Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Calm

Good morning.

I had a marvelous weekend.  The weather was beautiful, I spent most of it on a motorcycle, and I got to spend some time enjoying some of the coastal charms of this beautiful state.  All things considered - it's a shame it had to end.

I decided to share my "news" on FB.  People are finding out in all kinds of different ways and I wanted to remove the chance that things get blown out of proportion.  At this point all we know is that there's something in there.  I hope we learn more over these next few days.

Ironically, the liver thing isn't the reason I was in the ER in the first place.  Tests are going on on that front, as well.  Now that I've recovered the pressure to figure that out seems to have waned.  The good news is that my blood is good, and biopsies they've done on various "things" they've taken from inside of me have turned up clean.  That's all good news, but doesn't get to a cause.

One of the frustrating things is that everything seems to take a week.  When all this first happened the soonest I could get into the doctor was a week.  Then, it took another week to do all the tests.  Now, I'll go back to see the doctor a week later.  I suspect he'll want to do a biopsy of the "mass" and that will probably take another week (or more).  I'd like to speed this whole thing up.

That said, I don't know that any of it has sunk in yet.  I "feel" good, and although the weight of knowing what little I do know at the moment is always there I don't let myself dwell on it.  I haven't cried over it yet.  And, I'm thankful to have people in my life to help focus on other things during this time of investigation.

On Friday night I had originally planned to spend the weekend with some of my dearest friends in Charleston - their kindness and love towards me has been one of the reasons the city feels so much like home.  Instead, I headed out for some time alone then ended up in Myrtle Beach for a friend's son's lacrosse tournament.  I probably put 500 miles on the bike over the weekend but it was worth it.

Lacrosse under big, puffy clouds....

On the way home I went through a brief shower.  It was the first time I've ridden in rain, and it actually felt wonderful.  Cooling, cleansing.  I stopped in Georgetown - a quaint little city halfway between Charleston and Myrtle Beach - for lunch.  Watching the boats, smelling the sea air - that's why I enjoy it here. 

The Boardwalk along the waterfront in Georgetown, SC












I am under no illusions that things are not about to get busier than I'd like them to be so I'm treating this as the calm before the storm.

I asked my doctor for a list of therapists I can talk with - I miss having that kind of outlet.  When I transitioned one of the best parts was finally having someone I could talk with who could offer constructive, thought-provoking feedback.  I realize there are many who feel that the requirement for a year of therapy as part of the Standards of Care is intrusive but for me, it was wonderful.

I'd go so far as to suggest that the fact many of us stop seeing a therapist as soon as we can is actually a hole in the safety net.  Once you've made all the moves to permanently be who you are having that continuing sounding board can be very important.  Many of us - including me - don't take advantage of it.

But now that I'm at this stage I've got a number of things on my mind that I need to discuss with someone.  The physical questions currently on the table are part of it but there's more than that.  Anyway, my doctor recommended 4 therapists that she thought would be good for me so I'll choose one and see where that goes...


Friday, May 29, 2015

The Invader

In my last post I shared that one of the outcomes of a recent visit to the ER was that a "mass" had been discovered on my liver thanks to a CT Scan of my abdomen. Actually, the CT report indicates that there are two unidentified "things" on it, but one is significantly larger than the other.
 
Tonight, thanks to a 2-hour MRI session at the hospital, I got my first glimpse of the invader.
 
An MRI image of my liver.  I'm told that the "mass" is the white splotch on the left.

 
I don't know anything more now than I did before the MRI, other than to see this image of it.  Apparently, a doctor will analyze it today and provide his analysis before sending it to my GI doctor to discuss next steps.  I can't imagine that we're just going to do nothing, so I assume the next step will be a biopsy.  I've got my follow-up appointment with the doctor next Thursday so we'll see what he says.
 
The good news is that my frame of mind is good and I'm feeling fine.  If I hadn't ended up in the ER a couple of weekends ago I would never know it was there, so that visit may end up being a blessing in disguise.  Regardless - the fact that it's as large as it is seems to indicate that it has been there a while.  The next thing is to determine what its intentions are.
 
Some that I've shared this with seem to feel that the hormones I've been taking these last 15+ years may play some role in all of the maladies I'm dealing with at the moment.  Perhaps, but I don't know that there's any way to definitively know that.  And regardless - I'm not planning to stop taking them any time soon.  Cut back - maybe - but we'll have that conversation when a doctor who can say with some authority that it would help or not can explain it to me.
 
