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Face, Neck, and Brow Lift Plus Fat Transfer - Bellevue, WA

I told the doctor that I don't want to look...

I told the doctor that I don't want to look different, just less tired and grumpy. I've had IPL and laser treatments in the past, plus Radiesse to plump my cheeks, but things are sagging (I'll be 60 in August) and I think it's time to do something more drastic. My eyelids are so low that it's getting hard to read! Dr. Naficy suggested a brow lift so the shape of my eyes wouldn't change too much, plus a face lift to put my cheeks back where they belong and a neck lift. He also recommended a fat transfer to take care of a couple of problems I didn't think could be fixed. The first is my left eye. I had a lower bleph in 2004 (not by Dr. Naficy) and more fat was removed from the left eye than the right one. It's not terrible, but the eyes don't match so I wear glasses now to cover that area. The second is around my chin. I have a prominent chin, but a short jaw, and the result is that my chin sort of looks like it's been stuck onto my face instead of blending in. Dr. Naficy suggested that I have some fat injected into either side of my chin to make my lower face look less 'jowly.' Should be interesting. I'll post pix when I can.

Phone pre-op

I had my pre-op appointment a couple of days ago and was very happy with all the information I was given. Right up front, Dr. Naficy's nurse told me that everything she'd be telling me was included in a package she was sending in the mail, so she wanted me to feel free to just listen and ask questions rather than taking notes. (whew) It was amazing the level of detail she went into! From the first hours after surgery, then day-by-day, she told me how I should expect to feel, both physically and mentally. It really calmed me down to have a picture in my mind of how I might overcome some of the challenges. Most of the things she mentioned were things I'd read about here, but a couple were new to me. (Don't move your chin side-to-side or up and down for the first 2 weeks after a neck lift was one.) She also gave me some tips on how to do the after care, like getting myself a small stool to sit on when I take my first shower (she said I might get woozy and fall over). I would never have even thought of that!
After we went over everything and I'd asked her some questions, Dr. Naficy came on the phone and talked to me some more. I went into some detail about the procedures themselves and assured me that he felt there was nothing about my health history that concerned him. He also said there'd be time before the surgery began for us to talk some more and urged me to call with any questions I might have between now and then. Overall, I was very impressed with the level of detail I was given and the time both Dr. Naficy and his nurse took (I was on the phone for an hour) to talk about what was going to be done and what I could expect during and after the procedures.
BTW, both Dr. Naficy and his nurse said that I seemed to be a very knowledgeable patient. When I said I was getting tips from people on RealSelf, his nurse said she loves this site!

Two days to go!

We leave town tomorrow for my surgery and I've been laying in supplies like I was planning a military excursion! LOL. Since I'll be staying in a hotel, though, I really have to take everything with me that I think I'll need. Not much chance I'll be running down to the store for something to eat, and the Residence Inn doesn't have room service.

It's probably just nerves, but I notice that I've misstated the date of my surgery at least twice in these posts. I even made my reservations at the hotel a day early and had to change them when I realized my mistake. What's up with that? Just too distracted, I guess.

I've been telling (some) people that I'm having a FL and the most common reaction I get is, "Why? You already look so young." Either my friends are too kind or their eyesight's as bad as mine. At this point, I've just decided not to try and explain. I'm doing this because I want to, period.

I sent emails to my sisters, too. One of them wrote back right away and said she thought it was exciting (no comment about my looking young - apparently her eyesight's pretty good), but the other one has been strangely silent and I have a feeling she may not be entirely happy. Trying to please everyone all the time is a bad old habit of mine, though, so I'm doing my best not to obsess about it.

Spoke to my shrink yesterday. He said that by the third day I'll probably be saying, "Why did I do this?" He also said not to worry about it, that almost everyone does. He also said that he's never met anyone who, a year afterward, said they wished they hadn't done it. So, yeah. I'm going to try and remember that.

I have to say that I'm extremely grateful to everyone on this website. Just knowing what others have gone through and reading their hints about how to handle things has helped me tremendously! I can be a pretty anxious person when I'm going into a new situation, so being able to picture how things will go and how I'll look and feel ahead of time is a godsend!

And yes, I'll post pix ASAP.

Tomorrow's the big day!

We leave town tonight for my appointment tomorrow morning and I feel like I did the day before my daughter was born: I'm cleaning everything in the house! I'm also craving anything crunchy (salad, raw carrots/broccoli, etc.), which I think is a reaction to the idea of not having solid food for awhile.

