A former policeman who has undergone gender reassignment surgery to start a new life as a woman has been overwhelmed by the support she has received.

Samantha Wood – who lives in Stevenage – felt trapped in the wrong body and battled depression, even contemplating suicide, as she desperately tried to surpress her urge to be female and continue to live her life as Richard.

Just over a month ago the 43-year-old finally underwent gender reassignment surgery at Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon, and has been inundated with messages of support following a story in the Comet.

Sam, who has three children, said: “I was shaking with nerves before the operation, but now I feel complete and amazing.

“Lots of people have been wishing me well and it’s really helped.”

The surgery took just one-and-a-half hours to complete and Sam will be in recovery for up to 12 weeks. She will need to take hormones for the rest of her life.

Sam, who gave a candid interview to the Comet in a bid to help others in a similar situation, had been prepared for backlash – but has received nothing but support from people.

She said: “I just want to say thank you. I’ve found friends I never knew I had, had ex-colleagues get in touch and neighbours who had moved away visit.

“I can’t wait to get my heels on and rock down the street.”

Sam has set up a Facebook page – Sam’s Trans Journey – in a bid to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to be transgender, and now has more than 300 followers.

She said: “If my page saves one family from destruction then I have succeeded.

“Reaching out is far more positive than holding back.

“I may have been a face full of smiles whatever the situation, but sometimes it was just a mask. For the first time in a long time, if you see me smile then rest assured it’s genuine.

“If you do see me in the street, stop and chat to me. I have all the time in the world for you, like you have shown all the time in the world for me.”