The Real Life Test

Chapter Thirteen
The Surgery

October 1994


Chapter One: 1993
Chapter Two: November 30-December 16
Chapter Three: December 17-January 1
Chapter Four: January 1994
Chapter Five: February 1994
Chapter Six: March 1994
Chapter Seven: April 1994
Chapter Eight: May 1994
Chapter Nine: June 1994
Chapter Ten: July 1994
Chapter Eleven: August 1994
Chapter Twelve: September 1994
Chapter Thirteen: October 1994
Chapter Fourteen: November 1994

Saturday, October 1

"Just another hour," I promised myself at 9:00 A.M. The Hampton Inn was cozy, dark, and comfortable. Finally I dragged myself to the shower. The sound of activity awoke Margaux and we finished dressing and loading the car by 10:00.

We took just a few minutes to stop by Lee's trailer. She was so glad to meet Margaux, and Margaux was impressed with Lee's sincerity. After Lee prayed for us, Margaux said, "Becky, I've never heard anybody just have a conversation with God like Lee does."

I agreed. "She and the Lord go back a long way."

I wonder if I'll ever see Lee Frances Heller again.

I began today's trip as the driver. Margaux picked out the road music for my leaving Jackson for good: "Orinoco Flow" by Enya. As I turned onto Interstate 20 heading west, we were singing "sail away, sail away, sail away."

Sheryl's famous Pink Cookies were a delicious and familiar taste, as were the bite size blueberry muffins. We had first class road food as we left the Vicksburg casinos behind and entered Louisiana.

"Yuck, Vicksburg," Margaux laughed. "I remember how they turned you down last spring. It was their loss."

I adopted my best Dustin Hoffman "Rain Man" deadpan to intone, "Vicksburg sucks." We had a good joke at the expense of the doctors of the Vicksburg Clinic.

Monroe, Ruston, Minden... Louisiana flew by. I turned the wheel over to Margaux just past Shreveport. We had a mild scare in the middle of Nowhere, East Texas, when we both failed to notice the near empty gas gauge, but we made it to a service station with a half gallon to spare. Margaux enjoyed driving through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, even with the highway construction west of Fort Worth making it a challenge.

About 11:00 P.M. we arrived in Abilene and found the Comfort Inn downtown We had a sandwich at the nearby Subway before turning in. An even longer drive lay ahead tomorrow.

Sunday, October 2

After our complimentary breakfast, we were back on the Interstate by 10:00. We listened to Tangerine Dream, Tori Amos, Ultravox, Aerosmith, and more. There was no lack for good road music. This was fortunate, since the road between Abilene and Interstate 10 has to be the most boring stretch of highway in America. I had always heard about the flat expanse of West Texas. The Permian Basin, the flat bed of a giant inland sea in prehistoric time, offered only mesquite and oil wells to break the monotony. Midland and Odessa rose out of the plain like misplaced metropolises. What are they doing here? Even the kudzu of Mississippi and Georgia was more interesting.

Our new home in Arizona is infinitely preferable to any of them. I can't believe one state has so much natural beauty.

Finally the mountain ranges of the Big Bend broke the monotony. We had a pizza in Van Horn and watched the local boys show off their pet iguanas. Margaux drove us up the Rio Grande Valley into El Paso and New Mexico.

Unfortunately, darkness prevented us from seeing the best sights of the trip in southwestern New Mexico and southeast Arizona. On I-10 we could look south for miles and see city lights: Tombstone? Douglas? Whatever. One of my favorite sights was Tucson and the Holiday Inn. After nearly a thousand miles we were exhausted.

Monday, October 3

Tucson is an interesting place in its own right. One day soon we'll come down here and spend a day or two. For now, however, we were more than ready to get to our new home. The drive up Interstate 10 to Phoenix was easy.

Around 1:00 P.M. we arrived at Las Brisas and went to the leasing office. "Hello, can I help you?" we were greeted by a new manager.

I just smiled. "Yes, we're here to move in."

We signed the remaining paperwork and I gave my check for $807.87. Our apartment was spotlessly clean. The view from the balcony and dining room was just as we had imagined it: eucalyptus trees, the ducks on the Arizona Canal, and Squaw Peak in the background.

We unloaded our few possessions from the car, and found a nearby motel. The Hampton Inn was spartan but adequate, and featured a free breakfast buffet. We checked in, relaxed, and watched "The Mask" on pay television.

Tuesday, October 4

I had the breakfast and brought sleepyhead a doughnut and Coke. We returned to the apartment in plenty of time before the telephone installers arrived. To our pleasant surprise, they connected the phones up just right, so I have my private line in my bedroom, and we share a ringmaster service on the other lines.

We called and made an appointment for television cable connection, and I arranged for delivery of the Arizona Republic. I have to get my daily news somehow.

This afternoon we went grocery shopping, and prepared our first meal in our new apartment. Okay, so it was Healthy Choice frozen dinners. We didn't have cooking utensils yet. But we are home now; at least until time to go back to the motel.

Wednesday, October 5

Margaux had a busy day, now that she has her phone lines in service again. Between Warren's and the Mikon account, she earned her money today.

I had an interesting day also, with my first Phoenix electrology appointment. The Gregory System office was so easy to find. For that matter, everything around here is so easy to find. I am glad to be living in central Phoenix for convenience' sake.

Dianne and Dee were expecting me; they were longtime friends of Sandra from Gregory System Jackson. My session was very effective in clearing all the regrowth. I made an appointment for the Friday after I return from Neenah.

