The Shower Scene

The night of my chest reveal K and I went out to dinner, and then on the way home decided I should shower so we could apply the proper ointments and dressings for the night (Medalie’s staff told us my chest dressings have to be changed twice a day, mostly to keep the nipples [in particular, but entire chest region and drain sites in general] moist and clean.).

By the time we got home we were exhausted from the day, so we were eager to get the shower over with.  It was at that moment we realized we didn’t have any of the proper dressing material to do said changing.  Ugh.  So back out to the drug store we marched.  But this was the sky we had to walk under on the way, so it wasn’t a total irritation:

This followed us to the oozing wound wrapper store.

K was so kind to follow script instructions and help me out in the shower.  All joking aside, this made the process so much easier.  She was able to help me out with my back and the drain sites, and my lower calves and feet which were painful to reach for.

After I patted my chest dry, we had a whole process of applying gauze and Bacitracin (which for some reason A the nurse favors over Neosporin, and it happens to be hella cheaper, so hey, who’s going to argue with the expert?) to both the drain sites and the nipples (we don’t touch the incision lines until the strips covering them fall off, which is estimated to happen in a few days or so.).

It was a bit painful to get the vest back on, mostly, I believe, because I took a hot shower and that might have increased my swelling.  In addition to that I was out of the compression vest for longer than I ever had been, and so the swelling increased.  Also, we used (I think) a bit more gauze than was necessary so squeezing back in the vest was extra hard and actually quite painful.  It felt tighter than it had been earlier.  But now, after changing the dressings this morning, I think we have a good system down.

Some post-shower pics:

One week post-op

The bowing out at the ends of the incision lines look like dog ears to me, but I am a fairly thin person, and so I just believe this to be swelling and the incision tape creating the illusion of too much skin or excess tissue there.  This is only seven days post-op, and the swelling will take months to truly dissipate.

The thing that is most physically painful about this process for me has been not the incisions (there is no pain at all there, as of now), or the new resized and stapled-on nipples (no paint here yet either, in fact, no sensation throughout most of my chest), but the bruising on my back (from what, who knows) and near my collarbone (most likely from Medalie’s liposuction of the surrounding areas).

Left side bruising, and the sweet line above it where the compression vest cuts into me.

And the other side:

Ouch.

And now, for the obligatory gross (and blurry, and without flash because it washes everything out this close-up) nipple shots:

This is the right side. I call him Barney. Boy is he purple.

And meet his partner in healing, Leftie:

This one is closer to a real looking nipple: look deep into its eye and you might see your future.

And to end this post, some steamy profile shots:

I told you it was steamy: the much flatter plane.

And the right:

Next time I’ll wipe the lens off, or open the bathroom door. But honestly, you think this is the last chance you’ll have to see my bare chest? Not on your life, sweetheart.

Tomorrow?  A full pictured and detailed explanation of how to dress your wounds post-op, including my brands of choice and step-by-step process!  Be still your beating hearts!

Until then, be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Day Six: First Look at the New Chest, or Parade of Photos!

On our way to Medalie’s office this morning I was feeling a bit low–my stomach wasn’t in order, I was sore from the night’s sleep (after this surgery, waking up stiff and sore is common, and it takes the morning to loosen up that stiffness, but with the vest and drains, it never really goes away), and I was just generally a bit out of sorts from not sleeping a whole night through for the past five nights.  So this was me in the backseat, holding onto a pillow for chest support over the bumps in the road, on the way to get my drains out:

I’ll be your tour guide…management apologizes.

The ride was uneventful, and being out in the world on a beautiful morning, even if I was just traveling along on a highway, did make me feel better–my stomach calmed, and I was really looking forward to getting the miserable drains out, if for no other reason than to stop bitching about them on my blog.

Oh, and there was the chest reveal.

Wanna peek?

Well, lemme give you the lead-up story:

Things were running a bit late, fifteen minutes of so, when we got to Medalie’s office.  He is usually spot-on time in my experience, so it was really no big deal to wait around a little.  However, there were, forgive the obvious nature of this statement, lots of ailing people in the waiting room.  It made me feel a bit queasy about the tubes draining blood coming out of my armpits.  All their unadulterated misery enhanced my own miserable state.

