November 23, 2016, the very day before Thanksgiving, the day I seemed to have waited for my whole life was finally here; I was getting my top surgery. I got my top surgery date 3 months or so prior and every day I would jump out of bed eager to change the countdown I had going on a whiteboard.
Once it got down to single digits the days seemed endless. But it was finally here, it was finally happening. I remember laying on the gurney waving goodbye to my nervous mother and best friend as they wheeled me away. I burst into an extremely brightly lit room, the light hurt my eyes and caused me to squint, when I opened them back up I was directly underneath the largest light I had ever seen, it was blinding and intimidating. Suddenly a nervous rush washed over me as a nurse instructed me to count back from 10 while she was giving me anesthesia.
This was it, it felt as if someone had stood me up and slowly dipped me into a warm bath of water. Here we go, my last breath, my last thoughts as a man with a chest. As the water began to consume me, everything went black.
When I wake, I'll be free.
I woke up to the same nurse patting my cheek telling me I "really needed to stay awake this time, Logan." I couldn't grasp consciousness. I kept sinking in and out. Everything was groggy and I was completely unaware of everything that was going on in my world. I felt different, I couldn't open my eyes or come to reality but I knew, I felt free. I felt like I could breathe for the first time and I hadn't even looked down yet. When I could finally stand on my own two feet I braced myself for the uncomfortable 3 hour car ride home from Albany.
Uncomfortable is such an understatement, but I didn't care: I was free.
I remember snapchatting all my friends selfies of my doped up, post-op surgery smile letting them know I made it out the other side. Any time I caught a glimpse of myself in the car door side mirror I had a smile permanently stamped on my face. This was beautiful, this was living.
After arriving home, the first thing I did was unbutton my shirt and look at my new body in the mirror. The reflection looking back at me was finally starting to align with the thoughts that clouded my head and screamed at me every day. I was elated, the drugs I was doped up on helped a little bit. I made my mom take a picture, I don't even need to pull it up to see the goofy smile that stretched from ear to ear that's been engraved into my memory. I posted it right away captioned "I waited 19 years to post a shirtless picture." I had never been so proud. I inspected my bandages and my drains for at least an hour, still so far in shock; was this real life? Did this really happen?
But what they don't tell you is that recovery is hell.
I've never opened up about my recovery process before, but it was far from rainbows and sunshine. My recovery would last a week; a week of not doing anything. When I say not doing anything, I mean nothing. I was trapped in a recliner for the first 2-3 days before I went stir crazy and then the only movements allowed were walking for shorter periods of time. I couldn't lift my arms, I couldn't go to the gym, which if anyone knows me knows is my second home. I couldn't even comfort myself with a warm shower. I was going insane. It was driving me mad. The first night was smooth sailing- until the drugs wore off. My mom had woken me up in the middle of the night to empty my drains and when I woke up I was in a world of hurt. She practically had to carry me to the bathroom because I was too dizzy to stumble my way there without assistance. She had asked if I was okay but I was in too much pain to even speak the words. Something was wrong, it wasn't just painful but it was uncomfortable. It felt like my chest was fighting itself from the inside out. I looked in the mirror and got scared at the extremely pale and sunken face staring back at me. I stumbled backwards onto the closed toilet and that was all I can remember of the first night. The rest of the week had me feeling like I was trapped in the same dull loop.
It wasn't that I was being overwhelmed with emotions all week like I had expected to be, it was more of being emotionless. One of the last days before I got my drains out, I made a Walmart trip with my mom where we ran into someone I knew and she asked me how I was feeling. I threw on a fake face and attitude and told her I was elated, happy, lucky, blessed, cliché stuff. The truth is I was, absolutely I was, the emotion and feelings in my body just weren't confirming that. I felt empty, like a shell.
When we finally made the trek back to Albany for my reveal, I was so excited to see my bare chest for the first time, I couldn't contain myself. I had a complication with the left side of my chest that caused a lot of swelling. It looked like I had only gotten one breast removed. Dr. Rockmore (highly recommend by the way) numbed my chest just to cut me back open and vacuum the fluid out. You know those spit suckers at the dentist that takes up too much space in your mouth? Picture that, except larger. Imagine feeling that move around inside your chest, feeling like a huge spider was just dancing around trapped inside my body. It was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever experienced, just thinking about it right now makes me cringe. I had to have my left drain in for another week because of it. I could shower this time now, thank God.
I was standing in the bathroom, drain wrapped up (my mom helped me and almost fainted at the sight of the entry spot for my drain tube) and ready for a shower, letting the steam roll out and the water run. The chest I expected to see was nowhere in sight, instead, I was left with a chest that looked like I had just gotten steam-rolled. I was completely black and blue until mid-rib cage, my stitches looked horrific, I got scared. I expected tears of joy and overwhelming happiness when I saw my bare, post-op chest, but instead I felt anxious, nervous. I was so glad I went through with the procedure, I knew I hadn't regretted it, I don't know where these feelings were coming from. I was happy but my mind was not allowing me to be, instead, it pointed out everything that was wrong, it was trying to convince me I had made a mistake.
The last week droned on and I finally got my second drain out along with my stitches. Nothing else was weighing me down, just a bare chest. Every time I went to the bathroom I would take my shirt off, button downs because I still couldn't quite lift my arms, and examine every square inch of my new chest. As I started to heal, the negative thoughts did too. A chest that looked and felt so foreign to me was now the most beautiful part of my body. The first time I applied cream to my scars, I did it with such pride and had tears in my eyes. Finally, my mind was letting me enjoy the body I had just gone through hell and back for. My scars are the greatest accessory I have and I never feel the need to try to hide them. Every time I see them I am reminded of how hard I fought to get them.
Post-op depression is real and I believe I experienced it for a good portion of my recovery. Thankfully it was only temporary, and now I flaunt my chest at every possible moment.
I love my chest, I love my scars, I love my journey. Its been anything but easy, but it's never been a question of "is it worth it?"
Hell yes, it's beyond worth it. You are beyond worth it.