Andy's Journal Before, During and After Surgery

Hello everyone,

I just got back from top surgery a few days ago, and everything went really well. If double incision (as opposed to keyhole) is your method of choice, then Dr. Brownstein is an excellent doctor to go to. He does a nice, tight chest contour, his scars usually fade to almost nothing, and he does beautifully re-sized and repositioned nipples. He is also a really nice person to deal with and has a great bedside manner. I am ecstatic with the results. So, without further ado, here are excerpts from my journal, starting from around a month before surgery:


Thursday, December 21, 1995, 5:11 PM

Had shot number eight today at around 2:30pm. Did my Xmas shopping the other day and passed everywhere. Have noticed that I'm finally starting to take passing for granted more (though it will be some time before I'll feel completely confident with butch lesbians around) and am slowly starting to shed the defensive aura I had when I was cross-living without hormones. Still getting a big kick out of my new voice.

Saturday, December 23, 1995, 12:57 PM

Was at a party last night and the MTF hostess asked me to open the wine bottles - I'd never done that before, but someone (yes, that's right - an MTF) once showed me how, so I knew what to do. My sideburn areas are now almost completely filled in with peach fuzz, and there are two lone hairs (one on each side) in the middle of my jaws - they're like islands, just waiting for more hairs to come and join them. Also continuing to get more hairs under my chin. Have increased my workout time on the exercise machine to 30 minutes a day and am using the Ab Isolator several times a week.

Tuesday, December 26, 1995, 6:28 PM

Bought some Benzoyl Peroxide cream for my face, back, and chest today - I always did have a predisposition for bad skin, and lately it's been getting worse.

Wednesday, December 27, 1995, 5:03 PM

The Benzoyl Peroxide is already working - it dries those zits right up. It also seems to be working on my back.

Thursday, December 28, 1995, 1:46 PM

Have noticed that the hair on by stomach is darkening and starting to form a male pattern.

Sunday, December 31, 1995, 5:19 PM

The acne medication is really working its magic on my face. My back and chest are still spotty, though. Have been really tense, worried, irritable, and moody lately. I don't know whether it's hormonal or part of my old pattern of letting things that are beyond my control bother me way too much.

Had a dream last night that my chest was done - I was looking down at it and saying "I can't believe they're gone." It seemed so real for a while - I remember wondering if I were dreaming during the dream and then concluding I wasn't. Then I woke up.

Monday, January 1, 1996, 9:43 PM

My neck seems to be expanding - one of my shirts doesn't button comfortably any more. Still feeling stressed and depressed (though not about my neck growing).

Wednesday, January 3, 1996, 12:04 AM

Starting to emerge from the mini-depression I was in. Last week a friend of mine said, "You've gotten more assertive." I don't know if it's the hormones, a psychosomatic reaction to them, my growing as a person, or all of the above, but he's right. I'm much quicker to stick up for myself now.

I always used to think of myself as a scrawny little guy, even back when I was in denial and could only do so at a subconscious level. Now looking in the mirror I realize that I'm not so weedy anymore - I'll never be imposing, but there's more substance to me now.

Left a message on my friend John's answering machine. His partner Tom said, "That sounds like Bruce [another friend of ours]," but then John replied, "No, Andy's voice is deeper."

Saturday, January 6, 1996, 10:17 AM

A friend noticed that my skin is looking coarser, and he's right - my pores are bigger, and the surface is rougher. He also noticed that my jaw is getting squarer.

Saturday, January 6, 1996, 11:51 AM

I swore at an innocent bank employee on the phone yesterday. She wasn't the one responsible for the screw-up in question, but I took it out on her because I had let the frustration having to deal with stuff still under my old name get to me. I feel really bad about it and wish I could apologize.

Had shot number nine on Thursday at around 11AM.

Thursday, January 11, 1996, 6:13 PM

Someone at a party on Saturday night said, "Those shots are working."

Just had to replace my favorite pair of shoes because they were starting to get too tight - looks like my feet are growing. My neck is growing too - I now have a couple of shirts which I can't wear ties with anymore. New hairs continuing to appear in the chin and sideburn areas.