Tonight, after supper at Houlihan's in Biltmore Fashion Park, we went to Paradise Valley Mall to the movies. Margaux had not seem "Forrest Gump." I knew she would love it. I was right; but I forgot to bring enough Kleenex for the two of us.

Thursday, October 6

We had seen enough of the Hampton Inn. "Let's check out," I told Margaux. "We can sleep on the blankets and pillows on the floor." She agreed.

It was a frustrating day automobile-wise. First I tried to get my Arizona tag. The emissions inspection was easy enough, but when I went to get the tag itself, I could not find my certificate of title. The clerk was very helpful, but could only tell me where to call in Georgia to get a duplicate title. I called and left a voice mail message. You never talk to real human beings at these offices any more.

Later Margaux tried to get her driver's license. I decided to wait till after surgery so I could be sure and get my "F". She was ready; but the office would not accept her temporary Georgia license. She was so angry. Now she will have to try to get her permanent Georgia license by having Joe mail it to her. This could get complicated.

Finally we had straightened the apartment up enough for the movers. I spread our blanket and pillows on the floor and we settled in for a somewhat restless night.

Friday, October 7

We both were stiff and sore after sleeping on the floor. We tried to straighten up and get ready for the movers, but at 1:00 we got another unpleasant surprise: the moving van had broken down in New Mexico. They will not be here till tomorrow morning. I was as unhappy on the phone as mild-mannered Becky can be, but there was nothing anyone could do.

I called the recruitment office and asked if we could get authorization for one more night under the circumstances. They were quite agreeable, and so I said, "Margaux, let's have a treat tonight. No more Hampton Inn. I'll show you the Ritz."

We packed just enough for an overnight, and checked into the finest hotel on the list. I remembered how I had enjoyed my room service breakfasts in July, and so I suggested we order an early supper. She ordered a shrimp linguini, and I had angel hair pasta with julienne of vegetables and Alfredo sauce. The desserts - her chocolate mousse and my Grand Marnier créme brulèe - were exquisite.

We celebrated at Biltmore Fashion Park across the street. In Borders Bookstore there were two live musical performances, one by a Native American playing hand carved flutes, the other by an ASU professor in the coffeeshop upstairs.

This is just the type of bohemian, intellectual lifestyle in which we will both thrive. Phoenix hasn't disappointed us yet.

Saturday, October 8

Finally the move-in day arrived. We checked out of the Ritz early and drove home. Within an hour Mr. Mullinix, our driver, knocked on our door. The next five hours were filled with decisions: No, let's put the rug under the dining table; there's no room for the wicker etagere inside, let's put it on the balcony; where does the computer desk go? Finally we were unloaded, if not unpacked. We spent hours trying to settle our things in place.

That evening we made our practice run to the airport. Margaux negotiated it without difficulty, and I know I can trust her driving skills. We treated ourselves to a hamburger and fries at Fuddrucker's close to the apartment. Then it was back to more of the unpacking.

Finally around eleven I fell exhausted across my bed, still with only a mattress and pillow. The linens are packed somewhere.

Sunday, October 9

Who needed bed linens? I slept like a log until the six o'clock alarm. I showered quickly, made a pot of coffee, and packed lightly. I only took two outfits, one for the trip to Neenah and one for the return home. For returning I chose the loose fitting denim jumper for comfort. I wanted to look nice for the trip today, and since fall has returned, I chose my Navajo blanket skirt with ruffled indigo blouse.

Margaux had absolutely no trouble in getting me to the airport. I could sense her apprehension in driving by herself these two weeks, but I reassured her she will do just fine. She waited at the gate with me until time to board.

I'm so glad to have a friend like Margaux. Of course, that works both ways: she has a pretty good friend in me also.

The America West flight took three hours to reach Milwaukee International. As I exited the plane I saw a tall, fiftyish woman scanning the crowd. I suspected I had found Kristin, and I smiled broadly as I approached her.

"Becky?" she mouthed the word. I grinned and nodded. "Good heavens, girl, you look wonderful," she exclaimed as we hugged.

Kristin's apartment is not too far from the airport. We had plenty of time to relax and learn each other's stories. She is a few years older than me; her two grown sons are a little more accepting than my Mark, but her ex is not as friendly as Sheryl. Kristin transitioned on the job at the Milwaukee Transit Authority. She had her surgery in Neenah about four months ago.

We had supper at a little neighborhood Italian restaurant before turning in to rest up for our busy day tomorrow.

Monday, October 10

Perhaps it was the excitement and anticipation, but I was up before the alarm. I showered and packed quickly and composed a short message for my Compuserve friends. Then we were off in the brisk morning air (35 degrees in Wisconsin). Kristin took the scenic route past Kettle Morraine State Forest so we could see the fall foliage. Northeast Wisconsin was at its foliage peak; the crimson, bronze, and lemon colors made it a day to remember.

We had a late breakfast in Fond du Lac ("Your last meal," she joked,) and drove up the shore of Lake Winnebago to Oskhosh and then to Neenah. Close to the hospital is a lovely park on the lakeshore. The sign for boaters says "Welcome to Neenah. Speed Limit 5 MPH." It's a local tradition with the preop girls to have our pictures made at that sign, so I struck a provocative pose.

"Oh, we're here, we're here," I giggled like a teenager. Dr. Schrang's office is just across the street from the hospital. I had a good visit with Jackie and Jan, his office personnel. Kristin went in first for her postoperative check (everything was fine), and then I was summoned back to Gene Schrang's office.

"Hello, Becky. It's good to see you again." Goodness, I thought, he really does remember me from the Harry Benjamin Society meeting a year ago. Gene has ruggedly handsome facial features and blond wavy hair.

