Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for Health

Wow, that’s slippery…

So, this is totally one of those TMI topics that I talked about in my last post. I’ll try not to be overly graphic, but this is one of those things that I wish I had known more about before my surgery, so I think it’s important to share.

Anyway…

So, yea, fore warned and all that…

One of the things that I really had no idea about was how my vagina would respond during intimate relations. When I dilate I use lube; a pretty good helping of lube, actually. Dilating is sort of still a “medical chore” to my mind and body. Sex, on the other hand, is joyful recreation. I wondered whether I would need lube when I have sex.

I don’t.

To quote Darling Boyfriend from after the first time we fooled around: “I wondered if they’d be able to make a self-lubricating vagina… They can.”

I’m still amazed by the surgery that transformed my body. I guess on some levels I thought I was going to end up with an inside-out bag. I would have been happy with that, honestly. Hell, I would have been fairly happy just getting rid of the ~horrid stuff~ I used to have. I never dreamed how normal my body would be. I had no expectation that all that internal stuff could work so well. I hadn’t completely processed that my vagina was going to be so much like any other woman’s. Dr. Bowers is pretty much my hero. It’s mind-blowing. And awesome.

YAY!

Thank you for putting the soldering iron away

So, I forgot to even mention this the other day.

I saw the local surgeon again this past Monday. He’s treated me twice before for granulation tissue at my vaginal opening and near my clitoris. This time he treated just a very small area at my vaginal opening, and instead of using the soldering iron-like implement that he had used the two previous times, he used silver nitrate. There was no pain, which was lovely, because I was getting really tired of the soldering iron being applied to my crotch.

He said everything looked great and that I don’t have to see him again unless I have a future concern. I really like this doctor.

I mentioned to him that my gynecologist had said that he thought I had some internal granulation. The surgeon said that he thought it was possible, but that I should just leave it alone and let it heal on its own. I trust this doctor a lot, so I’m going to take his advice. Whatever granulation tissue I do have left isn’t causing me any pain, so I’m not going to worry about it. There is some discharge, which is a pain, but it seems like I’m well on the mend.

Yay!

The Never Ending Granulation

*sigh*

This post is whiny, I feel like shit – just be forewarned.

So, I saw the gynecologist this morning. It was my first time ever. I was actually sort of excited beforehand, even though I know that’s silly. And I was definitely nervous.

Anyway, the doctor I saw was recommended by my mom’s doc, and he was very nice.

So, let’s see, where to begin…

I got there, got checked-in, and forgot that like half the women there would be pregnant, a couple of them were very pregnant. I’m getting better on the whole infertility thing, but it still stings sometimes, and I doubt I’ll ever be “over” it.

I was called in by the nurse. She asked what brought me in today. Okay, well, blah-blah-blah, I had SRS five months ago and I’ve noticed an odor and I think I have granulation tissue internally. She was very sweet. She said, “You had this done just five months ago?” With a very warm smile.

The doctor came in and asked a few questions (he was very cute, because he was almost ~overly~ apologetic about asking questions about my history and surgery). And then he did the exam. Yea, okay, I’m over stirrups, fer sure, and, um, speculum=bad time. He used a pediatric speculum, and even that felt like a lot (which seems weird to me, because I dilate fine and get about 5.75 inches of depth with my biggest dilator – weird). There was a lot of pressure on my urethra (I really felt like I had to pee).

He took a couple cultures to make sure the odor isn’t from an infection.

And then he dropped the bomb of saying that he felt like I do have some internal granulation tissue (he said when he took the culture it bled just being touched by the swab). Son of a…

Also, he said that he didn’t feel comfortable treating me. His first suggestion was for me to call my surgeon in Colorado and see if they knew of anyone local. When I told him that I had already done that and they didn’t he said that he would do some homework and see if he could find someone with experience doing this sort of thing.

So, I know that it’s good for him not to work on me if he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, and he did say he’d do some research to find someone that did feel comfortable doing it, but in the emotional state I’m in it just came across as if he had said : “not my problem.”

*sigh*

Then he threw in that my vagina seemed “very small.”

*sigh*

Then the woman in front of me checking out was six weeks pregnant, so it was “congratulations” all around.

*sigh*

I did good, I got out of there without crying, but I was really shaken. I called my mommy and told her all this, and when I told her that he said that my vagina was very small she said, “Well, maybe it’s hereditary, because I’m very small.” God, I love my mom. At least I got a little laugh…

So, yea, yet more granulation to deal with. When I had my surgery I told myself that I wanted to feel healed by my 40th birthday (that’s in March), so I’ve got time, but this still just feels like it’s taking forever, and like it’s one thing after another.