I was worried about not having a recliner to sleep on - either here at home or at the hotel - so I went out and bought myself a chaise lounge. It folds up and fits in the trunk of my car, and when I sit/lie on it, I'm at about a 45 degree angle. Maybe it'll work and maybe it won't, but I thought it would at least be worth a try. (Cheaper than buying a recliner, too.) And when we get back, it'll come in handy for lying around in the backyard. Just in case, though, I'm also taking a bunch of pillows.

I've also bought a lot of stuff (probably too much, to be honest) that I hope will make this whole thing easier. Instead of pajamas, I got 2 sleep dresses that button in front. That way, when I go to the bathroom, I don't have to bend over to pull up/down my pj pants! I also bought several wide headbands to cover my hair and keep it away from my face. I've got lots of soft foods (soup, kefir, yogurt, protein drinks, instant oatmeal), and a blender so I can puree fruit to eat. I also made myself a nifty little pouch to keep an icepack in. It's very soft and I lined it with felt, so it shouldn't be too terribly cold next to my skin.

Drugs. I've got lots of drugs. I'm like a walking pharmacy here. Geez.

And I finally had my husband take some 'before' pictures. Unfortunately, I can't post them until tonight, though, because I have no idea how to upload them from his camera.

True story: I was trying to take the !@#$ pix myself, but kept closing my eyes before the flash went off. Duh. Here's why I was trying to do it myself: I didn't want my husband to see how bad my 'before' pictures would be! I mean, how stupid is that? Like the man doesn't see me every day? Somehow, though, I kinda didn't think he'd seen me at my worst. Like, whenever I see him, I smile and raise my eyebrows and just generally try not to look like I'm sagging too much. I'm an idiot, right? Anyway, it was so frustrating trying to get the pictures right that I finally broke down this morning and asked him to take them for me. He was so funny. He kissed me and told me I look beautiful no matter what. How did I get so lucky?

Home now and healing well

Well, it's over now. My surgery was one week ago today, but because it took place out of town, I've only been home for a day and a half. The surgery itself was surprisingly easy - especially since I was out of it the whole time. I'd hired a nursing service to help me the first 24 hours and they were worth every penny. Not noly did I have an RN help me get dressed, back to my hotel in a wheelchair, and set up in a recliner, but she took my vitals every hour or so and made sure I stayed on top of my meds, so no pain, really, to speak of. Whew!
After the first 24, my husband came up to care for me. I have to admit, I was wrong to think that I could have taken care of myself all alone in the hotel room and I'm glad I let him win that argument. He told the guys at work that I was having surgery ('female stuff' - nobody wanted to ask) and needed help for awhile. I'd already brought enough foods (kefir, soup, protein drinks, etc) for myself and he bought what he needed for his meals. Since we were in a Residence Inn, it worked out really well to just have our eals there.

I can't tell you all how much it meant and how prepared I felt having read about your own experiences ahead of time! Of course, the doctor and his staff were extremely thorough in their description of what to expect, but so many of you have shared things that I'd never have thought of that there were very very few surprises. Bless you all!!

Of course, everyone's experience is different, of course, so I do have a few things to pass on that may or may not add to this wonderful body of knowledge, but I'm going to do my best.

First of all, expect to 'lose' a day or two after the surgery. I took Oxycodone on the first day and one or two the second day after which I switched to extra strength Tylenol and (sometimes) Valium. I thought I was pretty with it most of the time. Nevertheless, when my husband told me that it was Monday, I was flabbergasted. I had absolutely NO recollection of one entire day having come and gone.

Second, if you have a neck lift, expect chewing to be uncomfortable. It literally feels as if my ears are being yanked forward every time I put my back teeth together. Maybe not everyone will feel that way, but if you do, it's no unusual. I'd recommend sticking to soft foods for at least the first couple of weeks.

Expect to ITCH! My ears are so itchy that sometimes I think I'm going to lose my mind and nothing really helps. Ice does, for short periods of time, but ears are kind of weird to ice and if they'd numb (one is one isn't) then you can't tell if you're doing any damage. All I can recommend is to keep up with the Tylenol and try like heck to distract yourself.

Sleep. Just decide you're going to be a slug for a few days and forget about it I was up this morning takine a shower, etc, and when I sat down after breakfast I basically just passed out for two hours. That's strange for me as I'm an unusually activer person (I have ADHD), so try not to be a hero.

If you were glasses, expect to be blind for awhile. Just writing this much, my head's staring to hurt and I've got gauze pads under the stems and everything. This is a pain, but the darned stems sit right on top of the incisions.

