The other patients, Diane & I spent a lot of time in the sun room drinking coffee, laughing and having some small talk to help Jen's nerves. But soon it was time to make the walk next door to the hospital. Jen had my room and my bed for her hospital stay. It was different sitting on the other side of the room, but it did me great to get over my "Montreal complex" and see things from a different prospective. I left her room only when Dr Brassard came to visit for his last consult. I think it confused him or at least made him think. As I had already been at Karyn & Diane's side for eight days and now here I was with my long lost sister, Jennifer.
I stayed with Jen to chat, make small talk, learning a lot about her in the process. I think it was great for the both of us. I kept Jen's mind occupied and away from being scared as much as humanly possible. And it absolutely made me feel good about helping a genuinely nice person who was sent to Montreal alone and without support or a hand to hold.
That night, I was sitting alone in the convalescence house living room watching a meaningless hockey game (to me). Slowly, patients started coming in to chat. When the time was right, Karyn's surgery sister, asked me if she could ask a very personal question. I assured her she could. Note, this was exactly one week after surgery and she had just recently had the stent removed. Shyly she asked "is the hole, you know, going to close or is it always going to be so open?" I assured her it would indeed close in short time. But I had to laugh and yet remember how fully freaked out I was when I first saw my new vagina and had the same damn fear.
When I left Montreal, I knew how much I appreciated Carrie, Gaily, Linda & Michelle coming up to Montreal for two days before my surgery. I also saw in my group of people those that came alone, which in my "Class of 2008" was quite a few. I had made a promise to myself and publicly that I would do what I could to prevent someone from having to go through surgery alone. Granted I have tried to help people from all over when ever the asked for help be it just answering questions or driving up in a blizzard to bring Anna home.
But this was truly different. I could not imagine anyone else I would give two weeks of myself and my vacation time other than Karyn & Diane. Being there for Jennifer was an absolute bonus. She's without question the type of girl you're glad to be there for. I made me happy to help make her happy. It also gave her someone to hug before surgery and a smiling face to wake up to after surgery. I also called her family to the let them know than Jen did very well came came through like a champion.
I spent the next few days in and out of her hospital room, helping Jen and her surgery sister Vickie, as much as I could. Karyn was healing quite well and was getting homesick and wanted to head home a day earlier than scheduled which Dr Brassard granted. It gave us less time to spend with Jen, but like Karyn and I after surgery did very well back at the convalescence house. It's amazing how your nerves go away post op and just returning to the house is a major morale boost. It's a feeling I wish I could have bottled.
I was very thankful to have been honored to be a part of something very special for Karyn & Diane. To think I didn't know them three years prior and they feel like family now. I'm also very thankful that the timing brought Jennifer into our circles. We made a lifelong friend that we still see on a regular basis, but not often enough. Jen is" just a normal girl, trying to live life" Though I do believe we've corrupted the innocent young lady :)
I'm also thankful for the other friends we've stayed in contact with from Karyn's "Class of 2011", a great group of people who made ten days a lot of fun. Though the days seemed long, looking back I must say the time flew by. It seems like years ago, not just last year.
I believe spending the ten days there also exercised a lot of my internal demons. To be there and see all of the employees that cared for me (excluding Francine) have moved on. To see the recovery days without the blur of pain medications and anesthesia, also put things into a new perspective in closing that chapter of my life. Being able to talk with all of the patients, the MtF's and the FtM's , was a pleasure. And of course "Paying It Forward" to Diane, Karyn & Jennifer was a two way gift and a gift that keeps on giving.
I'm very happy to say that in January 2012, the demons that haunted me every January 24 - January 28 since my surgery have indeed been exercised. Without question this trip is a major factor in this new outlook.
I'll close this chapter not with my words, but with the words of Jennifer. She wrote the below in her blog about a year after our meeting.
"It turned out I wasn't alone. I met the most amazing people there, a few who have become very dear friends. One in particular went out of her way to go with me, a near total stranger, to the hospital. She talked with me while I waited, she comforted me while I was scared, she hugged me before I went upstairs to the OR. She was there when I got back to my room. She'll never know how much that meant to me, because words can't truly express it"