*sigh*

~much~ TMI about scent

I’m starting to smell the way I’m supposed to.

I knew it was supposed to happen, but I’m surprised it’s so soon. And it’s very groovy.

😉

I noticed a new aroma just about a week ago. I asked two doctors and one friend about it, and they all said not to worry about it. It seems like I’m starting to grow the proper balance of vaginal flora; I think that’s pretty damned cool. I must confess to being a little obsessed with my new scent; it really is developing a whole new area of my body, and it’s fascinating and awesome. I think this ties into my increased awareness of smells in general, too, because I notice my own scent constantly (though it has diminished a bit since the first few days), but no one else seems to notice it.

I’m sorry, but I just find this beautiful in so many ways. I even ~smell~ right now. Ah, the peacefulness of having to proper body. 😉

More with the Soldering Iron

*sigh*

Well, I guess that should be:

*owie* *owie* *owie*

So, I saw the local surgeon again today. The granulation tissue at my vaginal opening seems to be greatly reduced (though not totally eradicated), but I had noticed some more up on top of my clitoris. I asked the doctor about it, and he said that if I wanted he could remove it with the same method as before. I was a bit intimidated by the thought of having a that same procedure done right at the heart of every last nerve ending known to man. I mean, seriously, would you be thrilled to have a soldering iron directed at your clitoris? The answer is: No, you wouldn’t.

This hurt considerably more than the last time. Like, ouch, seriously, and that’s after the shot of lidocaine.

Remind me: no soldering irons near the clitoris.

OUCH!

So, I’m seeing him again in three weeks, and I think there might be a little bit more at my vaginal opening for him to take out. But I think I’m gradually getting to the end of this process.

Oh, and I need to do some stretching exercises to get my legs into those damn stirrups. I’ve already had enough of stirrups.

Get that soldering iron away from my crotch!

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of the issues I had after my surgery was some granulation tissue right at my vaginal opening. It wasn’t all that painful, but it was annoying and emmitted a fair amount of near-constant puss-like discharge. There was quite a bit, actually; the doc said that it was a lot.

So, today I had the appointment with the local surgeon to have the granulation tissue removed. When I saw him a month ago, he had used the word “cauterize.” Now, I know that cauterizing something involves heat, but I suppose I wasn’t fully prepared for the procedure. I was definitely nervous, but I guess I wasn’t ready for how much it felt like minor surgery. I was brought into the room and laid on a bed and had myself up in stirrups.

They covered my face with a sheet, I think as a sanitary procedure, and then the doctor came in. He gave me a shot of lidocaine in each side of the vaginal opening, and essentially used a high-tech soldering iron. The pain wasn’t that bad, but the smell was nauseating; burning flesh is never a good smell, when it’s your own, and it’s your own vagina, it’s down-right awful. There was some stinging and pulling, and this was definitely the roughest anyone has been with my new parts (I’m still pretty gentle with them). The sound wasn’t great either, sounding sort of like an electronic buzzing sound. It was over in less than fifteen minutes. I’d say the pain was maybe a three or a four, but the stress of the experience was probably more like a five or a six.

So, that’s over with. I now basically have two burn wounds at my vaginal opening. The surgeon said that new skin should grow over them and that I should go back to see him in two weeks so he can check and see how everything is doing. More importantly, he said that tomorrow I could take a bath and soak – yay!

[fyi: I don’t feel like posting this surgeon’s name in my blog. If you’re in the Boston, MA area and you’re in need of a surgeon who is familiar with surgically-constructed vaginae, please contact me and I’ll forward his info.]

“That’s a lot of granulation tissue”

I just got back from a visit to see a local surgeon. Pretty much the only ongoing issue in my healing is a little flap of skin that’s hanging off and expresses a bit of puss-like stuff. I sent pictures to my surgeon in Colorado who performed my SRS. She said that it looked like granulation tissue and that I should be able to have it taken care of locally. It took me a little pressing, but I found a local surgeon that was willing to look at me.

I was a bit stressed out due to a very emotional conversation with my boyfriend last night, so my emotions were shot to start out. The fact that the surgeon I went to see is a urologist didn’t help. Though, the department lists “female urology” as a specialty, and my mom has been to see a urologist, and my therapist, who is female, has seen this exact doctor, so I’m just being silly.