This one woman, in particular, made us all quiet aware and unwilling participants in her discomfort.  Lots of loud breathing and moaning and “I just can’t get comfortable, UUGHNNN,” or “I think I really did SOMETHING this time, OOOOHHHUUUGGHHH,” with that one.  Which only made the rest of us reflect more pointedly on our own discomfort.  So when my name got called I sprang out of my seat like Ebenezer Scrooge upon waking after that frightful dream.  I was so relieved to not be surrounded by the sick and aching I felt deeply I should give them each a well basted Christmas ham.

A, Dr. Medalie’s nurse, showed me back to the party room, or rather, the tiny drain removing room, where we got down to business.  I took my shirt off and she started unzipping my compression vest. (What’s coming next isn’t nearly as sexy as the previous lead-up sentence might make it sound.  My apologies.)  And her cavalier actions toward this vest scared the shit outta me: I didn’t know she was just gonna go for it, and so I felt unready.  I was unprepared for the speed at which the action was occurring (shouldn’t there be some incense burning or chanting or something?): after being bound up in this thing since I had tits, after waking up in it after surgery and having no idea what layers of carnage were waiting to come tumbling out upon its loosening, I squeaked, “Oh, this scares me.”

She stopped (she had clearly done this before) and said, we’re (“We!”as though I was also helping, and not gripping the surgical bed in order to steady myself should shredded skin or dead nipples or felt snakes with springs jump out) just going to take this vest off you; there is a layer of foam underneath.

Oh. Of course.  Ok then, let’s get this goddamn vest off so I can breath for a change.

And so the vest was undone and I got to breath once, maybe twice, got to arch my back just a little and roll my shoulders and OH MY GOD SHE’S PULLING THE FOAM OFF ME.

To be fair, A pulled a little corner of foam off me, then stopped and said, “that’s what it feels like for the foam to be pulled off your skin, can I go on?” The foam is kinda glued in place around the edges, so it doesn’t hurt to be removed, but it does pull at your skin and so it was kind of her to give me a little taste and brace me for the not-so-painful-but-a-bit-jarring business of removing the foam.

When the foam was gone, it was just me and my new chest.  I could feel the air on my chest, and it felt refreshing, but I also could feel that I had little to no sensation in my entire chest.  This sensation will probably come back over time, but I will never fully recover the kind of feeling I had before surgery.  For now I was just glad to feel the air.  But I couldn’t look down.  K was videotaping the whole event, and I looked to her, “Is it wrecked?” I asked.  Is it bruised and disgusting?”  Behind the camera I could see the corners of her mouth turn up..and up and up.  A nice smile was hiding back there and she said “No, it looks great!” A agreed, and then I turned my chin down.

***FIRST LOOK AT NEW DOUBLE INCISION CHEST RECONSTRUCTION BELOW***
*****NSFW/NSF THE FAINT OF HEART*****

A chest only an ftm could love…in this condition.

And as I looked down I saw the landscape I should have seen playing basketball on the Nancy Hill courts when I was 16, it’s what I should have seen as I wiped sweat from my brow with a t-shirt tucked into the waist band of my shorts while playing football in the street when I was 14.  I don’t have those memories; I don’t have that history.  But I can have that future.

A talked K and me through some post-op instructions, which if you’re interested can be found on Dr. Medalie’s website.  A recommended K help me with the dressing of my chest after showers, which I of course heard as, “K should take showers with Eli.”

I felt, as a part of good self-care, that I should request a prescription for that.

“Daily joint showers.” “Apply soap liberally.” “Repeat often.”  Medalie’s staff aim high.

Medalie came in shortly after the whole show was over, just to check in with me and answer any remaining questions.  I thanked him, asked how much tissue was removed (just under a pound on each side) and we had time for this pic:

The sculptor of my new bust. and me. And my new bust.

I left the office feeling much better: A cleaned me up a bit where the drain sites were, gave me new ointment and bandages over my nipples, and of course removed the horrid drains.  The removal of which burned, but wasn’t impossible to live through.

Tired of seeing me in that same Penguin checkered button-up yet?

This is the face of someone who is no longer bleeding from the armpits. At least not to a degree that requires cyborg tubing going out of the sides of his chest.

After the office visit, K and Poppa T and I went out to lunch:

Ohio City Burrito calls to me in my sleep.

Victory Dairy! (Or, my new chest deserves a little sour cream.)

