Saturday, May 31, 2008


This week I had my second follow up appointment and everything looks fine. I am still not supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds or do anything strenuous for the next few weeks while I wait for my first expansion appointment. Kay says that I am awful at not doing anything; and she’s right. I’m just like a horse at the starting gate when I think there is so much that could be done around here. You could say that I sometime fudge a little too much in the things I do around the house to keep myself from going stir crazy; just a little – really, Kay.

The plan for my weekly expansions is to come in once a week for 8 weeks; they need to over inflate the tissue expander so that when they replace that device with the actual implant the breast will have a more natural, rounded and softened breast shape. When we discussed what I initially wanted in the way of breast size, I suggested having the same size ‘D’ cup. I have since realized that by returning to using a smaller bra and the fact that I have back problems, I don’t need to carry around that much extra weight in front. Having a smaller size breast that actually matches each other would be just as pleasing to me.

When I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room I finally noticed how much a difference it has made in how my new bra fits, in just having the tissue expander. As I look down into my blouse at my breast I can see the beginnings of cleavage; although the breast doesn’t actually fill the bra cup it still sits very nicely in the bra. When I wore the breast prosthesis, I had become disappointed and embarrassed if the top I was wearing was too low and would show the scar area. The breast prosthesis couldn’t rest against my skin since it was secure in the lining of the bra’s pocket; and I felt it flopping back and forth as I moved. I had become very disappointed in the prosthesis in how it looked.

Now I anxiously wait for each expansion appointment which begins on the 11 of June. And expect to proudly display my new breasts on Kay’s birthday in late August. When a good outcome is anticipated; waiting isn’t as bad as it could be.

Will keep you posted.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Monuments erected by man

Ineptly depicting one moment in time

Giving historical facts and information

In concise prose.

Attempt to honor death by

Preserving blood stained ground.

Structures of metal, rock or stone

Brussels’ Lion standing watch over fields

Where Wellington gave Napoleon his waterloo

America’s Tomb for the Unknown’s

Rises from the mists of the Nation’s Cemetery

London’s Trafalgar’s Square

Encroached by daily traffic

Berlin’s Brandenburg Gates and Paris’ Arc of Triumph

To the City and Glories past

Belgium’s roll call of power etched in time

Guarded by rusting relics of mechanized war

Monuments are sculptured material of man’s making

To glorify death, blood and of his heart’s breaking.

SJ Riggle

February 23, 2002

I am at home this Memorial Day weekend where freedom is suppose to be honored by all who live in this land. As a Viet Nam veteran, I am the last of my family that served our country with honor; my father served in WWII with General Patton as he swept through Europe. My Grandfather served during WWI and my mother's Grandfather was a mule skinner. I have two sons who decided not to join the military and I have supported their choice.

I support what our brave men and women are doing around the world, but I cringe as every name of those who have fallen during the past week are read aloud and prayed for during our Sunday's worship services. They are doing what they do for God and Country because they have chosen to stand up for us; and bravely following the orders from higher command.

Let our memories of our brave veterans be of their lives lived and not of our hurt and tears of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us back home. Let the memories of those who served be visible in the next generation and not etched in metal or stone on some monument in the center of town.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Side Effects

Well, it’s been 12 days since my first stage of surgery. The pain wasn’t as bad as I had thought, just a lot of discomfort when using the arm too much and with the chest muscle. I have tried to withhold some of the pain medication during the day, but have realized that I am tired and have more discomfort at night; especially trying to find a comfortable position since I really have had a problem sleeping on my back.

The scar looks very good and is healing very nicely; but then that will be the same incision he will use to reopen my breast and swap out the tissue expander for the breast implant. But he does really nice work. I have been using cocoa butter since the bandage came off and it has helped with the healing. I have one more post exam next week and then on the fourth week should start the expanding process. I am going to take my pain medicine with me for that first appointment; not sure how much pain that will cause. Will keep posting about my progress.