I was very relaxed as we discussed my procedure. I won one of my requests (no skin graft - hooray) but yielded to him on the other (inframammary incisions for the breast implants). He reassured me he could leave less scar and have less soreness that way. I was very glad to get the $500.00 refund check for the skin graft payment.

I noticed a magnificent piece of furniture behind Dr. Schrang's chair. "This is lovely. Is it mahogany?"

"Yes. I made it myself." I had given him a good straight line. "I make beautiful furniture and beautiful vaginas."

I like this guy.

Kristin helped me get checked into Theda Clark Regional Medical Center, room 250 A. It was her old room! She wondered if I would get the "guardian angel" pin. It seems that someone started the tradition months ago, that one girl passes the pin on to another who is just arriving as she is leaving after her recovery. We didn't really know if I would get it or not, since Dr. Schrang had just returned from vacation and I was his first patient on return.

Susan Webster from California is Dr. Schrang's second case for tomorrow. She stopped by my room and we had a nice visit. Susan's parents are so supportive; her father has even flown out her with her.

I began the toughest assignment of all: drinking four liters of NuLytely. This lemon lime flavored solution is full of PEG for a laxative, and sodium and potassium salts to replace what I lost. "Don't sip it like fine champagne," teased the nurse. "Guzzle it like cheap beer." After about a liter and a half, I was sick of the taste, but I kept at it until it was all gone. Then there was magnesium sulfate to complete the cleansing, and erythromycin and Neomycin to sterilize the gut flora.

My nurses were so kind and understanding. Martha, the nursing assistant, shaved me and had me shower. Then she painted me front and back with Betadine. I signed further op permits, had a good long talk with the Lord, and settled back to let the Dalmane do its work.

Just before I dropped off to sleep Martha re-entered the room. "We have one other thing to pin onto your I.D. bracelet," she said. "Have you heard of our guardian angel pin?" With that good omen I let the sweet dreams begin.

Tuesday, October 11

At six o'clock I emptied my bladder and lay back down for my preop injection of Demerol, Vistaril, and atropine. I must admit, I never had the slightest reservation about what was about to happen. I've been through years of psychotherapy, and resolved my doubts. Now my day had arrived, and it's just business as usual, let's get on with it.

I was wheeled down to surgery where I met my anesthesiologist. He started the intravenous line, and the next five hours are nowhere in my memory. The main surprise I felt on awakening back in my room was the lack of any intense pain.

I have had sex reassignment surgery. I, Becky Allison, am now physically female.

Of course, I couldn't see my new genitalia for all the packing. But it was very obvious that the previous occupants of that space were no longer present. Finally, I'm right. Thank you Lord.

What I could see were my breasts. Goodness, 250 cc. on each side makes a difference. Now I can hang out at the pool with Margaux, I laughed to myself.

The afternoon passed easily as I napped further. Michelle sent a beautiful cut flower arrangement, with pink roses and baby's breath. The nurses told me Susan's surgery also went well, and her father stopped by to say hello to me. I had a bowl of sherbet for supper, then listened to some of my tapes before going to sleep.

Wednesday, October 12

My first night of being fully female was punctuated by occasional vital signs. The nurses are so solicitous. I know I'm getting the best possible nursing care. At 8:00 my breakfast arrived: bacon, eggs, toast and oatmeal! I was hungry enough for it all.

I was given an incentive spirometer and shown how to use it. I can pull 2500 to 3000 cc. on a deep inspiration, which seems to satisfy everyone. I'm taking cephalexin for an antibiotic, and vitamins and stool softeners. Plus I resumed my estrogen, spironolactone, and Rogaine.

Dr. Schrang visited me about 11:00. He told me he was very pleased with my result. "I could have gotten a little more depth with a skin graft," he said, "but you will have enough depth if you are faithful to dilate." I assured him I would be.

He also made an interesting request of me. "A film crew will be here this weekend," he said. "They are taping a story about my surgery for the Playboy Channel, and asked if one of my current patients would be willing to appear with me. Of course, we can use a pseudonym to protect your anonymity. Would you think about it?"

I assured him I would consider it. Really, as long as my name is not released, I don't see the harm in it. These Playboy interviews are serious television, not cheesecake. If I can help others to understand just what transsexualism is, then I'll be glad to help.

Margaux called to check on me. She sounded well, but I could tell she was lonely. I'll be anxious to see her soon. She faxed some documents for my hospital credentialing, so I could sign them and return them by our hospital fax here.

Around 5:00 my new roommate appeared. Margaret is from Denver, Colorado. We all thought it interesting: Margaret, Susan, and I are all from the West, but none of us had our surgery with Dr. Biber. Speaking for myself, I'm confident I made the right choice.

Poor Margaret... I watched sympathetically as she drank her gallon of NuLytely. She had the whole shave and scrub prep as I had had Monday night. She is also getting a skin graft, so her recovery will be delayed.

Supper was palatable, for hospital food. I still had some gas pains but they were very mild. I slept tonight without the aid of Dalmane.

Thursday, October 13

I awoke with the early preparations for Margaret's surgery, and decided to stay awake. I'm really feeling much better than I expected at this point. Around 10:00 I called Sheryl in Jackson. She seemed really glad to hear from me. "I was going to call you today," she said. We had a good chat and I told her how well I was doing. Sheryl has made progress towards acceptance and understanding. She is one of the world's special persons.

Today is the semiannual "Canton flea market" day in one of Jackson's suburbs, so Sheryl's friends from Amory were driving down and will spend tonight with her. I wished her the best and told her I would talk to her again soon.