All in all the day my drains came out was a great day for lots of reasons: new freedom of movement, new self-directed options for identity, new gauze on my nipples.  And I didn’t even need to hug a pillow on the way back to the B and B.

That’s a happy boy.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Day Four Post-Op Is Exciting (and Sucks) Because…

Well, it’s not the surgical pain so much as the economic pain.  Valerie, Medalie’s secretary, told me because I pre-paid for my surgery now I can’t make an insurance claim, that “it’s impossible in their computer system” to go back and file a claim to see if Blue Cross would cover all or part of the surgery.

This super sucks.  I wasn’t holding my breath, as Blue Cross seems not to pay for any SRS.  However, I had been told by other bloggers who had their surgeries with Medalie that Valerie was a superstar with insurance companies, and said bloggers whose insurance companies didn’t cover SRS had it magically covered through Valierie’s superior coding skills.  She was on vacation the week I was having my surgery, so I didn’t even have a chance to talk to her about my options.  I wish I had known to ask about this before I pre-paid for it, but as an out of town patient, I had to pre-pay for it.

But I have to let it go.  I am going to contact a friend in the insurance industry* to see if there is a way I can circumvent Medalie’s office and submit a claim to Blue Cross myself, which will be potentially infinitely more tricky and confusing, and God knows I don’t want to accidentally commit insurance fraud, but I have to try (try, that is, to get some of this cost covered, I don’t feel a deep need to try and commit insurance fraud).  I just want to find out for sure if Blue Cross might/might not reimburse me for at least part of my costs.

—-

As far as my physical recuperation goes, there is little to complain about: I am still sore and puffy and uncomfortable, which sounds like a lot to complain about, but considering I had major surgery, these pains sound really trivial to me.  I am using less Vicodin, and more Advil, but can tell that I am slowly moving toward needing no pain meds at all.

I still have no wifi, and am still on Poppa T’s computer (which, again, is a blessing and I thank him for the privilege), but still no pics.  However, tomorrow is the big post-op drain removal/chest reveal, so I think we will try to take a short video, and for sure get some still photos.  We are staying at the B and B in Cleveland tomorrow night before we fly home on Thursday, so previous posts will be revised with pics, and pics of my chest sans vest will be posted as well.

Last night I had my first searing incision site pain, it was on my right side, just below my pectoral area, so I assume that must be where the right side incision is.  Up until now all my pain was coming from the drain sites in my armpits and the discomfort of the compression vest.  Also, I’ve noticed a little weezing in the bottom of my lungs when I first get up in the morning the last few days, but I know that is from not breathing deeply enough: usually after sitting up and taking some deep breaths throughout the morning that clears right up.

But this new incision pain, that came from accidentally using my right arm for just a second to steady myself to sit up in bed: it was a long slow burn that made me hold my breath for a second.  I took my weight off my right arm and used only my abs like I should have been, but otherwise didn’t move, and so the burning slowly faded away.  But then when I tried to put my arm at my side under the blanket it came soaring back, full steam.  I held my breath again and stopped moving for a second.  It took me a long slow time to get my arm under that blanket.

The good thing is that this searing slow pain is not entirely unfamiliar to me: it feels just like the god awful pain from my hysto incision site.  So although it is terribly painful, at least it is not worrisome.  I know what it is, and why it hurts, and how to make it stop.  I’m just not looking forward to its inevitable, unannounced, and semi-frequent drop-ins as part of the healing process.

Boy, I’ll miss this drain site irritation then!

I am looking forward to no more drains tomorrow, to getting a look at my new chest, to going home on Thursday and healing in my own house.

About this getting a look at my new chest business: I have been told by other guys that the first look can kinda take your breath away, that the disconnect between what your chest looked like (in my case) five days ago and what it looks like now is a lot to take in for your brain, that our bodies don’t change naturally as quickly as they change surgically and so your brain has a bit of a shock when you first lay eyes on this drastically reformed part of your body.

I have been using my meditation and body awareness practice I have learned in the yoga preparation I did leading up to surgery to “feel” my chest under this foam and compression vest.  I have been closing my eyes and feeling where my body ends and the vest begins.  I can “see” the contour of my new chest, and I think this attention and visualization has helped prepare me for the big reveal tomorrow.

