Measure Twice, Cut Once

taxi-to-top-surgery

Taxis are required by law to take you anywhere in the five boroughs; but they do not like to go out of Manhattan unless you are going to the airport.

Monday, the day I had top surgery, did not start off auspiciously. The car service called a half hour before the scheduled pick-up time to tell me they were running late. The car would arrive at my apartment after I was due at the hospital. We canceled the car and went down to Hudson St. and hailed a yellow taxi. The driver refused to take us to The Bronx. He claimed he didn’t know how to get there and his GPS was broken. We hailed another taxi. The driver punched the address into his phone and started driving. We arrived on time. I gave him a good tip.

Montefiore Hospital’s day surgery unit is in a huge building with many corridors. We got lost. We wanted the silver zone and kept ending up in the purple zone. A security guard led us to the day surgery registration area. I signed in and got changed into my gown and waited for Dr. Weiss to come by for the final mark up.

Measure twice

Yes, it was this kind of measuring tape; in centimeters.

He arrived and apologized. He forgot to bring his measuring tape. He ran off to get another. I imagined him at the Dress Barn begging for a spare tape “Hurry up, I’ve got a patient on the table.” I have no idea where he found it, but, after what seemed like a long time, he reappeared with a new one. He looked at his notes, measured and marked and measured and marked. He stepped back, admired his work, and then we walked into the operating room.

a-hard-drain-gonna-fall

My drains were not complex.

.

I woke up in the recovery room, bandaged and cold. I was not in pain; a little discomfort from the drains, some itching and chaffing from the bandages. Someone brought me coffee and graham crackers. Donna came in to see me.

The nurse showed us how to empty the drains, and told me not to lift anything heavy. Then a sweet guy wheeled me down to the front door, where there was a line of taxis waiting to take us back to Manhattan.

The bandages kept unravelling.

The bandages kept unravelling.

The results were obscured by the packing, padding, and bandages. When the bandages slipped down I tried to move them back in place. I had a peek of what I finally recognized as my nipple. It looked high and outside. And small and dark. And not what I expected. I didn’t say anything to anyone, because I couldn’t see it properly. Perspective is everything.

On Friday I saw Dr. Weiss. He took off the bandages and removed the drains. He told me I looked great. His instructions were to put gauze on the nipples, and wrap my chest loosely with an Ace bandage* and come back in a week. No binder, no compression. Don’t lift anything heavy.

.

chest-of-armour

Does this chest really belong to me?

I didn’t get a good look at it until I got home and took my first post-surgery shower. It is strange to look at my “new” chest, because I always avoided looking at my old one. It is puffy, bruised, and a little uneven. There are two huge incisions across the front (duh). My nipples are in a different location than they were before; the left one has sensation. It is a masculine chest. A man’s chest, not a boy’s chest. A bit of a surprise.

I was able to pull on my favorite black T-shirt. I like how I look in it. I’ve got pecs. My belly doesn’t stick out. My hips don’t look like they are made of neon. I look butch and fit. I am very, very, happy with it.

Donna hasn’t seen me naked yet. I’m trying to be patient. She will look when she is ready. I hope she will like what she sees.

Notes: *When I started binding, everything I read said to never, ever, bind using Ace bandages. Use a binder designed for binding. Dr. Weiss told me I’m not trying to compress, just to hold everything in place and protect it.

At some point in the future I will write an uncharacteristically SEO friendly post on my top surgery experience; I don’t think enough time has elapsed to write a review yet and I’m still a little discombobulated from the surgery.

48 thoughts on “Measure Twice, Cut Once

  1. Lesboi

    Congrats on your chest. I’m glad your really happy with your results. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experience because I’m considering Dr. Weiss as well.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I’m relieved it is over, and can see already that it was the right thing to do.

      I’ll post but I am also (once I can be more objective about it) happy to write/chat off blog about it in more detail. I want to post because I had a hard time finding anyone who had used him for bi-lateral instead of peri – and I was way too big for peri – and I didn’t want to go to him just because he was in NYC. Eventually I was able to track someone down in NYC who had used him and was very happy, but it wasn’t through google/tumblr/transbucket (although I tried), it was a friend of a friend.