Margaret returned to the room around 1:00 and continued to sleep for some time. My nurses helped me set up my computer and modem, so I could answer my E-mail. I listened to one of my books on tape, John Grisham's "The Chamber".

During the course of the evening I had calls from Michelle, Carrie, Kristin, and Jeanne. How fortunate I am to have so many caring friends.

How do I feel? Everyone wants to know. Well, I feel good. I feel right. No bands are playing fanfares, no birds are singing. But life is finally the way it has always been supposed to be all my life. Now let's get on with the rest of it.

Friday, October 14

Breakfast is the best meal here. I had scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, toast, cereal, and orange juice. The other meals tend towards blandness, but I'm not here for the gourmet food. The nursing care is wonderful. Everyone is so attentive. I really appreciate them spending so much time with me.

Dr. Schrang says I'm doing great. There is hardly any soreness, just a little in the groins and none in the breasts. I still can't see my vagina enough to form an opinion. (Of course, it's still such a shock to use the words "my" and "vagina" in the same sentence.)

I met the representative from the Playboy Channel today. She assured me they could use a pseudonym to protect my identity. I still haven't decided for certain, but I am leaning towards giving the interview.

More phone calls kept me in touch with Barbara, Felicia, Angela, Lee, and Margaux. All my friends are so kind. This afternoon the nurses moved me to a private room; I have two windows, wood floors, and lots of space.

For me, Dr. Eugene Schrang and Theda Clark Regional Medical Center were definitely the right choice.

Saturday, October 15

I slept so well in my private room. The morning nursing routine includes breakfast, brushing teeth, bedpan, and a sponge bath. I just relax and let them do their work. I've been around nurses all my life, and certainly appreciate good nursing care.

While being bathed, I had an opportunity to use my mirror and inspect the surgical results. So far I like what I see. The catheter and packing do not completely obscure the labia and clitoris. It sure beats what used to be there.

I'm feeling well enough to get a little bored with bed rest. Fortunately, I have enough entertainment. The Macintosh allows me not only to keep my journal, but to play games such as Shanghai, Oxyd, and Tetris. On my Panasonic tape player I can listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter, Don McLean, Van Morrison, Gin Blossoms, Marillion... rather eclectic tastes.

I finished listening to "The Chamber". Perhaps this is heresy for a Mississippian, but John Grisham needs to get a new subject area. His books are monotonous. I did think "The Client" made a good movie, but that's about the best I can say. But he's the millionaire and I'm not. I'll start on "Fear of Fifty" tomorrow.

I had two more phone calls. A friend from Atlanta, Monica, called to congratulate me. Dr. Schrang did her SRS last spring, and her results inspired me to contact Dr. Schrang in the first place. "Say hello to Martha for me," she insisted. I understand why everyone is so fond of Martha. She is the sweetest and most understanding nurses' aide I could possibly have.

"Just wait, Becky," Monica laughed. "You'll find that G spot soon, and then you won't ever be bored."

"You're so bad, Monica," I giggled. Of course, I hope she's right.

Jerry Montgomery called later. He was relieved to know how well I am doing. Now he will have reason to include Dr. Schrang in his list of recommended surgeons. I promised to keep him updated on my progress. Jerry was not in favor of my going on television, and I suppose he is right.

Al brought my Dalmane around 10:00, and I slept soundly till daybreak.

Sunday, October 16

The mid-October weather is perfect in the Fox Cities area. (That's the name of this region around the Fox River and Lake Winnebago. It includes Oshkosh, Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, and Fond du Lac. Some would also include Green Bay.) The television says the fall foliage is at its peak this week.

I decided not to appear on television. Dr. Schrang agreed with my choice; Susan was happy to take my place. I did meet the woman who was featured along with Dr. Schrang in the interview. She is from outside Atlanta, but I had never heard of her. She was very sweet and complimentary of my results.

This Sunday afternoon was a little lonely. "Fear of Fifty," unfortunately, was boring. Tomorrow I will be able to get up, wash my hair, shower, and put on my gown and robe. For now, I'm still confined to bed, and I'm thinking about all that lies before me when I return to Phoenix and to work.

I wish Margaux were here.

Oh well, I've come so far already. I have much more of my difficult journey already completed, compared to what lies ahead. Time just to take a deep breath and smile at the woman in the mirror.

When I was around age nine, the first time I ever heard of a person having sex reassignment surgery, I dreamed of this day. And it really did happen. Never again will I be reminded of those unwanted things between my legs. It's still a little hard to believe.

Monday, October 17

Impatiently I waited after breakfast for Dr. Schrang. And I waited some more. In retrospect, I should have been giving myself a little of the IV Demerol while I waited.

He arrived around 10:30 with two of my nurses and went to work. First they removed the IV from my right wrist and put a gauze bandage over the site. Then the Foley catheter was deflated and removed. There was some bladder spasm associated with that, but nothing unbearable.

It got worse. Removal of the tape binders around my breasts was the most painful experience so far. He left the ends of the retention sutures to be removed later. Then he looked at the rubber drains in my labia. One had already fallen out, and the other was easily extracted. But he had saved the worst for last.

A wire retention suture held my neovagina in place, and was anchored through the abdominal skin around a large cotton pledget. Dr. Schrang was as gentle as he could be in cutting the wire and removing the suture, but there was no way to avoid about ten or fifteen seconds of severe pain. I apologized for crying.

