach I’ll be feeling incredible!

I’ll try to do another update at 2 weeks… if I remember.

Storm Before The Calm

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
  • Lodging
  • 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.

side by side comparison
Left Leg For Comparison
Right Leg 2 Months Post 1 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:

arms side by side

IMG_0048-1

IMG_0062-1

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.

and lastly,

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.