Sunday, January 14, 1996, 4:07 PM

My wrists are expanding - I just starting wearing my watch a notch looser.

Sunday, January 21, 1996, 6:54 PM

Had shot number ten on Thursday at around 4pm. Weight is now 119 1/2 lbs. Still have a 29 inch waist, 14 inch neck, 29 inch sleeve, and 36 short suit coat.

Tuesday, January 30, 1996, 5:40 PM

Because I cross-lived for nine month prior to starting hormones, I'd been wondering if the people who have always taken me for a genetic guy would notice that I've been changing. Today I got an answer - the saleswoman in Banana Republic recognized me from previous visits and said, "You've filled out since you tried on that jacket." "I've been working out," I answered, which is part of, if not the whole, truth. "You look good," she replied, "I can even see it in how your face has filled out."

My skull seems to be getting bigger - I had to adjust my glasses to not grip my ears so tightly.

And I've been damn near ready to hump the furniture today.

Wednesday, January 31, 1996, 5:37 PM

Have been unusually horny lately, which is even weirder because I'm near the end of my shot cycle (I'm due for one tomorrow). I don't know if it's the tension of anticipating top surgery or what, but I was very eager to get home and jerk off today.

Sunday, February 11, 1996, 10:04 AM

I am now in San Francisco, where I recently had top surgery, typing away at my cousin's PowerBook.

Had shot number eleven in my right thigh on Thursday Feb. 1 because they're starting to teach me how to self-inject. I loaded up the syringe, but I still had the nurse give me the shot. She hit a blood vessel, which turned into a big purple bruise that had me limping around for a few days. Maybe I'll ask them how to teach me how to inject my butt.

Facial hair continuing to come in. Am now shaving every night so that my nascent shadow will look better during the day. Voice dropped again the other day - my cousin couldn't tell me from my father over the phone. My traveling look has graduated from Bible Salesman (dress shirt, jacket, tie, black jeans, Oxfords) to Prep School Boy on Vacation (casual button-down shirt, windbreaker, blue jeans, sneakers). Have been passing really well in San Francisco, though I haven't tested my passability in any "tough rooms" where there are lots of lesbians yet.

Had top surgery on February 6 at 7:30 AM, and I don't know if there are words to describe how happy and relieved I am to be free of those damn tits - it's no longer considered nudity for me to take my shirt off! I already felt like a man, but I definitely feel more male now - I like my upper body so much more that it doesn't seem to matter as much that my plumbing still looks "wrong." What follows is an account of my top surgery:

Saturday, Feb. 3: United put me on an earlier flight to SF to avoid snow delays. The catch was that they only had enough meals for the passengers already scheduled, but the nice Bible-reading gentleman next to me (who probably would have had a heart attack if he'd known I was really a gay tranny and not a nice frat boy) was kind enough to offer me some of his food.

Monday, Feb. 5: Saw Dr. Brownstein for pre-op appointment - Dad said he seemed really nice. Wandered around the Union Square area trying to enjoy my last day of feeling 100% for a while. Had dinner with Dad at a Mexican restaurant, trying not to think of all my hopes and dreams for the next day.

Tuesday, Feb. 6: Woke up at 5AM and took the last shower I'd be allowed to take for a while. I wore sweat pants and a loose flannel shirt but left my pants-stuffer at the hotel. At 6AM Dad and I took a cab over to the SurgiCenter, where they checked me in at 6:34AM - I'll say right now that everyone who worked with me was unfailingly respectful and nice. A nurse then took me back into a room (I was so eager to go I nearly forgot to say good-bye to Dad) where he checked my blood pressure and pulse and then left me to change into a cap (which I looked really silly in), hospital gown, and little paper booties for my feet. I got to keep my underwear on.