That was all. The vaginal packing would remain in place until Wednesday. Now the big question was: would I be able to urinate now that the catheter was removed? Martha and Mary Ann each held one arm, helping me stand at bedside and walk to the bathroom. They slowly lowered me onto the toilet. I rested and took lots of time. Finally the blessed event occurred; I could avoid repeat catheterization. Plus, the stream goes in the right direction. I was still unsteady enough to need help getting back to bed.

The day got better. After a little lunch and rest I was up again. I showered and washed my hair. I was introduced to the inflatable "doughnut" pillow, obviously one of the world's great inventions. I can sit in chairs!

I put on my robe and walked in the hall a little. I stayed up most of the afternoon, visiting my friends Susan and Margaret. Margaret had a new roommate, Stephanie, who was just getting introduced to the NuLytely. She therefore wasn't able to have much of a conversation. I did enjoy Margaret very much, and hope to keep in touch with her occasionally.

About six o'clock the fatigue hit me. I couldn't find a comfortable position. I was exhausted and hardly ate any of my supper. Oh, wow, had I overdone it. I collapsed into bed, removed my contacts, and said in effect "don't call me, I'll call you." I cried over being alone. I cried over Mark. I cried just for the sake of crying. The nurses were used to this. They held my hand, helped me to and from the bathroom as needed, and brought my Dalmane early. I covertly supplemented the Dalmane with one of my Toradol. By the time Kathy McMinn called about 10:30, I was improved enough to carry on an intelligent conversation.

I asked for a Bible and turned to Psalm 42:8: "The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime; and in the night His song will be with me, and my prayer to the God of my life." With His song comforting me, I slept soundly once again.

Tuesday, October 18

Martha laughed as she brought breakfast in. "You are going to take it slower this morning, young lady." I offered no rebuttal. The morning toilet did go very well. I put on makeup for the first time since surgery.

I tried on my Victoria's Secret Second Skin Satin bra. It's a 36C and had been a rather loose fit before. Well, it's not loose now!. I fill every speck of it. I doubt if I will be needing any more Wonderbras.

With a phone call from Michelle, and E-mail from Patricia, I had good news to start my morning. This was a much better day. Dr. Schrang was very pleased with my progress. I had my picture made with Jinny, one of my favorite R.N.'s, and made Craig's picture also. The rest will be done tomorrow.

I strolled the halls... slowly. Margaret was doing fine. Stephanie was anxiously awaiting her call to the O.R. Susan was actually getting ready for discharge today, a day early, so her parents could take her back to California tomorrow.

And I get to go to Phoenix day after tomorrow. I'm so ready to see Margaux. I have really wondered these last few days: what is going on with my sexuality? Are we just best friends, or are we about to be lovers? We both tell each other on the phone, "I love you and miss you." She sent me a fax and signed it "with love".

Before surgery I would not let myself consider these feelings. But now... I don't know. I really don't know. I didn't do this for the purpose of having sex. But if it happens, it may be better than ever before. And I care about Margaux very much.

I think this is something that doesn't have to be decided right now.

The sunrooms and elevators of Theda Clark Medical Center were so pleasant after my enforced bed rest. I bought a Halloween marshmallow candy in the gift shop. I laughed and showed them my armbands: "I'm not a diabetic." It's refreshing to be back interactive in society again.

I did not experience the fatigue as yesterday. Kristin called, as did my friend Roberta Lee from the Atlanta support group. Tonight was a much better night.

Wednesday, October 19

I was first up around 6:30 to the bathroom. I noticed the packing had already started to loosen, and suspected its removal would not be difficult. Dr. Schrang was very early on his morning rounds. "Well, young lady," he said, "let's get you out of here." I was correct; I felt hardly any discomfort.

He gave me printed sheets of instructions and went over them with me. I would stop by the office with Kristin and pick up my prescriptions, and the letter for legal purposes saying I was now female.

And then he was gone to the next room. This man whom I had trusted with my life; who had permanently altered my body; who had done such an expert job.... had other, sicker patients to attend.

I hope to see Gene Schrang again in 1995, when I return for my labiaplasty. Until then, I will miss him.

No checkout was necessary. I had prepaid my hospital bill, so I said my goodbyes to the nurses and waited for my ride.

Kristin arrived right on time around 12:30. She had been in Janesville at the dermatologist's office, where he uses laser surgery to remove an old tattoo on her upper arm. The process is very painful and takes several sessions. I waited in the car as she picked up my materials from the office, and we took the freeway back to Milwaukee.

No restaurant meal tonight: She had prepared a delicious chicken casserole. We enjoyed our visit until I fatigued. After I dilated with "Rooster", my new red dilator, she helped me with douching for the first time. "Don't worry about measuring a teaspoon of vinegar. Just pour a little in the bag." That seemed to work all right.

I'm having much less pain than I anticipated. We went to sleep early, since I had an early morning flight to Phoenix.

Thursday, October 20

Ahh... really good morning coffee. How long it had been. Kristin helped me pack and load the car. It was an easy drive from her home in Greenfield to the airport. She walked to the gate with me and helped me get priority boarding on the America West flight. The attendant promised me someone would meet me with a wheelchair at Phoenix. I gave one last hug to Kristin, who had to hurry now to get to work.

I had a window seat, and the aisle seat was occupied by a very nice woman from Wisconsin who was going to Phoenix on business. The middle seat was empty. The flight couldn't have been any nicer. I napped until the captain announced our approach, then I looked out at the Superstition Mountains and the blue water of Bartlett and Roosevelt Lakes. The East Valley suburbs quickly came into view.

I was home.

