By Robyn Walters
Long-term BWQ readers may recall that I am a nonpracticing bi-woman elder. Some may also recall that I wasn’t always recognized as female. That said, all my healthcare providers in the past quarter century have known I’m a postoperative female, but none know of my bisexual leanings. That detail is not germane to my chronic kidney disease, arrhythmia, and skin cancer issues and care.
Early on, however, there was risk in my medical life. Transition brought its own risks.
I began hormone replacement therapy at age 61, not long after going to court to legally change my name. I was aware of the deep vein thrombosis risk of an estrogen regimen, but that applied mainly to smokers. I did lose an online friend to that problem. Being a heavy smoker, she developed DVT, and a clot broke off and reached her heart. She did not survive a severe heart attack. It was later that I learned of the breast cancer risks from HRT. I was faithful in having my annual mammogram experience but have reached the age at which Medicare no longer allows women to have mammograms. Really? As a healer with the Distant Healing Network, I certainly see healing requests from older women with breast cancer. But my primary care physician (PCP) says I may have a “diagnostic” mammogram only if I find a problem in the monthly self-examination that I most often forget to do. So far, so good—I think. Definitely a risk.
The biggest medical risk has been the four-hour surgery that restored much of my body to the form it should have had at birth. That was a risk I was more than willing to take on my sixty-third birthday. Recovery led to the only medical discrimination I have ever experienced.
Three weeks after surgery and a week home, two abdominal suture wounds became infected, and we drove to the Bremerton Naval Hospital to see my relatively new PCP. He treated me with disdain and told me to go back to the surgeon two hundred miles away. After my PCP refused to treat me, we walked to the Emergency Room, from where I was immediately sent to surgery for removal of necrotic flesh.
When I reported the Naval Hospital doctor for his behavior, I learned that he had been harassing lesbian nurses as well. One can hope that his federal career was cut short.
Since military hospitals were directed to stop serving older retirees, we have been seen by civilian doctors, first in the Seattle area and then on Maui, where we now live. Never has there been a problem or even a hint of discrimination for me or my husband, who is also trans. The medical personnel here are truly supportive.
I really appreciate doctors who live up to their Hippocratic oath and all medical providers who care for all people no matter their background.
Robyn Walters is a trans-elder whose interests range from amateur radio and scuba diving to LGBT support, perpetual college classes, editing her husband’s 50+ novels and stories, writing, and helping to proof BWQ issues.