My anxiety built as I entered the building and rode the elevator to the sixth floor. While I was waiting in line for registration one of the office assistants called me “sir” – not a good start. She never corrected herself, but she was fine besides that.

As I waited in the waiting room I was hardly the only woman there, which helped to put me at ease a little. But while I was waiting for the office assistant for the surgeon who was going to see me, I caught myself absent-mindedly scratching my hand. It’s been a very long time since my anxiety lead me to engage in any sort of self-harm (I used to pull my hair, poke myself with pins, and scratch myself as “coping” and distracting elements). I can’t remember the last time I was that anxious.

After about forty-five minutes in the waiting room I was called in to see the surgeon.

I got to take my first ride in stirrups – oh joy!

When the doctor was first examining me he turned me into an impromptu teaching-tool for the nurse in the room. He pointed out my clitoris to her and explained that it was formerly the head of my penis, and also pointed out my urethral opening and vaginal opening. It was definitely sort of weird. I guess my status as a post-operative transsexual makes me enough of an oddity that I get to be used as a lab rat anytime I’m around medical folks. It’s weird, because I don’t really mind helping to educate, but the way it was done felt fairly dehumanizing. Oh well.

The surgeon said that I have a lot of granulation tissue, and he was hesitant to take it off; he thought there might be a bit of pain. I said that I have a fairly high pain tolerance and I felt comfortable with him taking it off. He said that it was too much to do today, so I had to make another appointment. He also said that beyond the granulation tissue it looks like I still have some healing going on.

The surgeon was actually pretty cool, and by the end of the appointment I felt much calmer and more positive, even with the couple stressy issues that happened along the way. Also, his office assistant is awesome and lovely, which always helps.

So I still have my granulation tissue for another month. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but I wanted it done with; I’m tired of wearing pads everyday.

Three Month Post-Op Update: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

Wow, has it only been three months?

Yep, apparently; three months ago today I had my SRS.

It may seem completely silly to say, but I really can’t even remember what having a penis felt like. I mean, d’uh, right. I know I had one, and I can remember having one, sort of, but it seems like such ancient history. Before surgery I tried to picture what I would look like with a vagina; I found it fairly difficult to imagine. Now, though, everything just looks so “right.” My vagina looks like it’s always been a part of me. My body finally feels like my own. Truly. And now I can’t really picture myself as ever having had a penis. Sweet. 😉

So, really, how’s it going?

Well, the healing has been going amazingly well. My labia have shrunk to much more normal proportions, and at this point the left side (which was the side that was “bigger than my head“) is smaller than the right. Even more impressive to me is how much the scars have faded. The scar on the right side is very faint already and the scar on the left side, which was the suture line that had all the issues, has begun to fade as well. Considering how things were just a few short weeks ago I am truly thrilled with this amount of progress.

I still have a little bit of numbness, but my sensation has been gradually coming back and the progress here too has been wonderful. It seems that at about nine or ten weeks post-op things really started getting much better pretty quickly. I’ve been continuing to explore my body, and am learning how everything feels and what sensations I respond to. As I mentioned here, I am orgasmic, which is quite lovely. 🙂 I’ve sort of lost track of how many orgasms I’ve had at this point (I think it’s eight, but that might not be right). Some orgasms have been very mediocre, and some have been earth-shakers. I’m gradually figuring it all out. Before surgery I found that pretty much the only way for me to have an orgasm and not lose my mind was with a vibrator (becuase I didn’t have to touch myself, basically); well, since surgery I ~do not~ like the vibrator. We’ll see if I grow into liking it, but for now I’m just fine without it, thank you very much.  :-p

One of the most exciting things about reaching this point in the process is that I drop my dilations from three times a day to twice a day. That middle-of-the-day dilation has just created all sorts of scheduling and motivational issues. I am really glad to be down to twice a day.

I do have one fairly minor issue which seems more frustrating than all that problematic. I have a little tab of skin on the left side right at my vaginal opening; it oozes a little bit (which requires me to still be wearing pads – grr!). I went to see my local doctor who didn’t really know what it was, so I emailed some pictures to my surgeon. It turns out it’s granulation tissue, and it seems like it’s not all that uncommon of an issue with this surgery and not that big of a deal to take care of. According to my surgeon it should be excised and it’s a quick and easy procedure. The slightly frustrating part has been finding a doctor in Boston that’s willing to see me. I never even realized before surgery that this would be an issue – one of the problems with having surgery 2,000 miles away from where you live. As my doctor said: “Surgeons don’t like to look at other surgeons’ work.” I felt very alone. Fortunately, I pushed a little, and my doc was able to find a surgeon at Boston Medical Center who’ll help me out. YAY!

