At 9 AM I hopped into a taxi with my friend Tracey, and we zig zagged through midtown traffic to Dr. Weiss’ office. He and I talked about the pucker in the front of my chest and the size of my nipples. I apologized for being a fussbudget. He reassured me. Lots of people want their nipples redone.
I stayed vaguely awake during surgery. I kept my eyes closed, but I could feel where he was working. Whenever I winced he gave me another shot of local anesthesia. It was over in less that an hour. He dressed my wounds with three 3×3 inch gauze pads and some tape. He told me to refrain from showering for 24 hours, to change the dressing daily, and to take it easy for a couple of days. Come back in two weeks; call if there is any discharge or anything unusual. I had a little trouble buttoning my shirt and tying my sneakers. Although I am a veteran of several surgeries, I forgot to wear slip-ons. I also left the after care instructions in his office.
I was home by noon. The pain meds wore off at 4 PM. I took a Tramadol that was left over from my last surgery, then a few hours later I took another.
Before my top surgery last year I read every “tip for top surgery” that I could find. I wore sweat pants, a loose buttoned shirt, and slippers on surgery day. I bought bendy straws for drinking. I moved all of my breakfast and coffee-making paraphernalia to the kitchen counter. I stockpiled food and drink so I wouldn’t have to shop or carry anything heavy. I stacked up books to read. I laid out gauze pads and tape. I lined up dog-walkers for Gracie.
It didn’t occur to me that the revision was going to hurt, and that It was a miniature version of the original surgery, without the drains. It didn’t occur to me that I was going to have a bunch of fresh stitches and new scars on my chest (the year old ones are healing nicely and starting to fade away). Or that for the first 48 hours I wouldn’t be able to comfortably raise my hands above my shoulders. As Yogi Berra said “It’s deja vu all over again.”
Fortunately, my neighbor, Carolyn, heard I had surgery and knocked on the door to see if she could walk Gracie for me. Donna and I ordered in sushi for dinner. I rummaged in the closet for an unopened box of gauze pads, a spare roll of surgical tape, and an old tube of bacitracin ointment.
I took more Tramadol to get to sleep. My chest was too sore to sleep in my normal position. I slept on my back, and snored away.
Dr. Weiss told me that about 10% of his top surgery patients ask for revisions. Initially, I viewed it as a 10% failure rate, even though I regard my original surgery as a success. His perspective is that it is intricate and hard to get it just right on the operating table. Each patient’s body is a puzzle. Each patient is looking for something slightly different. He takes pride in customizing the results.
I never had a clear idea of what I wanted my chest to look like, or what a “perfect” chest would look like. I didn’t want to bind anymore. I didn’t want to see my breasts in the mirror. It isn’t easy to make a female chest look like a male chest, especially if you are not on testosterone. It is impossible to predict exactly what it is going to look like, how it is going to settle in, how you are going to wear it. My reconstructed chest is just one part me. To everyone else, it is probably a minor, almost unnoticeable part.
A couple of days after the revision I was able to pull on a T-shirt. I looked in the mirror, and then remembered that I had extra thick gauze pads on my nipples. I took off the shirt, took off the gauze pads, and looked in the mirror again. I ignored the stitches and the bruising. The changes are subtle, but I see the difference. I put the T-shirt back on, took another look, and decided that it was worth it.
Notes: I remember Operation from my youth, but I didn’t realize that it is still sold in stores. There is nothing on the board that resembles top surgery, but if I could, I would like to have my “bread basket” removed, as well as my “brain freeze”.