Sunday, November 27, 2011
My reticence is partly down to embarrassment. This is a sensitive subject as you will find if you elect to read on. It is also partly due to avoiding the concerned messages I would receive from family and friends. While it is nice knowing that people are that concerned, my reason for writing this is not to garner sympathy.
Why I have decided to write this rather personal piece is purely in case someone else is in a similar position to me a few months before the op. It is possible they might get something from this.
There will be some reading this who do know me. You may have seen my other post about the op and probably my Facebook posts about it. You will therefore know a few odd things about the operation without knowing anything specific. You'll know it's delicate, personal, kind of sore in the shower and a bugger to change the dressing.
This is your last chance to turn away and read no more. What follows is going to be rather personal and you will know a little more about me than you possibly want. People who have asked me about my operation and have received an honest answer have replied "too much information".
There will be no pictures but where I need to describe things I will. Just so you know.
Ok, your choice ...
I was circumcised.
There, I've said it. I was wheeled into an operating theatre on Friday 18th November and half an hour later wheeled out again leaving my foreskin behind.
No doubt you have a mass of questions. I will try to answer what I think of as the main ones which are: why I had it done, did it hurt, and am I recovered?
So, why? Why does a 47-year-old man have a circumcision?
There are only three possible reasons that I can think of: religion, aesthetics or health.
My religious thoughts are still as nebulous as ever and I have not decided to align myself with a faith that requires this particular surgical procedure. So, it isn't that.
Is it aesthetics? You all know I am gay but I don't consider myself particularly vain. I haven't had this done because I think it will look nicer or the girls in Sex in the City say it's better. That may be the case but it wasn't a consideration.
That leaves health, the only reason I would entertain such an idea.
I have a skin condition on the head of my penis called lichen planus. It is largely controllable by steroid creams but they aren't recommended for long term use and cannot reverse the damage done by the condition over time. That damage, in my case, was the adhesion of my foreskin to the head.
To be honest, I could live with that. It wasn't covering a huge area and seemed to be under control. The problem was that the adhered skin wasn't that secure and would painfully rip at the edges at the slightest provocation. This has been going on for years but has been growing worse recently.
The only permanent solution was circumcision.
Getting the operation done took time. I had been seeing my GP for years about the lichen planus. It had had two flare-up episodes resulting in a biopsy and a course of visits to a dermatologist. The second flare-up seemed to leave the adhered foreskin in its delicate state and that led to the visit to the GP with the conclusion that circumcision was needed.
From that meeting with my GP, where we both agreed that it should be done, to seeing the consultant took 10 weeks. Then a further three or four weeks to my pre-op assessment and then another week for the operation itself.
The meeting with the consultant added little. He agreed that it should go ahead and that he would recommend that the registrars arrange the operation. He also said that for a while after the op, my penis would look like it had been "bitten by a shark" but once everything had settled down it would be "aesthetically pleasing". I put the quote marks in there because those were his exact words.
The operation itself seemed to go smoothly. I arrived at the hospital at 7:45 am and was waiting for my sister to pick me up at 11:15 am. In between, I met some lovely friendly doctors and nurses who introduced themselves to me by name (quite useless for me, I'm afraid), gave me drugs, explained what would happen. They also explained that I shouldn't drive, operate heavy machinery or sign any important documents.
There is a curious sense of security. Every time one of them came to talk to me they always and without exception checked my identity - name, date of birth and so on. Tedious in a way, but it ensured they don't operate on the wrong person, I suppose, which was all to the good.
Then they walked me off to the operating theatre. I had a cannula (one of those things they plug a drip into) put in my hand, then some sort of injection and I was asked to talk about my job. I got as far as "I program computers".
From my point of view, I had a lovely snooze and had a dream where I thought I was able to communicate directly with Facebook without the use of a computer or a phone. All that was interrupted by someone asking me to wake up. Very disorientating. It didn't occur to me until a few minutes later that the operation had finished.
After a very short while I was more or less completely awake and I was given tea and biscuits and lots of water. There was a bit of discomfort but no pain. I had visits from the nurses and from the surgeon who inspected my bright blue (why?) dressing and re-applied it. He also asked if I'd been to the loo, which I hadn't, and if I'd had a look yet. I was in the middle of a ward so the answer to that was also a no. Afterwards I heard him tell the nurse to make sure I went for a pee before I left.
Very soon I had to do that. It was all the tea and the water. It was then that I had my first look at what was left behind. I found that the surgeon had removed my foreskin ... and the bits of skin that had adhered to my glans. I wasn't expecting that. My GP had said, years before, that the skin would probably not be removed so I was pleasantly surprised to see it gone. It all looked very nice. Bloody but nice.
OK, so perhaps aesthetics did play a little part in this after all.
The trip to the loo made me lose the dressing. Well, not lose as such, but it did come off and was rather bloody. So I waddled out, trying not to get blood on my gown, and had to get the nurse to re-dress the wound. Again with the strange blue gauze.
Shortly afterwards, my sister arrived and I had to get dressed and leave.
So now what? It's been a little over a week since the op. Am I still at shark bite or have I moved on to beauty pageant?
I guess I am somewhere in between. There has been a great deal of swelling and I currently appear to have a second foreskin. That has only happened because the swollen skin has ballooned out and sort of fallen forward. The swollen skin is tender and it makes it difficult for me to keep the area hidden by it clean without causing further injury. Because of that it's possible I might have an infection and my GP has taken a swab and put me on antibiotics as a precaution.
On the whole, healing has been very slow and quite demoralising. Sleep is the worst. I usually sleep on my right side and roll on to my front. That has been out of the question, for understandable reasons, but sleeping on my back is alien to me and so I have found it difficult to sleep. That is getting better but my subconscious mind seems to like playing tricks on me while I am sleeping and I have been woken up in pain either because I have relocated myself or my penis in my sleep or it has got ideas of its own. I will say no more about that.
I am on pain medication: co-codamol four times a day and ibuprofen three. Co-codamol is apparently addictive but if it is I will have to deal with that a little later. For the moment, I need it.
I have the hang of timing the meds now. My phone's capacity for alarms has helped a great deal and I have arranged the timings so that I get six hours sleep without interruption for tablets between midnight and six in the morning. I am oddly proud of that.
That's about all I can tell you for now. As I said earlier, I have written this for anyone who is in a similar position. I don't know if it will be of any help or even if it is of interest to anyone except myself.
My final words here will be advice. If you've been told you need to do this, think about it carefully before agreeing. I don't think this is suggested lightly or often for adults so if it has been recommended then you probably do need it. If there are other options, however, then explore them. Don't take too long, though! One of my regrets is that I didn't get this done a lot earlier and I sometimes wonder if I should have insisted when the lichen planus first came to light and had it done then.
Allow for a long recovery period as well. I think the times I have been given are for a much younger man. That doesn't mean don't do it if you are my age or older - my sister-in-law's cousin had the same operation at 68! - but take the estimated times for recovery with a pinch of salt.
I will post updates later on, if and when things have settled.