The wheelchair attendant was right on time, and he wheeled me out to a smiling Margaux. Oh, I was so glad to see her. I think the feeling was mutual. We picked up my baggage and made it easily to the car.

She told me of her driving adventures in my absence. This was really a good experience for Margaux, to be independent for those ten days. I know she will be a wonderful driver.

How sweet it was to turn into Las Brisas. I took the steps slowly, even though I was already feeling my strength return. Margaux had done a lot of unpacking in my absence.

And what wonderful presents she had for me. She made wrapping paper with a "he2she" logo for the compact disc she bought me: "Watermark" by Enya, the disc we played when driving out of Jackson for the last time. Two helium balloons showed a baby with a big smile, looking into her diaper and announcing, "I'm a GIRL." She even made me a doormat to walk across to enter my new female life.

It was "show and tell" time. I lay on my bed and let Margaux inspect the results. "Becky,' she said proudly, "this is the best early surgical result I have ever seen." I was proud of that. It did look good to me - better even than Theresa's - but it was affirming to have another opinion.

I rested, drank lots of cranberry juice, and ate lots of pasta. The mail had accumulated. As I read it, I was a little overwhelmed over how much there was for me to do. "How will I ever get it all done?" I wondered. As Gail might have said, I was "having a moment". Margaux settled me down, and reassured me I could attack the tasks one at a time.

I slept so well in my own bed.

Friday, October 21

A good night's rest does wonders. I had breakfast and was in good shape for my electrolysis at 11:00. Dianne and Dee were very interested in my story, and I enjoyed their company. By the time I finished at Gregory System, I was getting tired. Time to come home, take more iron and vitamins, and rest.

Later in the afternoon I went to Drug Emporium and got prescriptions for my pain medicine (Vicodin, similar to Lortab) and my spironolactone. After my third dilatation of the day, I joined Margaux for supper. I was pleased to see I felt well enough to get out for a few hours. We went to Borders book store and browsed. I found a Betty Crocker microwave cookbook on sale for two dollars, and a book of essays by Lewis Thomas also on sale. Margaux likewise found a design book she had been looking for in Atlanta.

We enjoyed our ususal cappucino and espressso upstairs at Borders before taking the night drive back home.

Saturday, October 22

Other than a bathroom visit at 6:30, I was oblivious to the morning until 10:00. It was wonderful to have a leisurely morning. Dilatation and douching were easy and not at all unpleasant. I made coffee and had toast and cereal while reading the morning paper. Margaux was asleep with her door closed, so I busied myself with unpacking more kitchen supplies.

Finally at 1:30 I knocked on her door. "Oh... good morning," she finally volunteered.

"Actually, no." I laughed. When I told her the time, she explained that she had been up until 8:00 A.M. reading one of the books she bought last night. I'm so glad to see her regain an interest in getting ahead in her design study.

We had a quiet, relaxed Saturday. Kristin called; she had been very upset when her son canceled her visit at the last moment. "I'm just not ready for this," he had said. I am sure Mark would be the same way.

I got a nice letter from Dave, my friend and stockbroker. He is finally referring to me as Becky. As he explains, my old friends are not antagonistic toward me. They just don't understand; the common statement is "I thought he was happy." I decided to compose a letter to Dave in a few days. I'll also need to use the form he sent me to withdraw some money from my I.R.A.

Tonight we found a different coffee house: The Bean Tree, located right down the street in the Palo Verde Plaza shopping center. It's much more relaxed than the Coffee Plantation. We enjoyed (her) espressso and (my) cappucino as we listened to the local blues singer. Many local couples, often same sex, came and went.

Afterwards we rode down Glendale/Lincoln to Scottsdale, up to Thunderbird, and back home. We are learning so much about our new home.

I made friends with "Rooster" once more before going to bed.

Sunday, October 23

I'm still not feeling well enough to go to church, so I slept late and watched a little television. I must admit, however, my recovery is progressing much faster than I expected. I can be out of bed most of every day, and hardly ever have to take any pain medication.

Margaux has a new software program, Claris Organizer, a combination contact manager and calendar. It's the best I have seen. I installed it on my powerbook and began making my contact list.

The day was gorgeous with temperatures in the mid 80's and low humidity. It hasn't rained since I returned. Margaux wanted to go for a desert drive, and I took the map to navigate for her. We drove out past Cave Creek and Carefree toward Bartlett Reservoir. The natural beauty is overwhelming. One resort called the Boulders features rock formations looking like they were stacked by giants. It looks like nothing I have ever seen before.

"Eating out once a week is good for the soul," I announced. We found a good home cooked American style meal at Marie Callender's restaurant. The pot roast plate added some calories and strength for me. I was more than filled, but I know I need meals like this to rebuild my depleted energy sources.

Monday, October 24

Driver's license day! We slept a bit late, to be well rested. I packed my letter from Dr. Schrang, as well as the court order for my name change. I hoped I would need neither, just my Georgia license and my Social Security card. Anticipating a photo, I dressed well in my blue linen column dress.

The session really went well. Neither Margaux or I had to take the written test. Her letter from Georgia was satisfactory, and we paid our fees and were issued temporary licenses.

I did feel compelled to disclose Dr. Schrang's letter, since a prominent notice stated that it was a crime to give false information. I knew if they checked back to Georgia, they would see the "M" on my records. Fortunately, the clerk had no trouble with my documents. I think all will go well.

Obviously, I didn't return to work yet. I heard from the licensure board saying I still needed statements from the Mississippi and Georgia licensure boards to complete my application. It was too late in the day to resolve that problem, so I put it off till tomorrow, with the appropriate notation on my Claris Organizer.