I have been thinking that once the expansion begins, and the right side will have more fullness than the left, the lopsidedness will have reversed itself. Since I have stopped wearing a bra that will really make people think.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Adjusting to Change

As most of you know Sarah began her process of breast reconstruction last week. Since wearing a bra or "the girls" (her breast prostheses) after the surgery would be too painful, she has been going without them. As we started out the door Sunday morning, I noticed that she had on higher heels than normal (she has a herniated disc and was told not to wear high heels). I didn't say anything to her because I thought I knew what was going on. Just as that thought had crossed my mind, Sarah said,"I know, I know I'm not supposed to wear heels this high but I have to compensate some way." I told her I had refrained from saying anything because I thought that was what was going on. I said, "it is comparable to getting your hair cut too short and needing wear the largest earrings you own."

Even though Sarah only has had a skin expander inserted, it has filled out the concave scar on her chest. This has been a good change for her. On the way to her post op visit she talked about how comfortable she felt going without "the girls."

At her post op visit the physician's assistant was happy with the healing of the wound and the drainage had decreased enough to remove her drain. The drain was removed, we were given another appointment and left the doctors office.

We had planned a lazy day looking around town but I had had an allergy attack the day before and was not feeling my best. After they removed Sarah's drain, she was having some pain so we had a quick lunch and headed home.

Now we wait for the healing before the doctor begins to inflate the skin expander. Changes are coming.


It is remarkable that people look but don’t really see things in the same way. Perceptions can change with people and of people. My perceptions as to what I should wear to be seen as a woman has changed dramatically since I started dressing. The only way that I would let myself be seen as a woman was to wear everything. The perfect makeup, the classic jewelry, earrings and necklace with a bracelet; I had to wear pantyhose with a slip and girdle, (long waist preferred) the dress (long or short sleeve) and of course heels, at least 3 inches. I’m not sure if people realized how much clothing I was wearing and if it indeed made any difference at all.

I have long since gotten over these perceptions, that I must wear everything, to present myself as female. I do try to dress more in the middle fashion than say being punk or dressing for the ball. And I have plenty of dresses that are sleeveless; although I don’t really wear jeans or pants very much because I had to wear them so much for work; up until the time I started dressing.

I thought that the absolute one feature that I must have to be female should be to have breasts. I spent hours searching web sites looking for a good substitute stuffing for my bras. After a few years I purchased a set of universal silicone breast forms that fill the bra. When I started hormones I began to get good tissue development and purchased some smaller bras with good padding and was on my way to what I though should have been a healthy pair of boobs.

As I have said, after I discovered that I had breast cancer and was to lose one of them, I was back to square one and had to find something to compensate for the loss. So I went to a medical fitter and purchased a higher quality of DD silicone breast forms, which I was assured that they would be great for my body size. Those breasts really got me a lot of second looks from people, especially when I slung them on that first morning to great the world; and for the next two years. My medical insurance would have pain for their replacement this year, however, I found a plastic surgeon who agreed to do the reconstruction; I believe I am the first transwoman to ask him to do something for them.

So, according to the schedule of appointment, it will take about three months from tissue expander to replacing them with the final breast implants; which meant that again, I was back to square one trying to figure out what to do with my breast. I decided to shelve the other ‘girls’ and go back to my padded bras after my initial consultant for the breast reconstruction. I like the small padded bras because there was some shape and form to them without using stuffing material. And it would get people use to the idea that something was going to change. After a week of wearing just the padded bra, I’m not sure if people perceived the difference because no one said anything; which could just be politeness on their part. But now, since the first surgery I have not worn any bra and I have noticed people’s non-reactions, as if they still perceive me to be female without the appearance of breasts (my perceptions); if they noticed a difference , or they maintained their perceptions that I am still the female that I have presented myself to be.

Then what are the recognizable characteristics of being female?