That's all for now.  Life goes on.  For now.  The weekend is upon us and I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days with some dear friends and getting some much-needed "down" time.  Somehow I'm thinking that this is the calm before the storm, so I better enjoy it while it lasts.
 
Onwards!

Monday, May 25, 2015

I'm Back. Again.

It's hard to believe it has been 2 months since I've shared here.  Part of the reason is totally practical - for some reason they blocked my blog at work.  I find that the quietest part of the day is the morning when I first arrive so that's when I'd stop and write something.  Well, I can't do that anymore.

Part of it is that just when I think things are settling down something comes out of nowhere to throw it all out of whack again.  That happened recently - more than once, actually.  I'm not ready to share all the specifics because I'm still trying to figure it all out myself.

For some reason I revisited my "original" blog recently.  I've been "blogging" for a long time.  My first blog entry was June 8, 2004...almost 11 years ago.  I could swear it has been longer than that but that's the first "official" entry I could find.

One page is from 2008, when my puppy Maggie (now curled up next to me) was just a pup.  Here it is.

I look at the various events and people from my life who have led me to where I am now.  Some of those people and things have faded away, others have weaved themselves into the fabric of my world, and others have become foundational elements.  Good decisions, bad decisions, wisdom (or lack of it)  in choosing friends and placing trust, strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions....they're all part of this tapestry that makes up my life right now.

All that said - I apologize for being away so long.  The story written into my blog is the story of my life, and this is the largest hole in that story that I can remember.  Rather than write one long blog entry to try to plug the hole, or leave it unplugged, I'm going to write a number of entries over the coming days to fill in some of the blanks.

There won't necessarily be a rhyme or reason to them.  They won't necessarily be in any order.  We'll just wee how this goes.

My ER room - I spent a night of my life here.
I'll start by sharing that a week ago tonight I was in the Emergency Room at a local hospital for the first time in my life.  The thing that put me there was a day full of internal bleeding and intense pain that I just couldn't handle by myself anymore.  I had gone to a local Urgent Care clinic and they sent me to the ER.

The "situation" was a sudden one, that came upon me with no prior warning.  I spent all day Saturday in Myrtle Beach with my motorcycle for Bike Week and had a wonderful time.  20 miles into the 3+ hour ride back to Charlotte I was overcome by waves of oddness.  I've fainted before and know what it feels like - what I was feeling are the early stages when everything starts to go all white and that high pitch noise starts up.  It's dangerous when it happens and you're standing up.  It's crazy dangerous when you're heading down the highway on 2 wheels at 65 miles an hour.

The two bikes on the right are my babies.  
I pulled over to the side of the road and collected myself for a few minutes.  As I assessed my options the one that seemed best was to find my way home.  So, somehow, I did.

It was only a week ago, but my 12 hours in the ER was surreal.  I couldn't change the channel on the TV so it was stuck on the infomercial channel - that would be funny if it weren't also cruel to have to listen to that.  They put me on pain meds and antibiotics.  They did a CT Scan.  They kept me there to make sure the bleeding stopped and I didn't spike a fever....and at 6:30 Monday morning they let me go home.

The reason I share any of this detail is that the focus of what happened that night changed when they analyzed what they saw on that CT scan.  The list of diagnoses included a half dozen things ranging from high white blood cell count to internal bleeding.  But the thing that jumps out is that they found a "mass" on my liver.

When the doctor told me about it she emphasized that they don't know what it is, and it's not necessarily something bad.  The first place your mind goes when you hear this kind of thing is the big C - and she said that at this point it's merely something they can't explain that needs further investigation.

Several years ago I lived in Austin and had a dear friend there.  Her name was Julie Nestor.  She was a little older than I was and had transitioned there all by herself.  After I came out at work one of my lesbian friends had a friend who knew her so they tried to make sure we met one another.  We did.

Anyway, I could fill a number of pages of stories of our adventures.  But the one that's important here is an email she wrote me titled "What a life".  In it she told me that doctors had identified a "mass" on one of her kidneys and had determined that it was malignant.  Within a year she was gone.

So - when I left the hospital there were 2 different issues....the bleeding (and pain), and the liver mass.