My doctor said to keep Vaseline on all my incisions, spread on as thickly as 'frosting' for the first week. I did and I understand that it was important, but let me tell you, it is nothing short of hell getting it out of your hair. I tried dishwashing liquid, clarifying shampoo, rubbing cornstarch into the hair before washing it, I was going NUTS! Then the doctor's nurse mentioned Neutrogena Eye Makeup Remover. It sounds crazy, but it was the ONLY thing that actually worked. You have to shake it up first, then pour it over your head and work it in, rinse it out and shampoo your hair like usual. I'll have to do it again tonight to get the last of the stuff that's clinging to the backs of my ears and along my hairline but it literally saved my sanity. I spent two hours trying everything I would think of (Google it - you can't believe all the home remedies!) and I was on the verge of shaving my head before we tried the Neutrogena. I'm not pushing the product, per se, but if you need the help, it's worth its weight in gold.

This is getting long and probably has a zillion typos in it, but I did want to write something before too much more time elapsed. My dear husband has been documenting every day on my iPhone and promises he WILL upload the pix when he can. Until the, I have to tell you I look pretty darned awful: swollen, yellow. purple bruises, big fat red ears... Picture Alfred E. Newman... But I know I'm going to look great in the end.

Again, a million thanks to all of you for your help and support!!!

Finally Had My Meltdown - oh, joy!

Before my surgery, the doctor warned me that at about one week out, I'd probably get depressed, have cabin fever, regret my decision, etc. Ha! I thought. The man may know medicine, but he doesn't know me. I've been been dreaming about this FL since I was 40. And I'm a writer! I sit around all by myself every ding dang day and rarely see another human being, what the heck am I going to miss about the outside world? Well, here am having a big ol' slice of crow for breakfast...

Yesterday went pretty well, for the most part. (I even posted here and have had some very nice replies - bless you all.) But then my ears started to itch. And I'm not talking about, "Ooo, they're kinda itchy." It was like, "I'm going to rip these !@#$ ears off my head and throw them out the window!!!" Not only that, but the back of my neck itched, too. I was pacing the floor, rubbing ice cubes on them, baking soda paste, cold water, jumping up and down screaming (hey, I work alone - it's okay) - I even rubbed hydrocortisone and benadryl on them. Nothing helped!!!

As if that wasn't bad enough, my husband had already called to say he had to work late, so I was dealing with this all by myself. I'd taken about all the Tylenol my liver could handle and half a Valium and thought I was doing okay, and then the poor guy walked through the door and I had a complete and utter meltdown.

How does he stand living with me? Between sobs, I told him I was hideous and in the worst pain of my life, figured I'd blown all this money and now I was going to have to have my ears surgically removed once I'd finally ripped them off my head... I think I may have even begged him to regain his sanity and go find another woman to marry who still has an ounce of intelligence left. It's all a blur.

Thank God, however, he proved that he's the dearest sweetest man who ever lived. Not only did he listen very patiently to everything I said. (And remember, he'd just come off a 16 hour day at work), but he very gently went over my ears and neck with the Neutrogena Makeup remover (remember that !@#$ Vaseline? It was still glopped all over the back of my ears and neck), then helped me into the shower, washed my hair for me (remember, I'm still blubbering hysterically through all this), dried me off, dried my hair, put me into my pj's and got me into bed, all the while telling me that I look great, that everything was going to be all right, and my, hadn't my swelling gone down since that morning.

I hope some of you can relate. I'd hate to think I'm the only madwoman on this forum.

So far so good

This morning - 8 days out. Feeling almost human.

So far so good - again

This time with the picture!

Trying a timeline here. Wish me luck.

Now that my husband has finally shown me how to upload pix from my phone, I'm going to attempt to put some in here in order. Heaven only knows what this will look like.

Note to self: if something seems wrong, it probably is.

I think I finally have an answer to the cause of these intensely itchy ears of mine: the cartilage in my ears is infected! After suffering with intense pain (imagine having fire ants laying waste to the sides of your head) for the last 24 hours plus, I broke down and called the doctor. He asked me to text him a couple of pix and as soon as he saw them he said I needed antibiotics. Whatever the condition is called (gotta look it up - I'll get so much more sympathy that way), he assures me that it's not systemic and would have resolved on its own 'eventually.' However, since I'd already assured him that 'eventually' I was going to cut both of my ears off and put them down the garbage disposal, we agreed that waiting probably wasn't worth it.

I believe I may be regaining the will to live.

