Thursday, 21 October 2010

Still shooting as the Bomb explodes

It takes a lot to shake me, and make me lose balance. But after The Consultation two afternoons ago, my head felt stuffed full of whirling thoughts, and I simply had to go home, have a cup of tea, and somehow get everything I'd heard into some sort of order in my mind. I didn't manage it until quite late. I texted several people with the bare news, saying I'd be able to speak next day but not just at that moment.

It was of course the first pre-op consultation with Mr Philip Thomas, surgeon, at the Brighton Nuffield Hospital. I'd found myself overcome with the enormity of it all, and what a massive step this was, and how quickly it could all happen.

The appointment was at 5.15pm, and I took this with a pinch of salt. Quite rightly. It turned out that another girl called F---, who lived and worked in Somerset, and who had driven over from Taunton after lunch, also had an appointment at 5.15pm. Both in the same tumbril, then. F--- was a bit ahead of me in the timescale, and was looking for a Christmas operation, whereas I was thinking of sometime in the spring of 2011, March or April say. She was very pleasant, and I hope the fates will throw us together again.

First, we met Mr Thomas's Clinical Nurse Specialist, Liz Hills. I'd met Liz before, when making my daily visits to Debbie at the Nuffield in November 2009, and Liz remembered Debbie very fondly.

Liz immediately impresses you, instilling  huge confidence, and quickly becomes not only your personal expert clinical adviser but your friend and mother combined. She has that wonderful ability to lift concerns off your heart, and banish fear and dread. And to be fair, I encountered nobody at the Nuffield who wasn't helpful, friendly and fixated on the job. The place has a good atmosphere. It is attractive, efficient, clean and modern. There is no lurking undercurrent of cut corners, stress or chaos. It's all very reassuring.

Liz took us gently through what to expect. She was very clear. There was really no need to take notes - a pink folder full of printed material was provided. You were freed up to listen. What we heard all sounded eminently manageable. Bring it on, you felt. Then she put us in the hands of Carla, her Clinical Assistant, who took us up to Floor 1 and showed us the general setup there, and in particular one of the rooms, Room 12, which I could swear was the one that Debbie had occupied eleven months ago. It was spotless, well-equipped, and had a lovely view over the Downs, all the way to the sea. An inspiring view. Important when you awoke after the operation, and later on when the first euphoria might have evoporated, and you needed a reminder that there was a beautiful world out there, sunny and calm. It was very like a hotel bedroom, but with specialised fittings. In the ensuite bathroom Carla showed us the dilators and a douche that we would learn to use and take home. It didn't look possible that those long, smooth, transparent cylinders would be able to slide inside! They reminded me of high-quality, high-tech glass ornaments. But again, I was so reassured that I felt I'd actually enjoy setting up a dilation routine for myself, and becoming expert at it, another accomplishment.

Then back downstairs, and I was in first with Mr Thomas, with Liz in attendance. I had met him three times before, but this was the first proper personal consultation, with the subject expressly being my personal anatomy, and how my own body was going to be changed. I dare say I was a bit overawed. He was, after all, one of the two main men in this field in the UK! Gulp. But he was charming, and put me at ease. He explained the finer points of the penile inversion surgery, and especially the risks and complications that could arise. Some were more remote possibilities than others, but I made a mental note to expect some little problems at least, considering my age. I'd have to come off the oestragen six weeks before surgery, to ensure minimum risk of blood-clotting. That was no problem for me. Then Liz took me into an adjoining examination room. I took off the bottom half of my kit, got onto the table, and grasped a mirror from Liz so that I could see whatever I wanted of the proceedings. Then Mr T, with rubber gloves on, had a good look at me. He didn't have to look for long. He anticipated no special problems, and said that I did not need any pre-op hair removal.

What? No hair removal at all? I got dressed and we spoke further. The operation had recently been refined. Hitherto the base of the penis had had to be cleared of hair so that the new clitoris was not lost in the forest, so to speak (my words, not Mr T's), and also so that excess hair wasn't left just inside the new vagina. Just how much to remove depended on the individual's own physique of course, which was highly variable. If for example one had been circumcised, a lot more penile and scrotal skin had to be used for the labia and to line the vagina, and that would indeed need time-consuming hair-removal treatment. But for uncircumcised people like me, the latest method did not use any skin from the base of the penis. It allowed the clitoris to be hair-free and avoided an unnatural ring of bare skin around the vaginal opening. It would look just like any woman's. And if a trans woman wanted less hair post-op, to suit her personal cosmetic needs, then she merely used any of the standard commercial hair-removal techniques that an ordinary woman would employ. But what about hair on the penile shaft? This would need to go, because otherwise it would end up deep inside the vagina, but it getting rid of it would  be a comparatively minor job. Right, that was clear now.

But then...if only a few hair-removal sessions would be needed, for just the sparse wisps of hair on the penile shaft, the op could be brought forward, couldn't it? Yes, indeed. I wouldn't have to wait months and months? No. At this point my head started to feel a bit over-saturated with information and things to consider!

There was another thing.. Mr T wanted me to lose some weight. About 10kg, bringing my weight down from 90kg to 80kg - roughly from 14 stone to 12.5 stone. I could do that. I mean, what a motivation, the op and its results as the prize.