This past week, when I started feeling a little more human,  I went to the GI doctor.  We're actively investigating both issues.  The most important event in the short term is an MRI of my liver, scheduled for Thursday.

I can't really say how I feel about that because it's not affecting me right now.  I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't gone into the ER.  But knowing it's there, and that it shouldn't be there, leads to a whole bunch of other questions running through my head right now.

I had an investigative internal procedure on Friday and they knocked me out for it.  They wheeled me into the procedure room and the anesthesiologist explained that he was going to inject something into the IV.  He said it might sting for a few seconds, but then the next thing I'd know it would all be over.

My mind still clings to the many times I've faced a similar threshold.  The first time I had surgery - my tonsils were removed in 1971 - they used ether.  I still remember the black mask and watching the room seem to get further and further away, and the voices in the room echo before everything went to black.

Other similar moments are cherished actually memories.  I'll never forget the OR before FFS, and SRS.  I made it a point to repeat my wife's name as in hopes that, if something bad happened, she'd be the last thing on my mind.

Well, this was nothing as complicated or difficult but it showed me how far we've come.  I was thrilled to wake up and not be in pain.  And I have long since stopped repeating that name.  It means nothing to me now.

So there you have it.  I'm feeling better every day...almost 100% again.  We still don't know what set it off, what caused it, or what is on my liver.  The good news is that we've ruled a number of things out and are narrowing the possibilities.  That process continues.

The mental part of it is big.  As I lay in the hospital last week the nurse asked me if I had anyone locally that they could call, or who could pick me up if I needed it.  As I thought about it the depressing reality was "no".  I really have no friends in Charlotte.  I work there.  My co-workers and I get along great but we're not on a level where I'd want to share too much personal medical information.  For all intents and purposes, I was all alone.  And that sucked.

So -

Regardless of what happens, I am taking active steps to change that.  I need to be around my support network - friends who care about me and who I'd trust to take care of me.  I have active support networks in 3 places...the closest of which is Charleston.

Things are convenient right now.  I really don't want to go into details, but if I could sum up my little world in one word that's what I'd use - Convenient.  Well, this little episode has reminded me that there are more important things than convenience.

It has also reminded me to appreciate the people in my world a little more.

I haven't shared any of this outside of this space.  I figure that if you're reading this - especially after my extended absence - we're connected somehow.  I need ways to express what's happening and how I'm feeling and this blog has filled that void for a long time.  I don't plan for that to change anytime soon.

I'm also paying more attention to the little things.  I'll end with a few pictures I took last Saturday - the day before the "incident" - while in Myrtle Beach.  We had been out riding for most of the day and came back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before heading out for dinner.  I went for a walk along the beach - the later afternoon sun is wonderful for photography.  Anyway - I took a few pictures with my camera I kind of like.  So - I'll share them.







The sun rising over Myrtle Beach


Life is good.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The World Seems Smaller

I'm in Arlington, TX chilling with mom.  It's a very pleasant early spring afternoon here and we're in the brief lull between doing afternoon stuff and making dinner.  Mom likes the salmon dish I cook and has invited her "man" over to have dinner with us.  It has been a pleasant visit so far.

I went down to Austin yesterday to get my hair done.  My dear, dear friend Teresa has done my hair since 2002 and we've qot quite a history together.  It was wonderful to see her, and I'm always reminded how much I enjoyed living here when I come back.  I think I'll be back the next time I need my hair done...it's as good an excuse as any.

I jumped on FB briefly and noticed that the Keystone Conference is happening in Harrisburg PA this weekend.  I remember attending the first few of them and commenting here how well run it was.  It was apparent to me, even then, that smaller regional conferences would eventually take the place of the large national ones.  That has proven to be true for a number of reasons.  The central PA community is a very supportive place and I couldn't help but smile at one of the photos showing snow falling outside.  One year there was a very chilly drizzle...

The thing I'll always remember, other than some of the great people there, is that the conference often coincided with the state high school wrestling championships.  Evenings at the bar or in the lobby were often pretty interesting places to be, where both worlds collided.  The good news is that I thinkm general amusement that many of the wrestling folks often showed at the beginning often turned into a more substantive respect by the time the weekend was over.  Anyway - for those who went - I hope it's still as healthy and as valuable as ever.

