Personally and professionally, 2019 has been a very eventful year for me.
A large part of my year has been taken up by various surgeries and recovering from them. The fact that I’m transgender, it may not seem surprising that I’ve had a lot of surgery. However, out of the five surgeries I’ve recovered from in 2019, only one was for gender affirmation. All the rest were for other medical issues.
I began 2019 in recovery from thyroid surgery that I had in December 2018. Thankfully, the mass they removed proved to be benign, and I have required no further treatment. I also began the year experiencing intermittent pain in my lower abdomen. That led to a string of doctors’ visits and a diagnostic surgical procedure in April. One source of my pain, an abdominal adhesion, was discovered and repaired during that procedure.
Unfortunately, I continued to have abdominal pain with increasing severity. So, in June I had a total hysterectomy after my gynecologist finally convinced my insurance that it was medically necessary. That surgery went very well, and I went home the same day. However, four days after the surgery, I began to feel ill, and had a lot of discomfort from four days of constipation. By five days post-op, I was running a low-grade fever. I managed to get the fever to go down, but it returned a few hours later. At that point, I began to fear the onset of infection or possibly sepsis, something a friend of mine died from.
I went to the ER, and at the hospital they decided to put me through a CT scan to see what might be causing my constipation, discomfort, and fever. When the results came back, even they were surprised. I was suffering from appendicitis. It hadn’t gotten bad enough to cause localized pain, but it’s what was causing my epic level constipation. So, five days after having one surgery, I wound up having an emergency appendectomy (lucky me).
Finally, once I was healed up from those surgeries, I was able to start thinking about the one surgery I actually wanted to have: FTM Top Surgery (the removal of my breasts, male breast reconstruction, and free nipple grafts). I’ve never liked having breasts and now that I was transitioning my gender, I was even more eager to get rid of them.
I hadn’t originally planned to have this surgery so soon, but with the other surgeries, I maxed out my deductible and out-of-pocket maximum with my health insurance. I wanted to take advantage of that because if my insurance approved the surgery, I wouldn’t have to pay as much for it. I met with a surgeon in August. It took his office a month to get prior authorization approval from my insurance company and I had my surgery in November.
If you had told me that I’d be going through five surgeries in the span of a year, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here we are. I got through all of them and I’m healing and recovering well.
My Dog Joey
In October 2018, my dog Joey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, after finding a lump that developed on his skull. It was an unusual placement for such a cancer, but I am lucky to live close to one of the top veterinary oncology hospitals in the US. Through treatment, his tumor was reduced, although it did manage to destroy a portion of Joey’s jaw joint. It was caught before the damage was too severe, so Joey was still able to open his mouth enough to eat and he even managed to adapt and relearned how to pick up toys again.
I had to take him back and forth to the hospital for his radiation and chemotherapy treatments through the early part of 2019 and then regular checkups every six weeks or so after that. Sadly, by late August his tumor began to come back and by September it had spread into his lymph nodes and lungs. Through medication I made him as comfortable as possible. He was still very full of life, but once his lymph nodes swelled to the point where they were threatening to cut off his air pipe, I knew it was sadly time to put him to rest.
I used an in-home euthanasia service, and he was surrounded by some of my close friends and his sister when he passed. He was the first dog I’d ever had as a pet and he’ll always have a special place in my heart. His sister is still alive and well, although I know she misses her brother dearly. At first, she wouldn’t eat without him, but I managed to help her find her appetite again.
Publishing My Second Novel
Moving on to happier news, in August 2019 I published my second novel, Mark My Soul. I write gay erotic romance novels under the pen name Grayson Bell. I started writing fiction in 2015 after falling in love with the Dragon Age video game franchise. There was something about those games that really sparked my imagination.
I began by writing fanfiction stories, and to-date I’ve written sixty-seven. In between writing all those stories, I also started coming up with ideas for completely original stories and began working on a science fiction novel. That novel has been put on the back burner for several reasons, but I do plan to return to it and hopefully publish it someday.
Since many of my fanfiction stories involved gay erotic romance, I decided to try my hand at writing some original works in that genre. That led to the first novel I published in 2018, Coffee-to-Go. It was hardly a bestseller, but it sold well enough and received decent reviews. That encouraged me to write my second gay erotic romance novel, Mark My Soul, which I published this year. That novel did leaps and bounds better in sales, so I am now in the process of writing a third novel in that genre.
Life Goes On
So much else has happened in 2019. Everything from the tragedy of my neighbor’s husband passing to the rollercoaster this country has been on politically and economically. Yet, despite everything going on out in the world, life continues to move forward.
In 2020, my biggest plan is for my legal name change and gender marker change. I’ve gone through the process of changing my name once before, for different reasons. I know it can be very time consuming to get all my records changed over. Beyond that, I am looking forward to attending my 30th High School Reunion. It’ll be interesting to see what my former classmates think of my transition. I haven’t seen any of them since the last reunion in 2010.
I also hope to increase how often I post on Medium from once to twice each week. Also, I plan to write and publish two novels in 2020, which will require a more disciplined effort on my part. I know I can do it, but I need to work on not allowing myself to become too distracted.
Having all my surgeries, both planned and unplanned, behind me opens the possibility of having more time to focus on my writing. Let’s just hope I have no need for any more unplanned surgeries in 2020.
How did 2019 treat you? What are your plans for 2020? Please share in the comments! I wish all of you a happy and prosperous New Year!