What about you post-op readers: how did you feel in that revelatory moment, when you first laid eyes on your new body?  Scared? Relieved? Shocked? Ecstatic?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*Just got off the phone with insurance friend, and she gave me a few options, so I am feeling less deflated now–let’s stay (cautiously) optimistic! And a shout-out here to insurance friend J, who has not only given insurance advice, but also has given medical advice to my hypochondriac ass for over ten years.  Thanks for always answering the phone J, and for always being a good momma to me. 😉

Day Three Post-Op, or: How Many of Me Are in This Vest?

So, so puffy.  S, Poppa T’s lady with the nursing background, reminds me that the  anesthesia is mostly out of my system at this point, and so now the real discomfort is here.  To stay.  For at least a few months.

Puffy Ol’ Eli

Today has been about napping and focusing on tomorrow, as tomorrow is the last day with drains.  The ol’ armpits are getting sore, and the vest feels like there are three or four of me crammed inside it.

I wanted to post a few pics today, and I will add them later to this entry, but the wifi connection I had been stealing disappeared and so I type this at Poppa T’s PC, and my pics are upstairs on my Mac.  Shout out to Poppa T for letting me use his computer while he naps before dinner!

K’s sister and husband and little niece came for a visit today and it was so good to see them.  We spent some time in the yard where there is a little swing set that baby niece had a good time on, and I put on a real shirt for the first time since surgery.

What a handsome beast. A handsome, puffy beast.

The family went out to lunch, and I chose to stay home because walking is hard on the ol’ incisions, and car rides are even worse.  But really, I was mostly so happy that K got to spend this time with her family (who we see about once a year) and got to connect with little niece who loves the squishy stuff out of her tia K.

I was glad K got a moment away from taking care of her bleeding trans boy and had a good lunch out and a delicious margarita and a moment that didn’t involve holding a cup of water for me while I drank out of a straw.  She’s a goddamn saint and I adore her for this.  She is taking better care of me than I would if I was doing it myself.

Morale is still pretty good, I am still more sore than in real pain, and I am less than two days away from seeing the chest all this discomfort is worth.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Day Two Post Op, or: The Unsexy Sponge Bath

Well, here I am day two post op and I’m doing ok.  The pain is minimal, I’m more just uncomfortable as my body is coming out of its anesthesia stupor and realizing it has been invaded and pillaged.  The body’s response to this gross overstep on my part is to swell up and get sore at me.  Ok, I deserve it.  I feel a bit like a sausage stuffed into a casing too small from neck to navel.  The drains remain the most irritating part of this healing experience, but even they are just irritating, not painful.

Things Changing on Day Two

-I am switching from Vicodin to Advil, mostly to work on the swelling, and because the Vicodin wasn’t doing much of a different job of pain relief from the Advil.  I have been advised to take 600mg four times daily.  I can supplement with the Vicodin if I desire, and I might do that come bedtime just to get some uninterrupted sleep.

-I had a bit of a “bath” today.  That is, K wiped me down belly to toes, front and back.  God she is a good woman.  She also tried to get some of the iodine off from the surgery, but a bit of a shade from that remains–it doesn’t seem worth it to rub too hard and irritate anything further, besides, I’m in the running for no beauty contests in my polyester loungewear and American Eagle sweatpants.  A little iodine coloring around my shoulders just gives me that Jersey Shore spray tan glow.

– My appetite is returning, and the laxatives are working.  Systems are returning to normal functioning.  This process will continue to return to full steam as I ween off the Vicodin.

I realized today that tomorrow is Monday already, and I have a early appointment with Medalie on Wednesday (10.30 a.m.) to get my drains removed.  I am pretty excited about that.  I think removing the drains, and seeing my chest, and getting to breath normally, even if only for a little bit before the vest goes back on, will be a great feeling.  And there will be plenty of pictures taken that day, for sure. 😉

Poppa T and lady friend S have a great home to spend any time in, let alone recover from surgery.  It is a single floor ranch style house, very cozy.  Central air to keep us all comfortable, and K made a terrific tortilla soup for lunch.  Right now she is making orange mandarin tofu chicken and rice for dinner.  I am a lucky boy.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

 

Name Change

You may have noticed a blog name change around here.  Seems inappropriate for me to continue to write a blog called “My Life with Tits” since having said tits removed.

I have, however, kept the url: I wanted people to be able to still find me in a google search, so I kept it for that practical reason.