Friday, May 16, 2008

I was reading someone’s response to a post about how people start seeing colors and their others senses seem more heightened because they were doing hormone replacement therapy. They think that the estrogen is changing their perceptions of things, being happier, brighter and such. This was my initial feelings that light and sound and my sense of taste were heightened because I was finally getting to take estrogen and I was looking forward to the feminine changes that would happen to my body over the next few years.
Since I discovered the breast cancer and my choices were narrowed to a large extent by future cancerous lumps being discovered, I chose to live my life without the benefit of the use of any and all estrogen; my hormones were cut off. Looking back on the years since I had the mastectomy I now realize that my sensitivity to my senses have diminished or returned to the levels before I started HRT. Although, I am not really positive that there were differences in the senses perception to begin with; still, I Am easily saddened by situations and will get a good cry now and again.
My heart cries for Jona and Bradley, the two children whose parents have chosen different treatment paths. My heart cries joyfully for the path Jona is being allowed to take, because his parents has shown their daughter love and understanding and that they are OK with what she needs. As for Bradley’s parents I cry and become angry at them for forcing their wants on Bradley over what ‘she’ needs. I cringe at the way ‘she’ has had her girly toys taken away and can’t use her favorite crayons, and is forced to play only with boy things. It is sad to read the comments made by her parents they know this is not working but want to keep her safe. I can only compare Jona and Bradley’s situation with my growing up in the 50’s & 60’s and not even knowing there was a name for what I felt. I was the child who never, ever did anything to break the law, any law. And to do anything that would go against what my father’s rules were, was asking for a whipping. I am quite sure that if I had said anything about being in the wrong body, I would have been treated with the same solution that Bradley parents have chosen. That protocol treatment is the same course of action that Dr. Zucker and his partners uses and has stuck with the same course of treatment since the 60’s and was just as wrong then and it is now. To force a transgendered child to think the best treatment for them is to believe that they must live their lives bases on the sex of their birth; that is the most cruel and unjust punishment to be inflicted on any child.
Someone once said that if you have never, ever questioned your sexuality then you have no idea what someone who knows they are transgender is feeling. While I lived my life in limbo wasting so much emotional energy hiding my secret; I carried on with the life that I had as best as I could until my emotional walls crumbled exposing my secret to my family. Meeting another transwoman was like my flower bud opening to the real world and knowing I could walk down the street as Sarah, and everything would be OK. I wasn’t alone and there is help for those who seek help.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kay's Version of Sarah's Surgery Day

May 13

We started Sarah’s surgery off by over committing ourselves for the week before. We had agreed to baby sit over night for the 3 year old son of a couple who are dear friends. The little boy is a delight and he is extremely bright. He is also a bundle of energy. He can entertain himself, enjoys playing with others, likes to be read to and is a very sweet child. He also knows his right from his left and has known this for a bout a year (I don’t think I knew my right from my left until I was 9 or 10 years old.)……..just to give you and idea of how bright he is.

Unfortunately, the 3 year old was sick when we took over his care……….at 5 a.m. on Thursday. That still didn’t slow him down and more unfortunately the medication he was taking for his asthma speeded him up. I finally got him to slow down that afternoon by letting him play computer games and giving him a bath. His cough started to lessen and amazingly by the next morning his cough was almost gone but we still had to continue the medicine.

In addition to that we had agreed to watch two little girls. One is three years old and the other 11 months old. We only had to baby sit for them 3 hours on Thursday and Friday afternoon. On Friday we took the little boy to play with the girls. They really had a great time.

If this was not enough, Sarah sings with the choral guild and their concert was this past weekend. Saturday afternoon she had a 3 ½ hour rehearsal. I entertained the the little boy with an indoor park and bookstore trip which he requested while Sarah rehearsed. His parents arrived back in town just as Sarah’s rehearsal was ending. Then the performances on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening.

Sarah’s surgery was scheduled for today at 2 p.m. I started the day by taking our newest dog, Molly, to the vet to be spayed. Back home and a short nap before packing and hitting the road for the 2 hour drive to the hospital where Sarah is having her surgery. Sarah drove and we talked as we drove along. She said she was having some butterflies about the fact that she is choosing to have this surgery versus having to have surgery because of a life threatening condition and also what the pain would be like afterwards. We talked about this some. I doubt the discussion did anything to diminish the butterflies. Previous experience told me that butterflies only go away after the surgery.