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  2. micah

    Glad to hear you are back home, recovering, and happy with the results so far. Remember, it takes a while to get mentally and emotionally accustomed to this very sudden change, and an even longer time for your chest to heal completely. Best of all, you get to enjoy it for ever.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The heal completely part is going to be hard, because I feel good (much better than after the hysto or the knee surgery) and I want to be out and about. I’m practicing looking at it on my way in and out of the shower (the only time I’m not bandaged) – but I am able to take it in, and that feels good considering how difficult it has been to look at myself in the mirror. Fortunately I can turn on my own version of photoshop and expunge the stitches, bruising, and crud, and see a nice airbrushed chest.

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  3. MainelyButch

    I used a binder over my bandages during the initial healing process, at the explicit direction of my surgeon. She said it helps to expedite the healing, and keep everything in place, etc. The hospital even provided it,…a frilly pink binder with lace…ugh. But I wore it and I saw why they wanted it there. Also it helped when applying the ice packs to also help with healing and pain. Glad you are pleased! I know that my having surgery was the BEST thing I EVER did for myself! Rock on!!!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I wish you had posted the picture of you in a frilly pink binder instead of your MAINE shirt. I wonder if they give guys who have gynecomastia surgery blue vests with airplanes on them?
      I can not imagine having any reservations about having surgery; it feels really good to be free.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I am greatly relieved to have it done with and to see the results. The best book that I read while I was lying about was Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee; it is beautifully written. I also read Wild (Sheryl Strayed) which was OK but I wasn’t wild about it, and Subversives (Seth Rosenfeld) about radicals at UC Berkeley which was very interesting but his writing didn’t grab me.

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      1. anexactinglife

        I looked up the Man Alive book and it looks exceptional. My 21-year-old is on a wait list to have top surgery through public health. The wait list is 12-18 months so they are hoping by the end of 2015. I am so looking forward to Link looking the way they feel. It’s been a long road already.

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  4. DogDharma

    Glad you’ve finally gotten your “front” behind you! I was given a compression vest to wear over the bandages after my top surgery by my surgeon. I was told that it helps any loose skin adhere to the muscles and helps the nerves regrow so you’ll have better sensation. You might want to ask your surgeon about that? At all cost, resist ANY urge to pick at the scabs on the nipples until they heal (if that’s the type of surgery you had). Let the scabs fall off when they are ready. I’m happy for you!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, it is hard to avoid the “finally got that off my chest” jokes. I’m swaddled up which keeps me from touching myself too much. The surgeon I used (Dr. Weiss) specializes in keeping the nipples attached to their “stem” instead of grafting them back on – although exactly how he does it is a mystery to me. The left nipple already has total feeling (annoyingly so with compression) and I’m hoping that the right one will wake up. I’m still in the “amazed” that I actually did it phase, and that it feels so different from (better than) binding.

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  5. RonaFraser

    Congrats!!! I am so happy for you! And it’s great that you have the entire thought process etc documented, because if you ever get so used to new you that you start to nitpick at things you don’t like, you can look back and say “Remember how I didn’t even want to look in the mirror?”

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m going to write 100 times on the wall, “I will not nitpick, I will not nitpick, ….”
      Paradoxically, top surgery only slightly changes how I look to everyone else (when I have my clothes on because I was binding) but it is a major change in how I look to myself or experience my body – and hopefully I will not turn into Narcissus. I’ll have to keep away from the pool.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m trying. I’m feeling pretty good though – when i go back to see my surgeon I’m going to ask him if I can do anything in addition to walking (like ice skate or bike ride). I have a real desire to get my ya-ya’s out (without popping my stitches).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I plan to write more – but other than the car service blowing up and the missing measuring tape everything has gone really well. No post surgery depression or regret – at least on my part.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I was happier to be recuperating in my own bed with my own dirty dog. Hospitals are terrible places to rest up (been there twice for fibroids and hysto) because they are constantly waking you up to do something (like take your blood pressure or temperature) and there is always a commotion (and the food sucks). I actually felt OK going home and was relieved to be home.
      It was much less painful than I expected, which i attribute to having a good surgeon, following his instructions, and some luck.