My most memorable time there was the third year (I think it was the third year) - in 2009.  I had just turned 50 and during the battery of tests that typically happen when you pass that milestone they identified what they said was a malignant melanoma on my back.  I had made the commitment to speak at the dinner, so I made arrangements to fly out of town on the trip that would eventually end up in the excision of the melanoma the next morning.  My niece came with me.  I'll never forget it.

Next topic.... I went to the movies this morning.  I saw the 2nd movie in the Divergent series.  Based on RottenTomatoes ratings the critics don't seem to like it.  But I liked it.  It was my kind of movie, and I found it to be a good follow-up to Part 1.

The reason I mention it here is that afterwards I couldn't help but be struck by some similarities between a main theme, and our unique "gift" of being trans.

It's about how people get divided into one of six factions based on their personalities and skills.  All people find one and only one faction and once that decision is made, that's where they stay.  The society in which they live is based upon that faction system for harmony, for peace, for stability, and are simply accepted as the general state of being.

Some people can't fit into the faction system.  Some people straddle more than one of the factions and really don't seem to find a way to fit in, no matter how hard they try.  These people are known as Divergent.  They are percieved as a threat to the stability of society, and get actively sought out and killed.

At the end of this movie (spoiler alert) there is a message that the faction system was simply an experiment, and that the future lies in the Divergents.

That's how I see gender.  I see our society as having not 6, but 2 factions.  People are assigned to them at birth and once assigned, cannot choose to leave.  Some of us can't fit into that structure, however, and are percieved as a threat.  We're Divergent.  And, we're simply part of the natural order, trying to fit into a system that just doesn't fit.

I'm under no illusion that outcomes in fiction necessarily predict outcomes in real life.  But in this case I'm confident that it's true. 

Anyways - I enjoyed the movie. 

And I enjoyed a couple of the trailers. 

I'm here in Texas for a couple more days.  Mom asked me to make salmon for dinner and her man-friend was here as well.   It's nice....comfortable, relaxed.  I needed this. 

I am also thrilled to see my little man - Cody.  Leaving him last month was the source of a significant amount of angst and sadness in my world over these past few weeks.  But seeing him again, and how well he is doing, has been good for me.
 
 
 
My mom, in her spring Iris garden.
 
There's things that still need some settling when I get back home. But for now....I'm here with mom and the world seems much smaller. And for that - I'm glad. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Settling down a bit

Life is settling down a bit.  Finally.

My "family" is smaller than it used to be - now it's just Maggie and me.  I'm getting over not having Cody here somewhat but I'll be honest - it's still a source of significant sadness for me so I don't dwell there too long.  My motivations were good and I do think he's got a more stable life where he is.  My mom says he's adjusting to life with her and that's the most important thing.  Maggie could care less - I think she enjoys getting ALL the attention so not having to compete for it or share it isn't a problem for her.  But I miss him, and feel guilt over any sadness or loneliness he might feel.

Part of the frenzy of the past couple of months was generated by the general life upheaval it caused by moving out of my apartment last month.  The weeks leading up to it were full of craziness surrounding moving out, and the weeks since it were full of craziness caused by lack of center.  Thankfully, both have subsided significantly.

I spent a couple of weeks at a hotel while in Charlotte during the week - similar to the pattern when I first arrived here.  After a bit of a search  found someone on Craigslist who is renting out part of their home to make a little extra income.  I've got a large bedroom, closet, private bath, and shared areas of the house so it's very pleasant.  There's a large fenced yard for the pup which is a big plus.  Anyway, I've only been here 3 nights but so far all is well.

I followed thru on another of my plans - I traded in my Tundra on a new car.  The reasons for having a truck have passed, and given the 14 mpg I get on the highway over the course of my travels it's just not cost effective anymore.  My truck and I have bonded quite a bit over the 4 years and 110,000 miles we've travelled together. As I cleaned out the stuff from the glovebox yesterday it was actually kinda nostalgic. She has been a good truck, and I've been very happy with her.

After much research and thought I bought a new Mazda 6.  A red one.  It gets almost 40mpg on the highway and the reviews are as stellar as the performance.



It's going to take a while to get used to the fact that it's not a truck but I'm confident that I'll manage. I'm comfortable with my decision. 
 
Work is fine.  Health is good.  Head and heart are good.  I love springtime so I'm thrilled that we've had 2 80-degree days this week.  All things considered, I'm in a pretty good space.