The miracles of modern medicine do not include ambition transplants

Here's the good news: my ears are finally comfortable. The swelling has also gone down considerably - enough so that my ears no longer look like they belong on a stuffed animal.

Here's the not-so-good news: I'm so tired I feel like I've been hit by a truck. My schedule for today could easily have described my first day on earth: eat, sleep, poop. Oh, okay, I've made a post or two on here, as well. But on the other hand, I haven't grown, begun learning to speak, or sucked my thumb, either, so I'd call it about a wash.

Appearance-wise, I'm in something of a holding pattern. The less-swollen ears are a real improvement and my face is starting to have a bit more definition, but the color of my cheeks still falls somewhere between 'Acid wash green' and 'Pea soup,' so that kind of detracts from the overall charm. The faux port wine stain next to my mouth is kind of disturbing as well, as are the stubbornly purple swipes under my eyes. Maybe if I had some energy, I'd try out the cover-up makeup they gave me at the doc's, but at the moment, there are slugs in my garden with more ambition - and they'd probably look better in the makeup, too, so why bother?

Amazingly enough, however, I'm not feeling at all depressed. I did have a moment or two last night when I began mourning my old face (which gives you an idea of exactly what kind of grip I had on reality at the time). Do other people who've had plastic surgery feel this way? It's like being one of those characters in a time-travel story who go back and make some small change that rewrites the future. What would my 'old' face have looked like in years to come? How will this new one be different? Don't get me wrong; I'd made this calculation before and come down on the side of change, but there is a small part of me that feels a sort of wistful fondness for the future face that will never be.

Whew. That was exhausting. Think I'll go back to sleep.

The DYI Masseuse

I've had a couple of trying days around here, but amazingly, very little of it has had to do with my physical health. Without going into the details, let me just say that the secret for removing massive amounts of tree sap from cat fur is Vaseline. And should that cat also get herself caught two stories up in a tree (on a different day, mind you), forget about calling the fire department. (Unless, of course, the tree itself is on fire, in which case you have much bigger problems.) There are really nice folks out there who, for a nonrefundable fee, will grab their equipment and arrive at your house just in time to watch your idiot cat jump down by herself. But so what? It's not like you've just spent a lot of money on anything else, right?

On the list of, "Things you'll need in preparation for your facelift," number one should be, "No emergencies that can't be handled by a drug-addled accident victim." ;)

So, yeah. Other than that I'm doing pretty well. Two days ago, I was finally allowed to start the Range of Motion exercises for my neck, which means I am no longer walking around like a whiplash victim in an invisible neck brace. What a relief! For a few days there, I actually thought my cervical spine might fuse. Of course, now my neck is super stiff, but it is getting better. The only downside is that I'm not what you'd call a patient person, so of course, I'm probably overdoing the exercises.

Oh, and I'm also now doing "self-massage" on all those lovely lumps and bumps that have cropped up on my face, head, and neck, AND I get to massage all my incision lines, too. Lucky me! Honestly, I had no idea that simply setting my finger firmly-but-gently on the pea-sized lump behind my left ear could cause such agony. And don't even get me started on the area where my neck and shoulder meet. You know that place where Mr. Spock always delivers the Vulcan Nerve Pinch? Yeah, that's the spot. That sucker is tender! Fortunately, however, our bodies are wonderful things and after three or four massage sessions, the neighbors stopped calling to ask if everything was all right. ;)

Oh, yeah. There is one more annoying little thing that's cropped up which no one warned me about, so perhaps I'll pass it along for what it's worth. My face is breaking out! I mean, sheesh. I wanted to look younger, but not THAT MUCH younger!

A picture is worth a thousand words

FYI, this is me, yesterday morning. Starting to look somewhat like myself again. The red stain next to my mouth is actually about half that red today, so I know I'm making progress. But those purple things under my eyes? Geez, it looks like warpaint or something. Blech.

Makeup helps a little

It's been two weeks and one day since my surgery, so I thought I'd get out my little ol' makeup kit and see if I could make myself presentable. Before I start, however, I'd like to say that I'm very sorry if I gave the impression that Jill Ireland makeup isn't great/wonderful/whatever. My only beef with it was that I thought it had fragrance in it which, for me, is a big no-no. At the PS's office I'd gotten a quick demo of how to use the stuff from a very sweet young woman who finished by spritzing what she called 'finishing spray' into the air, and although it smelled great, I knew there was no way I was going to EVER put it on my face.