There was some more conversation about psychiatric assessment and so on that I didn't really take in, deciding that it could be gone into when I felt better able to focus on it. I thanked Mr Thomas, wrote out a cheque for the consultation, and agreed with Liz that we'd speak in a few days' time. And so I left, wishing F--- all the best. I had a slight headache, but nevertheless felt euphoric. As if a bomb had exploded, engulfing me in the blast, but I had emerged unscathed; though somehow different, as if I'd undergone some vital rite of passage. I was surely now on my way. I'd crossed the Rubicon. Alea iacta est! 

The following day I had a long walk by myself across the wide sands exposed at low tide at East Head, near West Wittering on Chichester Harbour. The sunshine was brilliant, blinding even. The cold wind was keen. It was the first day this year when I'd felt the need for gloves. Winter was coming. On the other side of it I'd be in the Nuffield and changed forever.

Footnote: Just spoken again with Liz. Provisionally, my admission date will be 28 February, with the operation on the morning of 1 March, and discharge on 8 March. I must come off hormones on 18 January.

Memo: Must ensure that I have my hair done as close to admission as I can.


  1. Great news, Lady Melford! Sounds like everything is well in hand.

    But six weeks off hormones! Oy. I'm glad it was only three for me. That was quite enough!

  2. Thanks, Veronica. To be honest, the six weeks will soon pass. The current hormone dose hasn't messed me up emotionally, so coming off it shouldn't either. And if I have to scrape a little more 'male' hair off myself during that time, well, so be it. Equally I can be philosophical about any fat loss. I'll just keep in mind that come 1 March, the main testosterone-producing bits will be gone forever. Hurrah!


  3. Ten kilos, that is about ten cases of wine you can't drink over the next four months, almost exactly a bottle per day. You are probably too much of a lady to be quaffing that much so something else is going to have to be sacrificed.

    Not sure I can ever get down to 12.5 stone, does this mean I shall never be able to join you?

    Congratulations, time will fly.

    Caroline xxx

  4. Great news indeed,lucy this means you will have to start your engine[I mean not the car]now the date is set,exercise and diet will be a daily routine in order to achieve your goal of losing the required weight for the surgery,

  5. So it is official now. Is that not something. I will pray for you that all goes well, and I will look forward to hearing about how this momentous event positively impacts your life.

    I would also like to invite you to comment on any subjects that you might find of interest to you on my blog, "Ella Es Asi".

  6. Further, I would like to add that as part of your weight loss protocol, you might endeavor to get your physical condition into the best possible shape as possible.

    The better your physical conditioning, the better your system will be able to metabolize and dispose of all the detrius and byproducts from the surgery and all the drugs. As a result, your healing will proceed much faster.


    Congratulations, Best of Luck, and Godspeed.


  7. Hi Lucy,
    All the best.
    I can't imagine how you feeling.
    For what it is worth I started eating sunflower seeds after some advice which was nothing to do with weight loss, but I have found if you feel like a snack a handful can kill the appertite. They can also have a calming effect.
    Look after yourself.
    Karen x

  8. Congratulations on the consultation and provisional date Lucy! I'm not too sure I agree with any sentiment that the time will fly by, but at least it does pass. Make sure you use a large sheet of paper for that things-to-do list. There's going to be a LOT more on it than getting your hair done!

  9. I'm so excited for you. I bet you're still pinching yourself. I think that you've got an excellent incentive to lose weight. Thats only just over half a kilo every two weeks


  10. I'm so excited for you. I bet you're still pinching yourself. I think that you've got an excellent incentive to lose weight. Thats only just over half a kilo every two weeks


  11. Good news! Not long to go, how do you feel about that?

    Why is the weight loss necessary? Are you over BMI?

  12. @Jess:
    I feel very good about having just over four months to prepare myself from this point. It'll take that long to (a) deal with what needs to be dealt with in the way of pre-op hair removal; (b) lose 10kg, and maybe a shade more to be on the safe side; (c) see what the extra 50mcg of Oestradiol can do in the period up to 18 January. (I'm hoping for a bit more breast growth)

    The BMI was 29.0 last week. Meaning I'm not far off being obese.

    I have some sophisticated electronic scales which besides weight, give me body fat %, body water %, muscle mass, BMI and Basal Metabolic Rate, AND they make a nice cup of tea. I have to programme in my sex, age, height, colour of eyes, and whether I like chocolate.


  13. That is some clever set of scales! Can they do some of the dieting for you?

    I am so glad that you don't see the weight reduction as too much of a problem especially remembering that you like me are not very keen on sporty kinds of activity which many do to burn off some fat. Carry the heavy camera more that should help.

    I need to loose some too since a little has crept on since HRT started and metabolism slowed down. We both like our food but I know from when I did this before nearly two decades ago it can be done with strict portion control and banning ALL snacks between meals. I learnt to be happy feeling a little hungry and never a little full. I should have started this more seriously six months ago but will try to keep you company, little and regular loss is my aim starting NOW.

    Caroline xxx

  14. Dear Lucy
    I am soooo pleased for you.
    Your March date will come round so quickly.
    You will have a lot to think about & plan for but rest assured you could not wish for more kind care than that you will receive from Liz & her team.
    May your surgery bring every thing you wish for.

    Peaceful thoughts & sweet dreams.
    Debbie x

  15. A big thank you to everyone who commented!

    It means a lot to me.



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