I'd been on hormones, a super birth-control pill called Ovaril, for four months, and had already made three trips to the endocrinologist, suffered through four additional trips to the lab to have blood taken, and now I was back to see Dr. Harrison. The handsome part of endocrinology.
He asked me about how things were going.
My answer was, in essence, "Not fast enough."
Electrolysis was slow-going, and hard. My breasts were there, but barely buds. (Bared buds, just a little earlier, while the good doctor indulged in a thrilling little squeeze) (sorry - I meant, 'diagnostic palpation').
(Though it was thrilling!)
Oh, and I still got erections. Not related to sex, thank the goddess, but they still occurred, and they were killing me. So my shrink, who I saw weekly, had called my endocrinologist.
Dr. Harrison folded his hands on my folded-open folder and looked serious.
"There's a drug that can block testosterone from its receptors, that stops it from working on the body's tissues…"
Spironolactone. From what I understood, it was used for high blood pressure, but it turned out a side-effect on men was breast growth and some other symptoms, like fewer erections, and so they looked into it, and, well, it was used to "chemically castrate" sex offenders. Dr. Harrison thought it might be a benefit to me.
Actually, he thought it would be the perfect drug for me.
It sounded too good to believe.
It would speed up everything the estrogen was supposed to do. It might even help with the electrolysis.
But it had risks. I'd have to give blood samples every week for the first few months so he could closely monitor me. It might damage my liver. It might lead to blood clots. It might do a lot of things, but did I…?
I did. Yes! Please!
It still sounded too good to believe!
He wrote a prescription, I went to the Royal Alex pharmacy and had a small bottle of spironolactone pills in my hands within the next half hour. I took my first one after dinner that night.
Nothing happened. August, 1982, slipped into September, 1982.
A week after I'd started, I'd had blood taken, six tubes. It had been down to three per trip for a while, but apparently testing for testosterone and liver stuff took a few extra. But nothing changed, as far as I could tell.
I saw my shrink again, and he said I had to have a little patience!
But nothing was changing!
Then things changed.
A week later, more blood-letting, and two days after, Dr. Harrison called and said I needed to stop taking the spiro - immediately - and even my estrogen. He wasn't happy.
I saw him the next morning.
He said, "There are protein changes in your blood."
Apparently, my liver was even less happy than Dr. Harrison.
I was off the spiro. Off my estrogen.
I began to believe I'd never be me, that things couldn't get any worse.
The following day, while walking through a mall with my best friend towards a favorite lunch place, I suddenly felt odd. Like I couldn't feel up and down.
I remember trying to say, "Dizzy…"
I stopped, unable to balance, and just as Barb turned to see why, the feeling became an awful shove backward, and the world bucked underneath me. Barb caught my head before it hit the floor. Later, she told me I just collapsed, straight down, and that I never said anything.
I could speak again, but couldn't explain what I was feeling - it was that alien - but I begged Barb to call an ambulance.
It didn't take a lot of begging, since I couldn't stand. Or control my legs. Or, apparently, my bladder.
Dr. Harrison arrived in the ER not long after they'd determined that whatever had laid me out was gradually improving. Receding. Lessening.
The ER doc had said "mini-stroke." I was gonna survive, and, if his tests were any indication, be 100% in just a few hours. He said it was probably a tiny blood clot. Or a weird drug reaction, but then, he wouldn't believe that I hadn't taken any recreational drugs.
Dr. Harrison said I'd mentioned his name, and since his offices were upstairs, they'd called.
On the good chance that my emergency was a result of the spiro, he was going to admit me into the hospital himself, hopefully just overnight. He was gonna take a lot more blood, too. And talk to my shrink.
The good news was that I'd recover.
But I didn't believe he'd ever prescribe anything for me again.
Breakfast in a hospital is a dreary affair. The man who brought it was a smiling, laughing delight, but the cold toast, scrambled eggs from a carton, and warm coffee were all unappetizing.
I'd survived a crisis, and the doctors had both said that it could've been much much worse… I just had to believe it wouldn't always seem so… hard.
Mid-morning, Dr. Harrison knocked and came in and looked at my chart (which probably just said that I'd slept, ate brekky, and not complained about anything). He seemed happy, though.
"Okay, Michelle," he grinned. He liked calling me Michelle. "I want to do some simple coordination tests to see if you're back to normal, and for a colleague to see you, and then I think we can start your discharge."
He did a drunk-coordination test and had me walk around while he watched, hummed and hawed, and asked a ton of questions. He finally said that as far as he could tell, I was back to normal.
I said that I was never really normal. He laughed and I smiled. He laughed great.
(In case you can't tell, I had a teensy crush on the lovely Dr. Harrison.)
Then he said it was a urologist he wanted me to see before I checked out, and I knew what they did, since my shrink had referred me to one (along with a gynaecologist - and was that ever a weird waiting-room experience) when I first became his patient.
He called from the nurses' station, and a few minutes later (it was still before office hours in the hospital, I guessed) Dr. Schoenfeld joined us.
Dr. Harrison pulled the curtain and Dr. Schoenfeld felt my bits and I almost cried again. Just at the reminder.
It's easy to lie to yourself, to believe an actual part of yourself doesn't exist any more. But when someone touches it and demands that you pay attention… well, it all falls apart.
After I dried my tears, and when they asked if they could come back in, Dr. Schoenfeld asked if I'd ever considered having my testicles removed? Before having reassignment surgery?
He said it was a day-surgery, with very small risk of complications, and since I'd been going to have them chemically destroyed, either slowly, or, as we'd tried with the spiro, sooner...
A week later, all of it off my estrogen (but for what a good reason!) I checked into the Royal Alex again. And then, six hours later, with Barb's help, I checked out.
I was in considerable pain (though the pills were great), I walked funny, I was wearing a maternity pad that felt like a diaper, and I still had to wait two days before I could re-start my estrogen. But I was free of two of the awful things down there.
Barb laughed at the way I walked, and Cassie laughed at me too, when she got home and found me "abusing a bag of frozen peas."
She'd invited me to stay over for a few days while I got my legs back, and said that, anyway, that same bag had done the same duty for her. But on her face. (She'd had a horrible wisdom-tooth operation the winter before.) I remembered her drooling...
I said "Ewww!" at the memory and looked at the bag in revulsion and she nearly fell down laughing.
After thinking about it, I looked at the peas again and had to agree it was a pretty funny reaction. I settled the poor, abused bag back into my poor, abused crotch. Mmmm! Nice bag! And there was another one still in the freezer.
In another week I'd be developing even faster... with no nasty testosterone... ever again.
Cassie put on a record. Journey.
Don't stop believing.
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