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No, I didn’t die. Just got a little caught up in enjoying having time to do nothing and then threw myself back in to work once my time off was at an end. Going to apologize in advance as this is going to be a long post. Have to catch up on post surgery happenings for the last 5 months…

Surgery went well. My mom came up to stay with me for 2 weeks to help me after surgery and it was nice to have some time together. Everything went smoothly the morning of surgery. We ended up getting there a little too early – the office wasn’t even open yet so we had some time to wait. Once they opened, everything went pretty quickly. We had to be there at 700am and I think I was in the surgery room by 730am. Such a different experience for me than being on the other end of the surgery prep at the vet hospital. I wasn’t expecting to walk into the surgery room before having any other prep than to change into the gown and have my surgeon draw his marks. Everyone was great at the surgical center. Once I was situated on the surgery table, my anesthesiologist placed an IV catheter – now I know what my patients feel when I place one in them – and gave me something  in the line saying that I’d feel a little sleepy in about 30 seconds. The surgical assistant was making a little conversation with me while they were waiting for me to go under anesthesia. Apparently, she asked me about the upcoming super bowl sometime in that 30 seconds or less, and I didn’t respond because I was already out. Guess I’m a bit of a lightweight… Surgery itself only took about 1 1/2 hours or so. Took me an hour in recovery to actually be aware of my surroundings. Woke up totally dizzy, nauseous, and a bit bloody on my back. Mom told me later that I was pretty darn white as well although I never saw myself at my palest. It was really weird not feeling my chest. My chest felt heavy and “buzzy.” Part of the heavy feeling could very well be due to the bandage all around me. The recovery nurse got me sitting up and cleaned up as best she could – my boxers soaked up a pretty good amount of blood and had to be soaked when we got home. By 1230pm, I was on my way back home with my eyes closed and head in my hands in an attempt to make the world stop spinning. Mom made a stop at the store for saltine crackers and ginger ale. When we got home, my one little less than a foot step into the house seemed like a cliff but I made it in and to the couch. Piper was very good and didn’t even try to jump on me. Probably best for all of us as he probably would have knocked me over and I’m not sure I would have gotten up. More likely I would have just stayed on the floor and slept where I lay. I think I fell asleep very shortly after getting to the couch. Much of the next 2 days is blurry. I believe that over 48 hours, I was only awake for 4 of them. I must be a lightweight as the pain meds kept me knocked down. Part of those times I was awake, Mom was emptying the drains or giving me meds to take. At first I didn’t really feel it when she had to strip the drains but towards the end when there wasn’t much fluid left, the stripping and the tubes themselves were starting to hurt.

2 or 3 days post op

Drains in and bandaged up

Transitioned myself off the pain meds on the 3rd day as I couldn’t stand the weak and disoriented feeling I had while on them. Finally after 5 or 6 days, my drains were ready to come out. Weird feeling when the drains come out.  I was still pretty numb on my right side and only felt a bit of tugging as it slide out. The left side has had more feeling in it and I felt a bit of pinching as that one came out.  Got to have the bulky bandage taken off and only needed to keep the ace bandage over it for compression. I was also allowed to take showers again (that first shower was glorious by the way) but I needed to get a hair dryer to dry the tape over my incisions.

1 week post op

The day the drains came out and the bulky bandage removed

I was feeling up to being out of the house for a bit longer and off we went for the dryer. The weather had been inclement and threatening snow so one of our stops was to get a propane stove in case the power ended up going out. Figured if we had one, we wouldn’t need it. After being out for 2 hours, I was utterly exhausted and trembling so home we went. That night it snowed and we were stuck inside for the next 3 days. We probably could have made it out if it were an absolute emergency. Since Portland is a city where it rarely snows, the city shuts down if there is more than an inch of snow and there are very limited plows. I’m really glad I was able to have the drains removed before the storm hit. Might have had Mom pull them for me otherwise since they were already causing some discomfort. I did end up taking off the ace bandage sooner than I was supposed to due in large part to the claustrophobic feeling the weather and being snowed in was inducing. At one point, I was feeling like I couldn’t a deep enough breath… When the weather finally turned and the snow began to melt, we had a pretty bad case of cabin fever. We went out for breakfast and to the store. I was still only able to manage being out for less than 2 hours but it was a start. Amazing how dizzy you get after being cooped up for days on end and suddenly have your world expanded again. Mom’s 2 weeks came to end and I had to take her back to the train station. That was a bit hard emotionally. Probably the closest we’ve been for a really long time so saying goodbye was hard. After that it was 2 weeks on my own before I had to get back to the daily grind. Took it slow and easy, tried not too overdo it. Really difficult not to do much especially when you’re on your own.