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      1. Widdershins

        I’v been in and out of surgery dozens of times over the years (motorbike accident) and the thing that bugged me the most was dinner arriving at 5pm and breakfast not appearing until 7am the next morning. Human beings are not meant to go without sustenance for that long!

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  6. Pixie

    So glad it went well. Hope it only gets better for you!

    The whole ordeal was intensely horrific for me. My hysterectomy was so much easier, physically and emotionally. I had severe post-surgery depression after my top surgery and I was completely unprepared for it. It also fed my doubts to where I was seriously regretting it at first. It was hard to accept that this doesn’t invalidate my gender identity or transition needs.

    But it was worth everything I went through to get it. I’m a year post-surgery now and I’m still running my hands over my chest and grinning like an idiot far more often than I care to admit. I might have gotten a bit more vain, but my partners feed that in me quite a bit so I refuse to take all responsibility for it! 😀

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m glad that your doubts about top surgery finally passed and that you like how you experience your chest. Fortunately, I have no regrets except that I waiting so long. I’m looking forward to being able to walk around in a T-shirt with no binder/bra/wrap underneath.

      I feel very lucky that it went smoothly. I had a talk with the anesthesiologist because when I had my hysto (and knee surgery) I had bad nausea and depression and a kind of fog in my head for several days after the surgery. She said she could tweak the mix and how it was administered and it made a huge difference.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank your for the invite/award – but I am (hopefully) graciously not participating. But it is interesting to see who else you read.

      I am really glad that top surgery is over, and that my surgeon gave me permission to resume normal activities with the exception of weight lifting and ice skating (in case I fell).

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  7. perpetualtomboy

    Congrats on the surgery! Sounds like youre healing well. I had lipo on my abdomen at the same time, so that caused a lot of discomfort and delayed the return of my former energy levels a few extra weeks. But now, over 12 weeks post op, I still can’t stop staring into every reflective surface and running my hand over my chest 100 times a day. It’s a wonderful feeling to be free of them! So happy for you!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you! I may order the Lions Mane mushroom stuff and some silicone lube on your recommendation.
      I am doing really well, and feeling almost normal (I still need to rest up and sleep more than usual). I am looking forward to going out without bandages and wearing a T-shirt with nothing on underneath it.

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      1. perpetualtomboy

        Glad to hear you’re doing so well. The Lions Mane is MAGICAL stuff! I’m still taking it – tried to cut my dose down to 1 capsule daily from 2 daily last week and started getting random nerve prickles again. Upped my dose to 2 daily and the prickles are gone. And the silicone lube is the cheapest way to get silicone for scars – though the big bottle will likely last me 10 years…

        And wearing a T-shirt with nothing on underneath – sheer heaven! So FREEING!!

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  8. txbridgefarmer

    How have I not seen this post in my reader? Congratulations! Im happy for you that you are closer than ever to being able to look in the mirror and see the “you” that was always inside! Im sure when the bruising and swelling go away, there will be more healing that has taken place than just your chest!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      ‘Tis a busy time of year! I’m quite happy so far with the results. I’m starting to get into the boring part of recovery when I feel well enough to get into trouble. My surgeon told me I could resume regular activity except for going to the gym or any other athletic activity (including ice skating just in case I fell). I have to keep reminding myself to take it easy, and to just go out for long walks with Gracie when i get stir crazy.
      Hope you and Julie have a great holiday.
      -Jamie

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  9. Mxtrmeike13

    Congrats Jamie!! I’m so happy for you, and I didn’t even know you were scheduled for surgery; regardless, I’m very, VERY happy for you. Like some have already said, it takes a while (sometimes months) to get used to a dramatic change like this, even if it’s something you’ve been excited for or really wanting. Best of luck with the healing processes, and I hope all goes well for you in the new year.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Everybody has a different reaction to surgery, but mine has been overwhelmingly positive so far – I really like how it looks on me and how my shirts lay flat on my chest.
      I’ve been out to some parties and social things and feel great – no self-conciousness about the surgery at all and no kiniptions about what to wear. I’m hoping that the good feelings don’t wear off, but so far so good.

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