Tuesday, October 25

Bright and early (well, after the morning routine), I wrote both licensure boards and called Ms. Quinnelly at the Mississippi licensure board. She assured me she would be in contact with Arizona immediately. I couldn't get anyone to answer at Georgia, but I went ahead and sent my Fedex, labeling it "SECOND REQUEST". I am getting so close to having everything complete.

We had a pleasant surprise on the telephone today. Felice called from Atlanta to check on us. She and Holly are still planning to be here for a week in January, when Holly has a performance scheduled. Felice is very interested in my results from Dr. Schrang, and I am recommending him to her. I'm trying to talk her into having her breast augmentation at the same time.

This afternoon Margaux said, "Becky, I want to buy you a present." I had an idea what it was, and was very curious to see if I was correct. Sure enough, she drove us to "Castle Boutique: Knights and Damsels Welcome." It's an adult book and toy store. I used to hate to go inside such places as Brian; but now, as Margaux says, we are so bulletproof that we can go in without any fear.

She was right. I had no anxiety, and the place was as clean and "upscale" as any such establishment I have seen. We laughed at the magazines and videos, especially the transvestite and she-male section. Then we looked for my present.

It was a dilator, bigger in diameter than "Rooster", longer, and covered in flexible latex. "Do you really think I'm ready for that?" I whispered.

"I've watched you. You're increasing depth already. You can take this." We also bought the batteries.

Back at the apartment I poured myself a glass of cranberry juice (bet you thought I was going to say wine, didn't you?) and settled back onto the bed.

All I'll say about it is: Margaux was right. I'm ready. And the batteries do make a difference.

Wednesday, October 26

Wednesday is the day the Arizona Board of Medical Licensure takes calls regarding the status of license applications. I was on the phone at 10:00 A.M. The clerk was very helpful, and I updated them on the status of my application. They promised me they would send my temporary license by certified mail just as soon as it is approved.

I also spoke with the Central Credentialing Committee regarding my status on the hospital staff application. They needed a little more information from George Reston and Dr. Lehan, so I promised them I would call and expedite that.

I'm feeling well enough to do the little tasks now, such as finding a drycleaner for three of my favorite dresses. The shopping center with Albertson's and Blockbusters has a Tower Cleaners, so I tried them first, combining it with a grocery run. Margaux is still doing the cooking, but I'm getting anxious to participate.

Tonight I waited until I knew George would be home, so I wouldn't disturb him at the office. He answered his home number around 9:00 Jackson time. He answered and seemed glad to hear from me. Carrie had told him about my surgery. George said he would be glad to check tomorrow on the material for Arizona Credentialing.

When I hung up from George, the phone rang almost immediately. It was Robert in Atlanta. "Becky," he began, "what's the antidote for four Long Island Ice Teas?"

"Robert, what in the world are you saying?"

Robert was very upset over a phone conversation with his mother. He had called the phone company to change his number so she wouldn't have access to him and Jeanne. I talked to Jeanne a little and tried to settle Robert down. I felt helpless, being so far away. I'll check with them on Compuserve soon.

Thursday, October 27

I completed my phone calls to Mississippi with a message to Dr. Lehan's office at the University Medical Center. His secretary told me they had received another fax from the Arizona licensure board, and it would be answered today. I thanked her and tried to impress her with the urgency of the situation.

We finished supper early tonight and went to the Bean Tree. The owner, David, sat in the courtyard and chatted with us for nearly two hours. We talked about politics, religion, all the usual taboos. He had had a serious head injury several years ago. As he said, "I died." I thought to myself, no, you didn't die; you had to be resuscitated so you wouldn't die. Anyway, he didn't see God during that experience, so he has no belief in God. Margaux and I gently injected a little Christian thought into the conversation, knowing that later he would consider us friends enough to further the conversation.

We stayed a little too long. I had a second double cappucino, and Margaux had a house specialty which is a double/double espresso. Needless to say, she was wired for hours. I myself had lots of trouble getting to sleep, and it was after 2 A.M. when I finally stopped watching the clock.

Friday, October 28

After such a fitful sleep, we both were close to eleven getting up. I decided it was time for a good brunch, so I fixed our first puffy omelet in Arizona. Margaux and I both love this dish, made by beating the yolks and whites separately and then folding the yolks into the whites. I cook it on the stovetop first, then put it in the oven to finish browning the top. With a ham and cheese cream sauce it is delicious.

The afternoon was time to take care of some business. I wrote Sheryl and told her of my trip home, and how I was recovering. I mailed her checks with the letter, and went to the bank and to a hardware store to get a car key made for Margaux

When I returned, Margaux was sunning at the pool. I wouldn't get completely immersed, but I did want to put on my bathing suit and join her. It is wonderful not to have to worry about that unsightly bulge. I'm healing so quickly, nothing I wear is hurting my pelvic area. We sat and swung our legs over the edge of the hot tub. The jets of water were as good as a foot rub.

No cappucino tonight! We sat on the balcony and listened to the owls, dove, and ducks around the canal. I still can't believe we live in such a lovely place.

Saturday, October 29

It felt good to sleep late. At 9:45 I yawned, shuffled into the kitchen, and made a pot of coffee. I enjoyed the morning paper with a bowl of cereal and the ever present cranberry juice. After my morning routine, I felt much stronger.

Margaux awoke around noon, and we did a little more housecleaning. I checked my E-mail and had a nice note from Cindy in Belgium. It's interesting how few phone calls we get from Atlanta now; out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. Theresa has not called yet to check on me.

Early in the afternoon I announced, "this is my day to treat myself. I'm going to the mall."