We arrived at the hospital. A nurse took Sarah back to prepare for surgery and told me she would call me back once she had her settled in. About 45 minutes later she calls me back. I don’t know how Sarah does it but by the time I get back there she is best buddies with everyone working with her. She knows them all by name and little bit about each person. As usual she get great care and lots of personal attention. The surgery team comes and takes her back to surgery about 3:30 p.m. I go back to the waiting room and begin to read a “no brainer” book.

Around 5 p.m., Sarah’s doctor comes out and tells me that everything went well and Sarah is in the recovery. He keeps telling me to leave the hospital and get some dinner and stretch my legs that it will be at least an hour before I can see Sarah. So I leave, visit one shop and pick up some flowers for Sarah. When I return and let the nurse know I am back, she tells me that Sarah has been looking for me. In fact, she is on her way to her room. She shows me where to intercept Sarah and the the people taking her to her room. Once again…………even through the anesthesia Sarah has gotten to know the nurses taking care of her…….even finding out that one of the nurses lived in the town we currently live in many years go. By the time we got to the room, I felt like I had know the lady forever!! Somehow Sarah just has that personal touch with people . If she is given half a chance, they can’t help but love her.

At first glance most people would say that Sarah being transgender is the most unusual thing about her but I do not think that is true. The most unusual thing about Sarah is how she makes really personal connections with people……..people she has never met before from any station in life, young and old. Where ever we go we will hear someone call out to her and come over for a chat. She is just an amazing person!!

I am sitting here in her hospital room and she is snoozing away on a morphine cloud. The surgery is more painful than she expected. She has a PCA pump and uses it from time to time. Depending on how her pain is we may or may not go home tomorrow. We will just have to see how things go. I want her to be as comfortable as possible.

I know that I really didn’t have the kind of butterflies that Sarah had this morning but I was a little concerned about her well being. I feel a lot better now that the surgery is over and she is in a hospital room. The task ahead is too keep her from doing too much so that she will heal quickly with as little pain as possible.

I am so thankful that she has botten through the surgery and is doing as well as she is.

May 14

We are home and Sarah is doing good and I am gratelful.

I’m back

That’s right; I was gone a little more than 24 hours and am now back home posting on our blog. I signed into the hospital at 1:34 yesterday and was taken back to be prepped for my surgery. There were two very warn hearted nurses taking down all my particular information. The three of us were laughing and joking together, Marsha who was typing the information with just two finders and was making jokes about her ‘two peckers’ flying over the keyboard. The other nurse Leona asked me if I had had my Adam’s apple shaved, and I went on to explain what I had had done and she showed me her mastectomy scar from her breast cancer. She did my IV and by 4:30 I was being taken to surgery. I remember sliding onto the table and was given my “margarita cocktail” as Leona called it; then being awakened in the recovery area. And I was being wheeled to my room by 6:20.

Waking up after surgery with cotton mouth is yucky. You can’t get enough to drink and your mouth still feels dry and crusty. My only task was to urinate at least by 2 am or they were going put in a catheter; and I wasn’t looking forward to that. By 10 pm I was able to go to the bathroom by myself.

The pain was intense at first but after I was able to get up and go by myself it seemed to subside somewhat; and I didn’t use the morphine drip very much after that to control the level of pain. Actually I was able to get some sleep last night, and of course; getting IV fluids, I had to use the bathroom several times. Which involved unhooking my leg wraps, oxygen and wrestling with the IV’s.

But the pain and discomfort of the breast expander has been tolerable with the morphine drip. Where there was an indentation at the old surgery site; now there is somewhat of a filled area at the site, a good beginning. I return to my Doctor Office to have the drain removed by next Monday at the latest and the plan was to wait three week before I return again to start the expanding process.

