TESTOSTERONE

Finally, as of Friday 7th July 2017, I am no longer pre-T.

I cannot describe to you the relief I felt from finally, after over 2 years of battling through the NHS and then changing course to private treatment, to be prescribed the wonder liquid that will finally make me outwardly, who I was born to be.

250 mg, 1ml of Sustanon to be injected every 4 weeks.

Just emboldening those words seems too good to be true, like I’m going to wake up from a dream I’ve had too many times to count.

A peculiar feeling I had after having my injection was knowing that this was a life changing thing but feeling exactly the same afterwards – physically that is, mentally I was so relieved, I’ve never been so happy.

I know it’s only been a few days since my shot, but I can’t stop thinking of the exciting changes that are to come, I’m constantly trying to spot something, even a slight development. I recorded a video the night before my shot, and I will be doing recordings every month to see how I’ve progressed.

I’ve also been hitting the gym about 3 times a week, only for 2 weeks so far, but it’s progress and I’ve never felt so motivated.

From here on out it’s onwards and upwards.

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My Awful Experience With The NHS

The NHS is a great concept, I can’t imagine having to pay either for insurance or for hospital visits, just to have health care. I’m grateful for the NHS because if it didn’t exist my family would be in a great deal of debt because of my mum’s brain surgery, a very expensive procedure. All things considered, it’s a pretty amazing part of the UK, however, my experience with the NHS when transitioning has been nothing but terrible.

It’s taken me a while to write about this, for a number of reasons. Mostly was that I thought eventually the NHS would help me see my hormones through, after having nearly 2 years worth of appointments with them, however, this has not occurred. Every doctor that I have seen has not explained the situation to me, I may not have asked the right questions, I was very nervous at every appointment and I did the best I could. I want to write about my experience so that others can avoid it, or learn from it at least.

I’ve covered all of my appointments on this blog which you can refer back to.

In Wales, they first refer you to a psychiatrist, Step 1 – Diagnosis. I felt like I was finally getting somewhere, the Doctor was brilliant, I had to answer a few personal questions and then I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria – a step in the right direction. I knew at this point that this was going to be a long haul.

Next, I was to see a gender specialist, Step 2 – Ok For Hormones. It was a very short visit, the Doctor said that she saw no problems with me having hormones, which felt like such as relief, I had waited months for this appointment, if I remember rightly, it had been 8 months since my visit to the psychiatrist. I was to be referred to the endocrinologist, which is where all the problems began to unfold.

Step 3 – Bloods. I should have known there was something wrong when I checked myself into the outpatient department for the appointment and they had an address listed for me from 14 years ago. One of the first things the Doctor said to me was that he wasn’t a professional, that he didn’t understand why I was referred to him, but that it wasn’t a waste of a trip because he was an endocrinologist and he could check my blood. It turns out I had been referred to the wrong doctor because of the wrong address, this hospital was the closest to my old address. He then asked me if I could travel every week for treatment. I live in Southampton for University, which is 120 miles away from my hometown, which is about 20 miles away from the hospital I would need to get to every week. I asked if it were possible for me to receive treatment in Southampton, he said he would try, but I didn’t believe that.

I got the phone call that my blood was okay and that I should make an appointment with him to discuss treatment. There was no mention of Southampton at all, so I told the receptionist I would try and find a pathway for myself, probably the hardest thing I’ve tried to do in my transition, and maybe it can be considered a big mistake, but I had to try. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my transition be a consideration or a deciding factor when choosing my University, especially one that was quite far away. I saw my GP in Southampton, he said he would be happy to give me testosterone injections if he was authorised to do so. I had around 3 appointments with him trying to figure out how to get this done, he wrote to the gender Doctor I had seen, I rang the endocrinologist various times, I wrote to him. I waited weeks, months. To find out that no one could give the go ahead for my GP to give me hormones. My GP told me to transfer back to Wales and have my treatment there, to which I broke down, I had held everything together for so long and I felt like it all came pouring out. But I picked myself up again, I asked the endocrinologist’s receptionist if I could have the appointment to discuss the treatment, with a Dr Adlan, he was the Doctor in the area who specialised in this, who is treating people like me, the doctor I was supposed to have seen. I accepted the fact I would have to travel and waited to hear back. When I rang to check up on the situation the receptionist told me that Dr Adlan had written me a letter which would be in the post soon. I was so excited, this was to be my appointment letter, finally, I would be on testosterone. My first appointment was in 2015, it had to be soon, I felt as if I couldn’t cope anymore, that if I didn’t have a light at the end of the tunnel that I would falter.

The letter came, it wasn’t an appointment. It was practically a dismissal. Dr Adlan told me to see my GP from my hometown, to get her to refer me to a Gender Clinic. So every appointment that I had had for the last 2 years had all been for nothing, and I would be placed on a 2-year waiting list for an NHS Gender Clinic that I could have been referred to when I first went to my GP seeking help. Reading that letter I felt as if I was going to break completely.