The Wednesday after Mom left, I had my 2 week post op check and everything was looking good. By that Friday, I was noticing a tiny amount of foul-smelling discharge from under the tape around my right nipple incision. By the next morning, I was getting more than a little discharge. I remember feeling a little panicky. Here it was the beginning of the weekend and his office was closed on Mondays. Thank the stars I have a medical background. I decided to do warm compresses a few times every day and call his office on Monday. I remembered that his office manager would be in during the day on Monday to do paperwork.  All I had to do was get through the weekend. I was feeling pretty down at this point. I had been feeling so good and then to have this complication hit me hard. The smell coming from the infection was bad. I deal with some pretty bad smells working in the veterinary field but this was worse. I had to keep a shirt on at all times and if I lifted the shirt up, I was almost nauseated by the smell. Squeezing the discharge out was another task that was proving difficult as well. The feeling I had on my right side wasn’t much so the actual pressure didn’t bother me. It was, I think, more that I was getting this nasty material out of myself. Actually felt a little faint a few times. I did manage though and made it through without either vomiting or passing out. A couple other small sections of my incision were starting to become a little throughout the weekend so I was glad when Monday finally arrived. Got the call in and eventually was told to come in, the doctor would meet me there. Basically, I was having a suture reaction and after checking it out, I was prescribed another round of antibiotics. Oh yay, another round of 4 times a day medication! At least it helped and the infection began to heal again.

After the infection cleared up, healing progressed nicely. I had some little pieces of suture starting to migrate out of the incision but pulled those myself. I continued to have a large scab over the right nipple where the infection was centered. Eventually that resolved.

Going back to work took some time to get back into the routine. The first week, especially first 2 days, I tired quickly. I found that restraining patients was sometimes difficult and I had to watch how large of an animal I tried to lift. Lucky for me, my coworkers kept a close eye on me and didn’t let me do some of the heavier, more physical tasks. I gradually worked myself back in to overnight shifts at my second job and am now back to 3 nights each week. If I’m tired now, it’s due to working a lot again. I have stopped working weekly overtime at my primary job and I think that will help reduce my workload. Plus I’m finally back to a 4 day work week! I have Sundays off again which means that I can go to the farmers market again and have more time to work around the house. Maybe I’ll even get a bit of a social life…

It has been 4 months and 9 days since surgery. I have regained most of the feeling on the left side of my chest. The right side continues to bother me some. The feeling in incomplete on the area above the back half of the side incision and is sometimes itchy/painful/numb, which is a really weird combination of sensations. The scars itch and are sore sometimes and are still raised, more so in certain spots. I still have 2 little scars where the drains were. The left nipple responds to sensation and has feeling. The right has a build up of scar tissue from the infection, has little to no feeling, and hardly responds to sensation. Some days my chest hurts but more frequently it doesn’t. The main problem I have is when patients are kicking or pushing off or dogs pawing my chest. I went swimming for the first time in over 3 years a couple of weeks ago. It was glorious and I remember just how much I loved swimming. I’m a little self-conscious of my scars but I’m not going to let that stop me from anything. I’ve been able to run without the movement hurting me and can lifting exercises. I do still have to watch how much I do, otherwise I’m feeling it for the next few days. When I first starting to workout again, I was surprised by how weak I felt. I couldn’t lift as much and tired quickly. I’m finally getting closer to where I was prior to surgery. All in all, I’m doing pretty darn well.

4m 9d post op

4m 9d post op

Right side, 4m 9d post op

Right side, 4m 9d post op

Left side, 4m 9d post op

Left side, 4m 9d post op

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Surgery day!

Today is the day! In a few minutes,I’ll be heading out the door to go to the surgical center. I’ve waited for this day for so long and now that it’s here, I’m feeling excited and
nervous. I’m really glad for my mom’s presence and that she’ll be up here for 2 weeks. I put on my binder for the last time today and it feels good knowing that. I should probably go and be on my way. Check in again sometime after I’m home.