My motivation and energy finally seem to be getting back to pre-surgical levels. I am surprised how long this has taken. I know it was major surgery, but it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that all should be back to normal in a few weeks, and it just doesn’t work that way. The recovery time suggested by my surgeon was 6-8 weeks (I took about seven weeks off from work), but I really think that anyone having this surgery should expect a good three months before starting to feel back to normal. I’m finally feeling like myself, and it feels awesome!

So, I guess the short version of the update is that I am supa-happy with my new body and everything is going very well.

Hooray!

So, um, IT WORKS! ;-)

So, um, well, I had my first post-surgical orgasm the other day. Hooray, the “feeling good bits” work.  😉  I had just been getting really worried about whether things were healing okay about a week earlier, too, so the timing was great. I still have quite a bit of numbness, enough that just a few days ago I burst into tears after touching my clitoris and not being able to feel anything.

After finding my clit so numb, I decided to focus on what sensations I ~could~ feel, as there were plenty of good feeling spots down there. There were a couple days that I got right to the edge only to completely lose it. I think the fact that I was unsure about whether I would be able to at this point in my healing (or, honestly, ever) contributed to my difficulties in going over the edge.

A couple days ago, though, before dilating I felt pretty aroused. It’d been four months since my last orgasm (so, two months before surgery), to say I was ~wired~ would be an understatement; I figured I’d cum if a strong wind blew. So after I dilated I decided to give it a try, and in not too long I found myself on the edge yet again…

…and then I went over…

…and over…

…and over…

I’m not known for being quiet when I have an orgasm; I’ve been teased because I’m so loud, actually. I sort of suspected that if/when I figured out how to have an orgasm with my new body that it would be an intense and loud one even by my standards, both because it had been so long and I was going to be releasing lots of pent-up stress, and also out of shear joy that my new body “works.” Well, even I was unprepared for the ferocity of this orgasm; I was screaming at the top of my lungs for what seemed like five minutes; I could not have stopped screaming if I tried. It was incredible. And then I giggled for about ten minutes. Out of silliness. Out of relief. Out of pure joy.

Interestingly, my orgasm “style” had changed so much since I started taking hormones that the orgasm felt very similar to the ones I was having before surgery. The stereotype that “male” orgasms are more sharp and “pokey” (d’uh), while “female” orgasms are more full-body and “smoother” seems pretty accurate. Though, like I said, for the most part my orgasms had changed even while I still had the “boy parts.” The body is weird.

YAY!

Redux: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

So, I’ve been home for a week, it seems like I should do a little wrap-up of my wonderful trip to Colorado that I dubbed, in my inimitable style, my “Excellent Adventure.” It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

I am so glad that Jayme was able to be with me for as much of the trip as she was; it was amazing having my mom and Alana and Wendy and Sarah with me as well. Before surgery I was able to have so much fun with Jayme; climbing Capulin Volcano with Jayme was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I had never been in that part of the country before, and I was blown away with the beauty I saw. The Garden of the Gods was magnificent.

Everything about my surgery was about as perfect as I could possibly have expected. My surgeon was wonderful, her office staff was brilliant, the hospital was great, the nurses were beyond amazing, the Morning After House was warm and cozy, and the town was sweet and lovely. I would recommend Dr. Bowers to anyone considering GRS without hesitation. The whole package that I got was more than I could have imagined. I had some misgivings about having such a major surgery two thousand miles from home, but having been through it, I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat.

My healing goes well. There’s still more swelling than I’d like, but there always is when it comes to my body, and it gets better every day. There is basically no pain. Dilating is fairly easy, though very boring.

I wish I had some brilliant way to wrap-up this whole experience, but it seems beyond words. This was my wish that I never expected to be fulfilled, and yet here I am, after the fact, writing about it. It happened. It was as incredible as I thought it would be. When I got home, the first time I saw my whole body in a mirror (seeing my face and my vagina in the same “picture”) it was an incredibly moving experience. I am whole.

This adventure of mine was indeed most excellent. And the neat thing is that I have a feeling that my journey isn’t over, but that it has only just begun.

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