My mum had offered from the beginning to go to a private Gender Clinic so I could be seen sooner. I wish I had listened, I didn’t want her to have to pay, I didn’t have a job at the time and I wanted to be able to do it by myself. This stressful experience with the NHS has led me to contact a private Gender Clinic, Gender Care, in London. A friend of mine who began transitioning December of 2016, just gone, had an appointment with them and had his first shot of testosterone last week. If this doesn’t work I don’t know what I’ll do.

Step 3 – Bloods

01/02/2017 – My appointment with the endocrinology department.

This was the appointment that I had been waiting for, for over a year now. It’s been a long wait, but when I realised that it would be happening within the next week I felt nothing, it was almost as if I was too scared to be excited, in case something was to go wrong, I had a bad feeling.

So I took an almost 3-hour train home, my mum picked me up and I was ready for my 8:30 am appointment with an endocrinologist the next morning.

The night before I started to get excited, thinking of how testosterone was going to improve my quality of life, how it would make me more confident, help me match the outside to the inside even more.

I thought there was something not right when they gave me my appointment at Ystrad Mynach, Dr Jamil had told me that I would be referred to a specialist in the Royal Gwent. I became more concerned when the receptionist at the hospital recited my GP and address and it was fourteen years out of date. I didn’t let myself become too panicked, but I did feel nervous.

I was called in and the nurses took my weight and blood pressure, she asked me if I was nervous because of my results, I said that I felt fine. When I was called in for the Dr to see me the nurse asked me if students could sit in, but I felt that this was too personal for me to be surrounded by other guys my age.

When I sat down with the Doctor all I seemed to hear was…

“I’m not a specialist.”

I’d waited over a year for this appointment, and they hadn’t sent me to a specialist. He didn’t know anything, just that testosterone could affect your blood count and your liver. Next, he told me that testosterone treatment was weekly, and I would have to travel back and forth, he didn’t realise that I had travelled from Southampton just to get here, I asked if they could transfer me, he said that he could try but I might have to do the treatment here, once a week. My heart sank. I told myself that I would not let being transgender affect where I went to university, but it was already going through my head that I might have to transfer. He asked me questions about myself, and then after 5 minutes he made a joke about An Inspector Calls and said that I could go. The nurses then took my blood.

I left the hospital semi-heartbroken, this appointment, according to other British transgender people transitioning on the NHS was supposed to inform me of testosterone, possible side-effects, treatments, whether I wanted surgery. Instead, I had a 5-minute chat with someone who didn’t seem to know what was happening.

When I got home, I felt deflated, but I didn’t want to let this appointment deter me. My blood had been taken so testosterone couldn’t be too far away. So I phoned the main Southampton hospital and enquired about the treatment, they said that they would ring me back. I emailed a support group in Southampton and they suggested to talk to my GP as they most likely will inject the testosterone for me, and so I made an appointment with my university doctors. When the hospital rang me back, although they don’t do the treatment, they said that they would support any GP willing to do so.

I will see my GP on Wednesday and hopefully will have some better news to write about.

 

 

Step 2 – Ok For Hormones

This is the moment I have been waiting for the last 18 months – the go ahead for my hormone treatment. For 7 months I waited for my appointment with Dr Jamil to be arranged, what I thought would be an extensive, personal talk, turned out to be a 5 minute chat. The only questions that she asked me was why I was there, what I wanted e.g. hormones/surgery and what I was doing with my life, to which I explained my university plans.

To be relief, I don’t have to be referred to the GIC in London, which has waiting times 6 months and over. A local hospital, the Gwent, located in Newport, has a hormone service that will be provided to me. I have the okay for hormones! It feels weird to even say that, because I thought it would have been at least another year waiting. By Christmas time, hopefully I would have had some bloods done, and given the okay to begin testosterone, finally matching the outside to the inside.

When she indicated for me to leave, I kind of stared at her shocked, wondering why it was that simple. “That’s it?” I remember saying in disbelief, she told me that I passed well, that she didn’t see a problem, which surged my confidence because I had begun to doubt whether or not I  was passing in public. After working on Kiosk at ASDA (the cigarette and lottery counter) and also in the warehouse, I found that no one was confusing my gender, I was identified as mate, buddy, fella, and it suddenly hit me. Stereotypically women work at the checkout, I think I’m the only guy on there most of the time, customers generally don’t even look at me when they come through, so I guess they just assume. To help me pass better, I stood more, addressed the customer, naturally tried to deepen my voice, eliminating my nerves I found I began acting more like myself and had very little problem with the incorrect pronouns.