My surgeon has a great reputation for doing breast augmentations and reconstruction, but I believe that I am his first transgender patient. I am very pleased with his work so far and am looking forward to finally getting the breasts I have wished for, for so many years. OK, so they maybe bigger than what I would have had if I could have completed my HRT, but I’m looking on the bright side to all of this breast cancer business.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today is a big day for me; it is a day that I have been looking forward to for the past two years at least. Kay and I head to Florida to begin my breast reconstruction process with the implanting of the tissue expander. There are no other distractions that I can grab to occupy my mind enough to put this unknown event out of reach.

With the weekend being Mother’s Day and Kay and I said that we would watch some children…..what were we thinking!!! Someone connected with our church is taking a mini summer course at the college and she needed a baby sitter to watch her two children for a few hours a day, for a few weeks in May. Then we said we would look after a friend’s child while they fly out to Colorado to attend her older daughter’s graduation and Officer Pinning Ceremonies. So we took over the care of this four year old boy on Thursday morning at 5:30 am; awake and ready to roar. And roar he did. The two Auntees had their hand full and their feet never stopped; well he did sleep, thank Goodness.

His mother encourages him to do things for himself; but you can’t turn your back on him for one minute. If your attention is diverted for only a few seconds, he can have the door unlocked, opened and he will be running around the corner of the house faster than you can shout his name. I was giving some food to the rabbit and before I had closed the cage door and turned around, he have gotten the milk out of the fridge; had poured himself a glass of milk; had set it in the counter and was pointing to the puddle of spilt milk around him before I realized what he has done. What a whirlwind of activity from such a small child. We are really thrilled to have children in our lives.

In addition to watching children, we had to make three Baptism Banners for baptism on Pentecost morning; and…… there was the Choral Guild concerts on Sunday and Monday with a four hour rehearsal the Saturday before. The concert was one of our better concerts since we shared the stage with the Concert Choir from Magnolia, Texas. Wonderful and talented singers in the choir from Texas.

So these were my distraction from what will be happening later this morning; my appointment is at 2 pm, and not being able to eat after midnight; it’s going to be a long morning.

Kay and I have a dear friend who is going to work today for the first time as Stephanie; way to go girl. I do hope she has a really good day, she is a very Sweet-Spirited-Person as we call those who we cherish. You go Girl!!

I'll give more detail about today's surgery when I can.


Sunday, May 4, 2008


I was leaving a thought on 'Barefoot and Laughing' blog and it took my thoughts back to August of 05, to when I discovered the small lump in my right breast. Cancer is a bad animal where ever it bites you and the scars will heal but the pain of enduring the cure will always be with you. Each person who is suddenly confronted with a diagnosis of cancer has their own way of dealing with the monster. But having my church family strong loving support does lift me while putting the cancer in a less important place.
Last Friday was the annual Relay for Life walk. I didn't make a commitment to do the walk this year and let it slip by without much notice until that Friday afternoon. Kay and I have much too much to do before my reconstruction surgery on the 13th of May, which keeps my mind occupied somewhat.
For the last year or so I have sort of retreated to a holding pattern in dealing with my mastectomy and how to compensate for the loss of the breast. I was using a pair of silicone breast forms (DD's) , maybe too big for me I realize now, but they filled the empty place. They were an eye catcher at first, but now I wish I had gotten something smaller; because I feel as though they are like my stuffed bra's I first used when I began to dress. I want my breast to be a part of me again, not something I sling on in the morning and throw off at night. I've said it before, but I waited 50 years for my breasts to develop and just when they were blooming, I loose one to cancer and other one's development because I had to stop taking estrogen, for fear of another bout of cancer.
But reading Barefoot and Laughing's post has made me realize that I have been neglecting my body; that I have forgotten how important it is for us to care for our bodies as much as we care for our souls and for others.
So thank you ever so much for your example of courage and your loving family surrounding you.

So I leave you with a final thought;


One simple embracing act

Costs the giver practically nothing

What he/she gets in return

Cannot be measured

Till it’s done

One simple act

Open feelings given

Without attachments

To hold on to someone

Releases the hearts

Most single important

Reason for being touched

Without expectation

Of return

One act so simple

Yet gives each

Who participates

More in returns

Than initial


SJ Riggle

December 16, 2001