Thursday, 29 December 2011


There is alot made of these terms and they carry an awful lot of emotional and psychological baggage which is likely not entirely evident to someone who isn't going through this process. Thankfully I am now in the "post-op" camp and feel slightly more able to discuss, at least some, details at a highish level which is a great improvement over the time immediately before where the very idea of discussing things with all but my closest friends was abhorent.

I think I'd like to go through a list of "things that scared me" and hopefully this might give an idea of how someone approaching the same surgery might feel:

Stopping Hormones

All hormone treatment has top be stopped 6 weeks before surgery. As I understand it this is mainly for safetys sake as estrogen increases the risk of blood clots and I guess any medication in your system can potentially interfere with anesthetic or other drugs you may be given during or immediately after surgery.

You'd think that stopping taking pills or sticking patches on your body would in some way be a relief (I can't say I miss Spiro pills - they are huge) but the implication is that your hormone levels return to a point they were at before. This was a horrifying prospect for me as I it was so important to me to have the 'right' hormones in my system, it made me feel like "me" and I hated the thought of giving them up.

I'm not sure of the chemistry/biology involved but just stopping medication didn't actually have an immediate affect (apart from me not liking the thought of it), it did take a few days, possibly a week for me to start to feel any different. I know some people have said the increase in testosterone makes them feel irritable or angry, given my pre-HRT level was barely into the normal range I wasn't too worried about that and certainly it didn't seem to happen. I did feel quite frantic, and kind of paranoid. Also I really withdrew alot and found it harder to talk to people, kind of like a loss in confidence.

Also my sleeping pattern got completely wrecked; normally I'm fairly consistent with sleep and can easily feel when I'm too tired and go to bed early and get up early for work. I kept waking up and not being able to settle again, or if I slept through I didn't feel rested and was way more tired then I've ever felt. That and possibly other things really affected my concentration and my attention span. I remember one odd implication of that when I was trying to pick a film to watch and couldn't decide on anything, just nothing felt right and when I finally picked something I stopped watching it after a few mins and just couldn't settle on doing anything. All very weird and disconcerting.


I'm not sure how true this is but I read/was told that testosterone affects libido in both men and women so one of the things that actually did scare me is that suddenly I'd have an uncontrollable sex drive which I would find extremely distressing. I'm sure many people won't understand this or even find it quite funny, but it's not, it's something that makes you question who you are and made me feel very uncomfortable and upset.


I've never had an operation with general anesthetic before, and the thought of being forced asleep did really upset me for quite a while. When attending the GIC and talking to my the specialist there he commented that I was a bit of a control freak (he is right) and I definitely saw being anesthetised as a huge lack of control. I was really worried about being allergic to the anesthetic to or having a reaction or not waking up, etc, etc.

As it turned out it didn't even hurt when they put the needle in and I just drifted off quite quickly and came round afterwards reasonably fast too. Several people, my Mum in particular, commented that they work out the amount of anesthesia so accurately these days and the whole process is so precise that there isn't much in the way of feeling groggy or half-asleep anymore.


I've never had major surgery before so have no idea what to expect; so I started imagining the worst possible scenarios! I definitely worried that I wouldn't wake up afterwards or have something serious happen like a blood clot that affected my brain! My imagination did run riot for a while and there were times that I was very scared but strangely I didn't worry about this worst case as much as I thought I would. I think I was more concerned about surviving but having complications.


Knowing about certain potential complications just made me worry about them. Some aren't particularly serious in the grand scheme of things but they are things I just didn't want to go through. I had a few nightmare scenarios in my head and it's always easier to worry these will happen rather think about it rationally.

It's very easy from this side of the surgery to see that I was worrying about nothing and that's maybe how other people see it. But I really was very scared, worried, pre-occupied and apprehensive about the whole thing. The affect of stopping hormones was very definitely real and not pleasant at all (and my ability to write about all of this in a quite open and honest way is testament to the fact I'm back on hormones and this has started to level my thinking out, even if it's just psychological rather that phisiological at the moment).

As I was told before I left hospital, this is major surgery, it does take time to heal and recover and it is a big deal for many reasons. Anyone going through this is going through a major change in their life (for the better) and it isn't easy at all. And all of this is something very hard to explain to anyone else who isn't close to you, very few people have a frame of reference in which they can understand what you are going through.

The problem that I found was that the last thing I wanted to do was explain any of this to anyone. Talking about it before surgery meant to me that I would be labelled as "pre-op" and I absolutely hated the idea of anyone knowing that. This is again maybe something hard to understand if you've not gone through it but it just became a real concern of mine that my surgical status be kept absolutely private.

Now, I am much more relaxed about so many things, I commented to my partner just today that a whole load of my inhibitions have just disappear and, aside from the fact that I really need to get a load of exercise and tone up, I don't have any hang-ups about my body anymore. I might not be the most attractive person in the world, but I'm really me now and that is all that matters.

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