"Good idea," Margaux agreed. "You deserve a little play time."

I stopped at the cleaners to pick up my dresses, and rented a movie ("My Cousin Vinny") from Blockbuster. Then I drove over to Metrocenter Mall and stopped first at Circuit City. I bought a long audio cable for the VCR, and started getting prices on a CD changer and a tower to hold our discs. Then I treated myself to my first CD since the move: "Voodoo Lounge" by the Rolling Stones. The old guys still know how to make music.

Then I went to the Prescriptives counter at Dillard's. Joni was glad to see me, and I apologized for missing my appointment earlier. We spent a good bit of time as she showed me the right shades of makeup for my eye concealer, shadows, lipstick, and blush. We kept trying till we got each one exactly right, just as she had previously done with the foundation.

I was very glad to get the coordinated makeup, and I like this line much better than the Clinique I had been using. In retrospect, I think I was using Clinique just because I was familiar with it from Sheryl's use over the years. But this was just another incidence of what's right for me versus what's right for someone else. Now I have found my cosmetic line.

I found some cute Arizona refrigerator magnets at the mall, and some wonderfully comfortable cotton underwear. Just the process of shopping, checking for bargains on the clearance racks, was a treat for the first time in weeks.

Back at Las Brisas I made a recipe of our favorite cornbread, the one using the can of cream style corn, to go with our leftovers. We're still being very frugal with our food budget.

One thing I love about Margaux is her extensive fund of knowledge on so many subjects. Tonight, however, the subject was a bit personal and upsetting to her. I'm not even sure how we brought it up. I think it had to do with the fact I had just had my negative HIV test as part of my preoperative lab work.

Margaux has always been HIV negative also, and has never had any high risk behavior. However, after her surgery in Belgium, she had postoperative bleeding and received a transfusion of a semi-synthetic plasma which was only being tested in clinical trials at that one hospital. She was reassured at the time that it contained no human plasma ingredients, but some time later she was watching television and saw a reference to the product made by Baxter labs. The program stated that this product did indeed contain some components of human plasma. Margaux called Baxter and confirmed the report.

Since then, she has been worried about the possibility she may have contracted HIV (or chronic fatigue or whatever else) from the plasma. And even if she tested positive, no court would believe that the plasma was her only source of exposure. Transsexuals never get the benefit of the doubt.

I could tell how much it upset her. I just suggested we get her tested again. She will probably do so, even though she says a negative test wouldn't reassure her.

I almost feel guilty in some ways. My surgery went so well, in contrast to some of my friends. I give thanks every day.


Sunday, October 30

Some days I feel like bouncing right out of bed and starting my day with a smile. This, however, was not one of those days. I had the aches all over. I shuffled down the hall to make coffee, and found to my pleasant surprise that Margaux had been up around six and brewed the coffee for me. By the time I finished my coffee and cereal, the ibuprofen had had a chance to work. I completed my morning routine and drove to church.

Today I chose the First Methodist Church, on Central Avenue. They have a fairly small sanctuary and a large congregation, so they have three morning worship services. Most of the people at the eleven o'clock service were elderly, but there was a substantial representation from families with young children also. I didn't see many singles. I suspect they attend one of the other services.

I did meet a couple in their 30's from Georgia. He is with the Air Force, stationed here in Phoenix. They are new to the area also and have not decided on a church.

The service was, well, okay. I felt less emphasis on the spiritual and more on the social concerns than was the custom in Roswell. I found myself missing RUMC, and even missing the Baptist church. Probably next Sunday I'll try the Baptists.

Back home Margaux was awake. She and I had a light lunch, then watched "My Cousin Vinny." I laughed and laughed at Joe Pesci. The movie was a good antidote to the blahs. I also called Lee Frances and was glad to hear her doing fairly well.

Interesting fact from Lee: her grandson and wife, who have never heard of me, just had a baby. They named Lee's great-granddaughter "Rebecca Anne". I was so shocked and happy to hear of it. Now I have an accidental namesake somewhere in Virginia.

Tonight we celebrated the second anniversary of Margaux's surgery. She prefers to call it her birthday, and I agree. I took her for a seafood dinner at the Rusty Pelican. I had swordfish and she had king crab legs. We had a wonderful dinner, but my convalescence finally caught up to me on the ride home. I was exhausted by the time I could crawl into bed. I did stay up long enough to give myself a B-12 injection.

Monday, October 31

It's Halloween, the crossdressers' favorite day of the year. I hardly noticed. I don't seem to be interested in costumes right now.

A party would have been nice, though. Joni, at the Prescriptives counter, had told me she and her husband had been planning for two months to host a Halloween party. There would be flying pterodactyls and a full size Loch Ness monster in the pool. It sounds like great fun; maybe next year.

We did drop in at the Bean Tree for cappucino and saw some outrageous costumes, including a headless giant that was a real prizewinner. I never could figure out how the guy could see where he was going!

Sheryl and I never used to get into Halloween or costume parties. I feel so different now, so free to do whatever I wish.

It was a day for writing letters and paying bills. I hope my money from the I.R.A. comes soon. I wrote Mark, as I do every month, expressing an interest in his activities. He never responds, but Sheryl keeps me aware of the events in his life.

We rented movies at Blockbuster and bought a bag of popcorn. Margaux is an expert at picking really obscure, really good movies. Tonight we saw "Patti Rocks". I had never even heard of it, but it was really enjoyable. I've known guys just like Billy and Eddie. (I didn't say I was one, just that I knew them.)


© 1996 Rebecca Anne Allison

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