Surgery is finally a reality! I did end up having to get a loan for it and so will continue to work 2 jobs for a while longer BUT I finally am going to have surgery! I plan to pre-pay for the surgery room and anesthesiologist tomorrow on my lunch break so that will be out of the way. Then comes my pre-op appointment next Wednesday where the rest of the money is due. I feel like I still have so much to do in the next 3 weeks that it’s almost overwhelming. I did manage to accrue enough vacation and sick time that I will be able to take an entire month off for recovery and be paid for it. Kind of sad that I have that much vacation saved up, isn’t it? I suppose that’s what happens when you work so hard for so long. Given that I needed a loan, it’s a huge relief to (a) still have money coming in and (b) be able to take a full month off for recovery. The surgeon (Dr. Nguyen here in Lake Oswego) did say that most people can return to work after 2 weeks. However, I don’t think I’d be able to do my job of wrestling dogs and fractious cats that soon and not cause some damage… Probably better that I take the full month.

My mom will be coming up to help take care of me for 2 weeks and I couldn’t be more grateful. In the last 8 or so months, I’ve really been talking about surgery more with her and I really admire how well she has been taking everything in stride. For the first year or two, we didn’t really talk much about me transitioning. I think for a while, she was almost hoping that if she didn’t say anything about it, I might change my mind. After my ex and I broke up, she started realizing that this was something I really did want and wasn’t being pressured into it. But she did still have some… hiccups, I suppose you could call them, along the way. Often when we were in public (when I did manage to come down for a visit) she would use the wrong pronouns, even when I was letting my facial hair grow. These days she corrects herself right away if she does slip up and has been openly discussing our plans. As an added bonus, one of her students that she stayed friends with has a trans boyfriend who within the last month had top surgery. So she’s been able to pick her brain for tips and advice from the caregiver point of view. I think being able to talk to someone who has very recently been there is helping my mom relax and have a glimpse of what is to come. I’m proud that she’s taking the extra step and asking about what to expect from someone other than me.

I think the one thing I’m most nervous about, is anesthesia, particularly the wake up. I wake up enough animals to see a wide range of recoveries. Some don’t want to wake up (particularly pugs and the like – they like their ET tubes…), some are very quick and smooth, and others are rough. I hope that I’m not one of the flailers or screamers.  I don’t like the thought of making things difficult for my nurses… Not really worried about the surgery itself. I’ll be asleep and I know about surgery, have even scrubbed in multiple times. I figure recovery post-op will go one of two ways. Either I’ll be reluctant to return to work after the month or I’ll be itching to go back halfway through. The first two weeks will definitely be nice not having to work even if the first week might be hazy. Oh, and that’s another thing – going to have to have my mom make me take pain meds regularly because I don’t really like taking meds and know that I would probably let any pain ramp up before I gave in to taking the meds. Which is not good…

I am so looking forward to this summer! I’m going to go swimming again! That has probably been the hardest part of the last four years. I’ve always loved swimming but since deciding to transition, I haven’t felt comfortable enough to go. I’d always be concerned that someone was going to call me out on my presentation. I won’t have to worry about that again and it will feel so good! Another thing I’m looking forward to this summer is being able to actually wear only one shirt. Probably will be freezing the rest of the winter before I adjust to wearing less but summer will be grand.

I am going to try to post a youtube video soon as well. Need to make an update since it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything there as well…

Okay, okay… I kind of suck when it comes to keeping a blog.I’m laying here at work unable to sleep due to the construction outside (yes, I get paid to sleep at work with the boarding dogs) and figured I’d give it another shot.

Pretty much for the past year, I’ve been working so much that I don’t even know what day of the week it is most of the time. Nice thing is my schedules are pretty well set at both jobs so knowing the week day isn’t all that important. Routine is what gets me through the weeks and time just sort of slips away. I’ve been focusing on getting out of debt and was doing a decent job of it until my car decided it wanted some attention… I had hoped to have been out of debt a month ago but now I’m looking to be fine by the end of this year at the latest. And then it’ll be surgery in February! My original goal was to get out of debt around April or May and then spend the rest of the year saving up for surgery, maybe taking out a small loan to cover a little if I didn’t quite have all that I needed. Sometimes the universe likes to have its own little laugh at the best laid plans of humans… I definitely won’t have my surgery paid for by the time I do have it performed but I do not want to wait another year. I’ve been waiting 4 years now and I’m done. Even if I have to go back in debt, it’s a debt I’ll willingly accrue. If it weren’t for timing everything at work (summer is the really busy time whereas winter can be pretty quiet) I could have had surgery late spring or early summer and been out of the red. On the plus side, I do have enough vacation and sick time accrued that I will be able to afford to take an entire month off for recovery and still have money coming in. So looking forward to not working for a month after all this time I’ve been putting in. Currently I’m working a long 5 day week (usually put in a little over 50 hours every week) at one job and then typically 3 overnight shifts at the other job. Being paid to sleep is the only way I can make it through as well as I do.