Being ‘outed’ at ASDA wasn’t exactly my plan, but I’ve adapted to it, it was my goal to remain private due to my belief that being transgender is a personal part of myself that I was comfortable sharing with those closest to me. I’ll be proud at work, because that’s the way forward. I’m not denying that I am counting down the days to my transfer to Southampton for my fresh start, only 18 left to go.

Even though I’m not on testosterone yet, the relief that I have been given the all clear for them has already cleared a lot of self doubt that was affecting me more and more, the longer my appointment was taking. When I would try to work out, I would be negative, thinking that I would never be on hormones, so what was the point? Now I have the confidence to better myself physically, so I can rid myself of some dysphoria that I found was sneaking up on me a lot more. I can go to university being the man I was supposed to be, without my past haunting me, and with my future being more certain than ever.

A Step Forward

29th January 2016 – the date of my diagnosis.

I haven’t had any medical progress in my transition for nearly 7 months, until I finally got a letter detailing my appointment at the Gender Clinic at St. Cadoc’s to talk with Dr Jamil. I’m confused to what this will entail, I was told during my diagnosis that he is the ‘gateway’ doctor to the GIC in London. I’m hoping that maybe he will be able to clear up my confusion, as I’m still waiting to hear off my GP about being able to have a low dose of something that could help with my dysphoria and aid my transition.

A lot of people, like myself, like to know how long the process takes. I can only speak for my first experience in Wales, so I will cover each appointment with each step, as I already started 7 months ago Step 1 – Diagnosis. My next step will be the 6th September, my appointment with Dr Jamil.

This is just a quick update, hopefully I’ll know more after my appointment.

Stuck On Pause

My transition has slowed to a pause, it feels like a waiting game that never seems to end.

I approached my GP with a document stating she could prescribe testosterone if she was confident according to the NHS, she said that it was theoretical not practical. That was four weeks ago now, she promised to ring with another option, a low dosage maybe. I haven’t heard. I’ll probably be in university before I get an appointment with Dr Jamil, meaning I’ll have to travel from Southampton back home during term time.

Transitioning on the NHS seems to me like they’re trying to put a broken arm in a bandage rather than a cast. The process is long, unbearable at times. I don’t know how I’ve made it this far but I know I’m starting to get restless, starting to find things barely manageable. All I know is, if one more customer in work calls me a lady despite that fact that I always pass in public (meaning my high pitch voice and lack of facial hair gives me away) I might lose it all together. I’m frustrated because I know it’s within my reach but so far away, testosterone would solve so many problems. I feel like a child stuck waiting for puberty to happen, years behind everyone else. I’m scared that the prime part of my life will be over by the time I truly feel like a man.

I have money saved, I know I could use it for an appointment with the GIC, but the cost for the first appointment is nearing £300, and I can’t justify spending that on myself despite knowing that it would help me tremendously.

Sometimes I look at those who were born the correct gender and I have surges of jealously, that they have had an easier road and don’t appreciate it. I know I sound envious, unappreciative for what I have. I know some transgender people have it a lot harder than me, have had to wait longer or don’t have the support network I do.

All I know is, if the NHS doesn’t push play on my transition soon I’m going to have to do it myself.

Step 1 – Diagnosis

29/01/2016 – the first real step towards changing my physical body to match how I feel on the inside with the outside.

Although usually my blog posts are emotive and personal, I wanted to make a part of this blog dedicated to the medical side to transitioning on the NHS in Wales. Then maybe I could lay out the steps easily for people, who like myself, are confused by the medical mumbo jumbo that can be found online.

I want to outline what I’m striving for first off.

(a) To change my name legally.

(b) Work out to extreme measures.

(c) To purchase all the necessaries in order to express my masculinity.

(d) Receive my appointment to the GIC (Gender Identity Clinic).

(e) Given the go ahead to start my hormone treatment.

(e) Eventually have top surgery.

When I list everything in a functional manner it all seems so easy, but I’ve come to the realisation that on the NHS, especially in Wales it is nothing of the sort.

Firstly in comparison to England, Welsh people in their transition have to first be referred to the adult mental health sector of a hospital local to them. Which is what I’ll be covering in this blog post.

I probably spent more time waiting for the doctor to come out of a meeting than I spent in her office. To me, that’s a plus, it means that there is less time wasted mulling over ticking boxes. She asked me lots of questions about my family history, my medical past and my personal life. It only took 20 minutes max, probably not even that. I told her of my prospective name change and all the working out I had been doing, hopeful that it might move the process along. All she did was ask me a bunch of questions and diagnosed with with gender dysphoria – which I needed.

So the first step was simple enough, I have to phone Dr Jamil’s secretary at the end of the month in order to ensure I am furthered along in the process. Then I will be further referred to the Gender Identity Clinic, which I assume is in London which she mentioned.

The only way is up.