I'm headed back to Dallas over the weekend.  Part of it is to visit mom again.  Part of it is to see Cody.  And it will involve a brief trip down to Austin - I haven't been there in a couple of years or more - since my son left.  I miss it and expect to do a couple of things during my brief stay.

Anyway - the good news is that this time I'm flying.  :)

 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mess

I'm a mess.  Admittedly, I'm less of a mess today than I was last week.  Still....the operative word is "mess".

In between storms in Dallas last week there was a window of opportunity to leave on Tuesday.  The smart money indicated that adding a couple hundred miles to the trip by taking the southernmost route - along I10 - was most prudent given all the other junk that seemed to be tracking along I20 through Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.

What I wasn't ready for was the tidal wave of grief at having to leave one of my pups behind.  I'm tearing up even as I type this.

Cody was the energy in family.  He was always happy, always excited.  He was very much a momma's boy and kept me in his sight pretty much at all times.  He's the one who hopped onto the bed and slept with me, and who was the most loving.  But, like many things, you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

I can rationalize why I've done what I've done forever.  The fact that I feel guilty about leaving them alone in an apartment all day, that I have to take them to a dog sitter most weekends, and that I've only got a few hours to spend with them each evening - that they deserve more.  They deserve someone who will be around, a backyard, and more out of life than simply waiting for most of it.

When it came time to leave I cried like a baby.  It was the first time my mom has seen me cry in almost 50 years.  It wasn't little crying, either, it was "I can't talk because it's so difficult" tears.  And then, being stuck in that truck for the 1,300 mile drive back with nothing but guilt, sadness, grief...not good.  The dynamic of the family has changed, and I don't know if it's in a good way or not.

I've left the dogs in the care of others before.  My son watched Cody for several months a few years ago.  My sister watched him for 6 months a couple of years ago, as well.  I didn't feel anything resembling this before.  But my mom said that if she was going to take Cody it needed to be a permanent thing, that she didn't want to get emotionally attached and then have him leave, and I agreed.

Until recently I could honestly say that I have very few regrets in life.  I've actively tried to ensure that.  And although it's still too painful for me and too early to assess clearly this might be one of them.

I've got a lot of emotional energy in me....and not all of it is positive.  Most of the time I do a good job keeping it all at bay.  But, when there's a crack in the containment system, it all comes pouring out.  That's what happened last week.  Years of sadness, frustration, anger, resentment...it's all in there and I suppose it needed release.  Well, last week it got it.

Last night I came full circle.  I pulled back into the hotel where we stayed just before leaving for Dallas a couple of weeks ago.  But there is one fewer of us, and it's not the same.  I miss my little man.

On the more practical side - the trip was ok but was a huge huge huge energy drain.  Between the emotion spent over this trauma, the challenge of a long trip on the road, and the general pull of work and other life demands I very much needed the weekend. 

I'll be in Charlotte for the first half of the week before heading back home for the tail end, and the weekend.  I could have used another couple of days to recover.  Ready or not, though, Monday is here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Plan D

Sometimes, life cicrumstances force you to be creative.

I'm already on Plans C, D, and E to get back home to Charleston.  This winter storm that has thrown DFW, and the southeast in general, into a slippery slidey chilly mess has already forced me to delay the return trip by a day.  But following it east (and potentially catching up with it) or getting hit by the next batch (DFW already has a Winter Storm Watch for tonight -  possibility of an additional 1-4 inches of snow) are both are concerns that need to be considered.

The most direct route back is the route I took - along I-20 thru Atlanta, Birmingham, and Shreveport.  But the farther north I go, the more likely I am to have weather issues.  So, I'm planning to head east to Shreveport and then detour south to I-10 which goes through Mobile, New Orleans, Pensicola, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville.  It adds a couple hundred miles to the trip but is the safer option.  I'm also going to take my time and plan to do the 1300+ miles in 3 days instead of 2 - on top of everything else I need to balance doing work into all of this.

As I type this I've got the Weather Channel on in the background.  They just mentioned that they've closed I20 west of Atlanta....I'm relieved that I'm not heading back into that mess.

I went out for a bit yesterday afternoon and the entire area was like a ghost town.  Nobody was out on the roads.  The mall parking lot was empty.  It was pretty remarkable.

So - if all goes as planned I'll be in Baton Rouge tonight. The window of opportunity is fairly short - otherwise I'll be here for another couple of days.  Keep your fingers crossed.