The Road to GCS Part 1

Not all transgender people decide to go through with Gender Confirming Surgery (GCS) as part of their transition.  Many transgender folks are quite content to express their gender without taking the surgical route.  Whether a trans person has surgery or not does not diminish their gender in the least.  However, for those who do opt for surgery, it can be a very liberating experience and a bit of a game changer. There is a lot of maintenance that comes after your surgery and we will definitely get into that in a future installment of The Road to GCS.  For part 1, we are going to look at the things you need to be doing before GCS to make your overall experience better for the long term.

One of the key focuses in preparation for your surgery is getting your body ready for the trauma it will endure on the operating table.  It is not a simple procedure and preparing properly for it can help you recover faster and also reduce the chances of something going wrong.  General health and nutrition is a huge factor when it comes to how your body will cope.  Ideally, you should be making positive nutrition and exercise changes in your life at least a year before you have your surgery.  Eating a nutritious diet in combination with exercise will prepare your body for a quicker recovery.  If you have extra pounds, you definitely want to look at losing some of your weight before surgery.  Just a 10 pound loss can positively impact your blood pressure and take a lot of stress off of your heart.  Exercise will surely help with the weight loss though it will also make your body more limber and increase its ability to bounce back.  Stretching cannot be overemphasized as to how important it is to a successful and less painful recovery.

Nutrition and exercise are a very good start. However, the whole health package also includes quitting smoking if you are a smoker.  Ideally, if you are on hormones, especially estrogen, you should not be smoking because it greatly increases your chances for a blood clot.  During surgery, blood clots are even more of a risk which is why your doctor will ask you to stop your hormones roughly 2 weeks before surgery.  It is really important that you follow these instructions as they can save you from a very serious clotting complication. I realize that it is hard to quit smoking but it is worth it and considering how much you want to get your surgery, you have yourself a pretty huge motivator.

For M2F transgender women, some doctors will want you to have the hair permanently removed from your genitals before surgery. There are also doctors who do not want you to have the hair removed because they will burn it during the procedure which will kill most of it.  Keep in mind that any hair that is not in an active growing phase will likely survive.  If you are not that hairy to begin with you are probably fine. Definitely check with your surgeon and follow whichever route they want you to take.

Finances are another area you need to have in order before surgery.  You are simply not coming straight home from surgery and heading back to work.  You need to plan to be off work for a minimum of 2 to 3 months thus you need to be sure you have saved enough money to pay bills, rent, buy food, etc.  In most cases, it is best if you stockpile the food before surgery so you don’t have to go shopping anytime soon in your recovery.  It is also a good idea to have someone to help you out as you may not want to do a lot for yourself initially.  You can never under estimate the value of a good friend.

There is a lot to do before surgery in terms of getting your body in a good place to maximize your recovery and it may be a lot of hard work depending on your starting point. The big thing is to just take it day by day and do your best to eat right, exercise, stop smoking, stretch, and put some money away for the aftercare.  The time will pass quick enough and once you are on the other side, you will be so thankful that you took the time and effort to prepare on the road to GCS.

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  1. Lots of good advice Candace. When you said start at least a year before my heart sort of sank a bit because I was meaning to get the exercise routine going in the new year. I thought surgery would be maybe in the summer but now I have a date of March 1st this year!
    Thankfully I have been doing yoga for the past three or so years and certainly I am quite limber but I have not done any cardio exercise. I think that I had better get onto the stationary bike right away. I moved it up from the dreary basement to the well lit and more cheerful bedroom.
    I am also thankful that I am physically still in good condition for 56 y/o but I do wish it felt more like excellent.
    I would recommend that people stop drinking alcohol too as it is rather toxic to the body even at the best of times. We don’t notice the deleterious effects when we are young and only do later in life when it has added up to something we can obviously see. Thankfully again I quit drinking almost 20 years ago so I am quite lucky with that. Also I quit smoking cigarettes 13 years ago but I do still smoke cannabis so I have just stopped very recently.
    Eating well and sleeping enough are hard ones for me and are definitely habits I need to correct not just to prepare for surgery but for good.
    I am sure you are aware that all these things are for the good of ones health anyway and do go a long way towards helping the healing process.
    These are some of my tips for getting ready and I know some of these may already be on the pre surgery prep list that the surgeon provides.
    Stop anything that is an anti coagulant like Asprin and others.If they are in your system bleeding during surgery can become an issue and also bruising after surgery.
    Basically don’t really take anything that isn’t on the ok list with the surgeon.
    There are many suppliments, not all of which are vitamins that can cause complications during and after surgery. Usually there is a form to fill out where one lists what they are taking, so be honest and let the surgeon know what you are taking.
    Get the added salt and sugar out of your diet, salt raises blood pressure and I don’t remember what sugar does but of course it can be part of weight gain and difficulty losing some weight if one needs to.
    I would also suggest surrounding ones self with things that bring joy and pleasure because our mood going into surgery can be important.
    If you feel good then you will also likely feel confident and less apprehensive. Keep in mind though that it is normal to feel nervous or even afraid before just about any surgery, especially this one!
    I am also glad that my weight is very good and perhaps I am a bit under weight so for those who feel they are it might be ok to actually gain a little if that is possible.
    I can’t think of anything else just now but to say that self care is always important as a part of maintaining good health for your overall happiness and well being.
    I have found since I started transition that taking care of myself and caring about myself has increased and I would guess it is the same for many.
    Love your blog which I just discovered and will follow as I get updates in my email.
    Steffi from Toronto

    • Hi Steffi,

      Thank you for your detailed reply and some of the additional information you have added. I will be covering more preparation as the series progresses but it never hurts to get a sneak peek. March 1st is not very far away and I am really excited for you. I assume you will be going to Montreal? Even with only a month and a half, anything you can do exercise wise until then will help you. Luckily this winter in Toronto has not been too bad so that may help you get in some fun outdoor activities. I live in Toronto in case you were wondering how I knew the weather. I am glad you found the site and stay tuned I have lots planned for 2017.

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