But there is a symbolic reason for it too: when I started this blog I did have tits, and so I have decided to keep the url the same.  It’s the internet version of the scars I will have on my chest: it is proof of my past, a record of my life–all of it, not just the part after the operation.

Be nice, friends,
Your Pal Eli

Day One Post-Op

Sure, it’s 3 a.m. and so technically day 2 post-op, but I have been drugged and am wearing grenades filled with my own blood, so give me a break. 😉  Also, with this getting up every 4 hours for drugs and not having anything to do with my day but repair my body, I’m on a bit of a funny schedule.

Today started out after a night filled with sleep and waking up every four hours to my alarm telling me it was time for another Vicodin.  The nurses warned me to “stay ahead of the pain” and to not sleep the whole night through or I would be risking waking up in a world of hurt.  So K has been an angel and sets her phone to wake us every four hours over night so I can eat some Saltines and take a pill.  K, actually, has been doing everything for me: helping me dress, loading my toothbrush with paste, give me my meds and holding my water glass so I can drink out of a straw from it.  Well, she does almost everything for me: I still wipe my own ass, thank god.

When the alarm went off at 7 a.m. this morning for a pill, we decided to get up and go for a walk, before it got too hot (in Cleveland it has been in the high 80s-low 90s).  So we walked around the neighborhood; the air was cool and we walked slowly– it felt really good to stretch my legs and get out of the house.  We got a bagel to take home with us from a local coffee house, and when we got back K made us cereal with blueberries and almond milk and bananas, we split the bagel, I had some water and she had a coffee.  It was a great start to the day.

We went back to the bedroom for some resting and Netflixing.  This morning has been filled with waking and sleeping, waking and sleeping, taking a pill, having a snack of crackers and ginger ale before each pill, and just generally not using my upper body muscles.  This is just as hard as it sounds, but not as hard as it could be since I spent the last three months or so at the gym working my core pretty good: I can easily move from a lying down position to a sitting up position using only my abs–this is immensely helpful.

We had a lunch that consisted of falafel sandwiches K went out to pick up while her lazy boyfriend was in a narcotics stupor and didn’t even notice she was gone until she woke him up for lunch.  Good for nothing addict.  But we did snap this shot:

Vest by Marena, tubes by Medalie, blood by Eli

Today the pain had been minimal, that is, until K’s dad showed up and we went for an hour long car ride to his place in Canton, where I will be recovering until Wednesday, when we will return to Cleveland to have my drains out.  The car ride was pleasant, good temperature, good company (it was me, K, K’s dad, and his lady friend, S), and we had lots to talk about.  The problem was that I had to steady myself around every turn and curve because the pressure on any one side was painful.  By the time we got to Canton I was pretty sore, but it was also just about time for another Vicodin, so that helped quite a bit.  At this point the most painful parts for me are the drain sites, they just ache and burn since they are in my armpits.  Usually the Vicodin takes care of most of that.

We had celebratory pizza for dinner, which I ate 2 pieces of and promptly felt utterly stuffed from (my stomach has shrunk considerably from almost no food the day prior), so I went and laid down for a bit.  I couldn’t be in better hands though, really: K’s dad works for Walgreens, so pharmacy runs are no big deal, and his lady S is a nurse, who has actually asked if we had any questions and volunteered to help us with the emptying of the drains, which we have to do 2-3 time a day and record the level of output.  We told S we had it under control, and we do, but god, what a kind gesture, to offer to help me with my disgusting bloody grenades.  Thank you, S, for being an awesome and caring person.

After my nap I felt recharged and ready for the terrific tofu chocolate peanut butter pie S made us for dessert.  So K and I had some of that with her dad and S, then after a little chatting it was off to bed for me: Vicodin, laxative (those are once in the morning and once at night)*, emptying and recording of the drain output, and the process of getting into bed.  I slept until, well, now when about an hour ago K gave me another pain pill.  Only now is my actual chest starting to ache a bit, and it’s getting a tad itchy around my back and shoulders, no doubt the effect of having this tight-ass vest on 24/7.  But the sensations are mostly aches, not truly painful, and for that I am deeply grateful.

So that’s it for tonight. Good night to you all, (and good day to my readers in the U.K!)

Be nice,
Eli signing out–

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*Sorry folks, but I want this to be a record for people thinking about this surgery, too, not just for me and my friends, so occasionally this kind of gross but necessary information will appear.  Thank you for your understanding.