I was going to write more but I’m so exhausted that I’m just about falling asleep writing. Perhaps I will be able to sleep with the construction noises… At least the dogs are all quiet.

Work

Within a week of coming back from vacation, all sorts of things have been happening and mostly at the vet hospital where I work, but also just life in general.

Our tech supervisor gave her 2 week notice within a week of me coming back to work. This of course caused widespread panic and sadness as she did an insane amount of work for the hospital and was loved by all. And we are entering our really busy season with people wanting to take vacations as well. There’s been a scramble on the tech side to cover shifts which means we’re pulling extra shifts. On top of that, the office manager tells us that she will be taking over the scheduling and some other duties which were the supervisor’s. No one is very happy about the scheduling especially since the OM really doesn’t know what goes on in the treatment area not what we really need for scheduling. And she says that if she has holes in the schedule and no one has volunteered to cover them, she will just assign them to people. Really not good for me considering I’m working 2 jobs right now. But the “hospital is the first priority” and I apparently need to forget any other obligations on my time like the second job. I’m considering myself exceptionally lucky that my second job is so willing to work with me otherwise I’d probably have to quit it (which I honestly think that is what the OM is trying to make happen). I can’t afford to work only one job unfortunately. There are several weeks in which I am working 5-6 days a week and she keeps trying to get me to work more so that 3 weeks I work there 6 days. I manage to work 2 jobs without going insane because at least one of my jobs is fairly mindless. That was my intent and it works. Pulling that many days at the high stress job is going to be very taxing. So lovely…

She also tells us that she wants to meet with us all individually to chat for about 10 minutes or so. Nothing bad she says, just a chance to hear concerns and catch up… About 2 weeks after that, another tech gives her notice and so begins the scramble yet again. Morale is low at this point and people are already starting to feel the stress before the nightmare truly begins. And those meetings she’s been having with the tech team? They’re closer to an hour or longer in length and she’s ripping into people. Yeah, as if morale wasn’t already low enough. I think part of it comes from the supervisor leaving. She protected us from a bunch of crap from that office and now that she’s gone we’re ripe for the talking apparently. Before she left, the supervisor told us that she told the OM and the owner of they were smart, they’d give the techs all raises for all the hard work we’ve been having to do as well as all that we are going to have to do. No one has had a raise in years. I haven’t had one since after my 90 days review and that was almost 3 years ago. Perhaps that is why she’s tearing into us so hard. They don’t want to give us raises and are trying to give any excuse not to. Pretty poor way to treat your remaining employees. I haven’t had time to go meet with her yet and I’m really nervous at this point. Based on what the others have said about their “chats,” it’s not going to be good. I don’t know if they’re trying to get all their experienced techs to quit so they can hire new grads for less money but it sure seems like it. I think 4 of the 6 techs we currently have are ready to go on strike or at the very least all call in sick on the same day.

Another problem with work is that the more overbearing, least easy top get along with, stress prone tech seems to be taking over the supervisor position. She keeps taking on more responsibilities and is already starting to snap at the doctors. I’ll very seriously consider looking for a new job if she does become the supervisor as will at least one other tech. I’ll give things until September to get better and then I’ll leave if there’s no improvement.