I got up onto a movable bed, and another nurse came to check on me and insert my IV - she started a preliminary drip of sugar water which she said was my breakfast (it was delicious). Then the anesthesiologist came in to ask questions. "Do you ever have motion sickness?," he asked. "Only when my mom drives," I answered. "Do you know what you're here for?," he then asked. "Bilateral mastectomy with nipple and areolar reconstruction," I replied cheerfully. Then Dr. Brownstein came in to mark my chest up for surgery, which was kind of surreal, and Dad came in to say good-bye again. Then the nurse said that they were putting some preliminary anesthetic in my drip to make me sleepy in preparation for the real stuff. I started to feel tired and closed my eyes.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the same place. The nurse was watching over me, and my chest was dressed and bound, with radish-like pressure bandages over my new nipples. There were also drains connected to tubes coming out of my armpits - they looked like clear hand grenades, which I had to empty them of fluid every six hours or so. I felt sore, as if someone had kicked me in the chest, but I felt no real pain. I knew my breasts were gone but kept looking down just to make sure. They said that the operation had taken about 2 to 2 1/2 hours (I was a "B" to begin with and had used a sports bra to bind) and that everything had gone smoothly. The nurse gave me some saltines and ginger ale. "We've had about eight of you guys in this SurgiCenter so far," she told me, "and you all seem to do remarkably well." "That's because we're all so happy," I told her. She asked if I felt well enough to leave and then helped me get dressed. Dad and I then took a cab back to the hotel.

At the hotel I changed in to pajamas and sat up in bed but then started to feel kind of queasy. Now sooner had I got out the words "I don't feel so great, Dad," than I had projectile barfed the ginger ale and saltines across the room - there was no way I could have gotten to the bathroom in time. After that I felt good - embarrassed about barfing, but good, and I didn't have any more nausea . In fact, I was ready to eat lunch soon after. Mom had expected me to be really out of it and was amazed to see me sitting up, eating lunch, and calling friends and relatives to say that everything had gone well. My chest was sore and my arm movement limited (you've got to keep them down by your sides), but I continued to feel good and had no problem emptying my drains and keeping a log of how much fluid was in them for Dr. Brownstein. I watched some television but could barely keep awake to lust after Niles during Frasier and feel asleep soon after 9:30PM.

Wednesday, February 6: Spent the day reading and resting - for several days I needed to take afternoon naps. Continued to feel lots of soreness but no real pain.

Thursday, February 8: Stayed in most of the day reading and napping but went out to dinner across the street with Dad. Wrote some postcards.

Friday, February 9: Went to the doctor to get my dressings changed - was hoping to get my drains out, but he decided to keep them in until Monday. .

Saturday, February 10: Wrote more postcards. Went on an expedition by myself to a medical supply shop to find a better-fitting rib belt to wear as a binder. Decided not to tell my parents that the shop turned out to be next to a pawn shop in the Tenderloin (a not-so-great part of town).

Sunday, February 11: Dad flew back to Chicago. Moved to my cousin's place in Potrero Hill. Went to the FTM informational meeting, where I had a great time and was alternately congratulated and scolded for being up and about so soon after surgery.

Monday, February 12: Got my drains out! Some guys at the FTM meeting said that it would hurt a lot, but it only hurt a little and happened very quickly. He also took the pressure bandages off my nipples, saying that the grafts had taken well. As he unveiled me, I looked in the mirror across the room, and it really hit me for the first time - that wimpy little guy looking back was *me*! Everything looked great, especially my new nipples. I felt years younger with the drains out, and, without them hanging off my binder, I could finally tuck my shirt in again. Mom and Dr. Brownstein both told me to stop slouching. Mom flew home to Dad in the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 13: Had my first shower in a week - that felt really great. Then I shaved with just a towel around my waist, which felt even better.

Wednesday, February 14: Got my stitches out. Brownstein said everything looked great, and then he gave me my shot. I have to wear the rib belt for another week and gauze pads over my nipples until all the blood crusts off (and I mustn't pick at it).

Friday, February 16: Flew back to Boston.

Tuesday, February 20, 1996, 3:53 PM

I feel more male and complete now. Not having to hide and slouch anymore has made a big difference in my self-esteem. My major emotion throughout all this, however, has been the tremendous relief of just knowing that the damn things are finally gone.

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