On top of the situation at work, I’m in for some heartache on the home front. My rabbit appears to have a tumor growing on the side of his face and inside his cheek and on his lower lip. Took him in to work with me to get it checked and we aspirated it to see if we could find out what it is. All we found on the slide was bacteria, which could indicate a multitude of things. Tooth root abscess, abscess, necrotic mass, etc. If it’s a tooth root abscess, there’s not much I can do for him. I could take him to a specialist, have him put under anesthesia, have the tooth extracted, and hope he recovers okay. Rabbits don’t typically do well with anesthesia and most anesthetic deaths in rabbits happen in recovery. His age would also increase his risk. He’s at least 12-13 years old and that’s pretty ancient for a rabbit. If it came to that, I think the kindest thing to do for him would be to let him go. Trying him on a month long course of antibiotics to see if it helps and rule out infection/abscess. After about a week and a half, I’ve seen no improvement so far. If anything, it may be getting bigger. and he doesn’t want to take his needs like he did in the beginning. So at this point, I think he’s on hospice care. I’ll let him keep on kicking as long as he feels up to it and keeps eating. Every moment that I’m home and awake, I’m going to make sure he has time outside of kennel and outside when there’s light. I’m just going to make sure he lives the rest of his life to his fullest extent possible and that he’s comfortable. That’s all I can do at this point. I just wish that I didn’t have to work so much right now and I could spend more time with him.

Coming home

I meant to finish this post before I came back to work after my vacation last month but obviously that didn’t happen. Life has a way of making its own plans…

My brother graduated high school at the beginning of last month and I managed to take a vacation to come down for it. He went to a very small school (18 graduated this year) in our hick town of northern California and had been there since first grade. I’ve met many of the teachers there long before I even knew that transitioning was an option and saw many of them that night. I never really knew if my mom had told her coworkers about my decision to transition, especially as she seemed to have a hard time accepting the change. I didn’t know what reactions to expect since this time I was coming home with a full beard, or at least as full a beard I can grow at this time.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t my big day and yet all the teachers I knew greeted me with no hesitation and were all very polite. One teacher even said that I was looking good and she hadn’t recognized me at first since it had been so long since I last was there. It gave me hope that people can coexist even in a backwards place like that town or that the religious right can accept people who are different from their norm.

My mother seemed different and fully accepting this time too. Far fewer slip ups and she corrected herself without anyone saying anything. There were no mistakes in public and I was very thankful for it. It was a wonderful visit which perhaps only made it harder to come back to my solitary life. It made me realize how very much alone I am up here and how little time I do get to visit my family. Once I’m out of debt and have my surgery paid for, I’m going to remedy that situation. I’ll make the time to visit more than twice a year if we’re lucky. All I have to do is very through another year and a half or two and then I’m free. That’s what I keep telling myself to get through this period. Working so much will end eventually…

Health

Disappeared under the rock that was 2 jobs for the past few months. To be honest, I felt like I no longer had a place in a community, whether it was the trans, queer, or any other community. I always seem to hang around on the outskirts, perhaps it’s because I feel uncertain of myself and of where I fit in the community. However, I’m ready to drag myself back out from under the rock I’ve crawled under, even if it is just getting back into the swing of blogging. And I realize that even if no one else reads this, I need a place to get my thoughts out. Especially since I’m kind of a loner by nature. My main purpose in starting to write again was to get some thoughts that have been plaguing me out of my head.

The main concern I have in my life right now is my health. Since January, I have been working on losing weight, exercising more, and eating healthier. Everything’s been going pretty well too – lost about 10 pounds and started the Insanity workout program in the last month. I don’t smoke, rarely ever drink, and typically eat pretty well. I recently went in to the doctor for my bi-annual check up and blood
work. Found out through the mail that my thyroid stimulating hormone (THS) is now low, meaning that I’m now hyperthyroid. There was only a note that labs will be repeated in 6 months to recheck the TSH level. At first I was surprised that I hadn’t at least had a call to let me know that I had an abnormality on my recent labs. Granted I’m not super low yet (just below the reference range) but I had a couple of other values that were a little of as well. In animal medicine, we deal with hyperthyroidism in cats so I have some understanding of what it is but no idea what to watch for in humans. Nothing was explained or any information given. Doctors wonder why people are turning to the internet so frequently these days? I did manage to find some old labs for comparison and did see that my TSH has been on a downward trend since August 2010. I wouldn’t mind waiting to recheck so much if some attempt of explaining anything had been made. Honestly, I’m a little scared about what this means for my future and my transition.

As much as I would like to change doctors, I feel stuck. I don’t have much time outside of work and I don’t even know where to start looking for someone who will work with me in my transition as well as my general health. Maybe I should be considering going to an endocrinologist since my thyroid is out of whack but there again I have no idea where I would start looking. Perhaps I’ll just take the easy way out and just wait another 6 months and revaluate at that time. In the meantime, I will continue to work out, lose weight, and work on improving my health as much as I possibly can.