Well, it turns out that the 'finishing spray' is optional. And though I haven't had a ton of experience putting on corrective makeup - well, none, if you're being picky about it - I took out my kit today and gave it a try.

In the hands of someone who actually knows what they're doing, I think I'd look wonderful now. But it was me, so take that into consideration. The good thing is, it really did cover some of the (still very dark) bruising under my eyes. Enough so that I might even, you know, some day, consider going out of the house again. In the picture I'm posing here, I've only covered my cheeks. Honestly, I get worn out so quickly these days it's pathetic. I also have my glasses on, but I don't think that will keep you from seeing whatever improvement there's been so far.

As you can probably tell, the right side of my neck is still pretty red and ropey-looking. I'm doing the massage and it seems to be improving a bit, but it'll take some time. The good news is, almost all of the bruising on my chest is gone. Yeah!

So, here's the face. Be kind.

Maybe the makeup wasn't such a good idea.

Okay, now my whole face is swollen. Ugh. Maybe I'm rushing things a bit. Why is it so hard to be patient???

FYI. TMI.

It came to my attention yesterday that not everyone 'gets' my sense of humor. I'd called my ps's nurse about a couple of concerns, among them the persistence of the purple bruises under my eyes. She assured me that they were normal, if aggravating, and urged me to use the camouflage makeup. Then she added, "But you're right: most people's bruises are pretty much gone by now." To which I replied: "Yes. And I hate them all."

I'd been expecting at least a chuckle. Instead, the stunned silence on the other end of the line suggested she might be calculating the odds that I was going to get a sniper rifle and start picking off their faster-healing patients from the parking lot. I quickly assured her that I was kidding and the conversation ended well, but I thought it was worth putting a note here for those who may also be wondering. Making jokes is just how I deal with stress. Nuff said.

So, how does it feel to be 2 weeks and 5 days post-op? It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, I can finally see my face looking less like a mask than it has up to this point. The swelling continues to go down, but it's uneven, and areas that are fine one day suddenly become worrisome the next. My neck is still stiff and hard to move, but the upside is that my posture is so good that my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Culver, would have wept with joy to see it. The top of my head is still quite numb, but the area that's completely insensate is growing smaller. Every day, it seems, I can feel a bit more around the edges. On the other hand, I'm beginning to shed.

First, it was the dead skin along the incision at my hairline. One day, everything looked fine (you know, all things considered), the next day it looked like I'd developed a case of giant-sized dandruff. Flakes the size of miniature corn flakes were cropping up every time I combed my hair! Thank goodness I figured out pretty quickly that it wasn't mange (or worse), and in a couple of days, all that needed to flake off had done so. Then the 'dissolvable' stitches started giving me grief.

I'm sure that, for some people, these things really do dissolve. There may even be places on my head where they're happily melting away like butter in a frying pan. But the ones that are visible to anyone who cares to look at me (mercifully few these days), are right where no woman in her right mind would want them: in my ears. Think old guy with poor grooming habits. Ugh. My husband, who considers this an essential life skill for every man, kindly trimmed them back for me. Poor man. When he said, "For better or worse," I'm not sure that this was what he had in mind.

And now, let's talk about scabs.

There's something about having a scab on my body that focuses my attention like few other things do. Fascinated by the healing process, I'm nevertheless appalled that something resembling a dirt clod has taken up residence on my skin, and as the memory of whatever trauma caused the scab recedes, the urge to see it gone grows stronger. Monitoring it for signs of change, searching for a painless way to loosen its grip, even demonstrating my willingness to 'help' it leave, I'm like a landlord serving an eviction notice on a deadbeat tenant: I want it gone now, but hurrying the process will have dire consequences. All I can do is wait and resist the urge to do something drastic.

I keep reading in here that 3 weeks will usher in a magical time of energy and recovery. I certainly hope so. For those of you morbid enough to wonder what I look like at this stage, I've included a couple of snaps.

The Nerve(s)

In the first day or two after my operation, the nerves in my face and neck were like the stoners back in high school. They weren’t quite sure what was going on, but they were pretty sure it was awesome. “Dude. It’s like the entire solar system was this tiny atom, and you were there and I was there and— Oh. Going to go pass out now. See ya.”

But when the drugs had worn off and the nausea was gone, most of the nerves realized what idiots they’d been. Something BIG had just happened. While they were happily sucking up stupid juice, the world around them had changed and if they didn’t get to work—STAT—there wouldn’t be time to make up the lost ground.

So, while a few of the stoner nerves wandered off to follow the neurological equivalent of The Grateful Dead, the rest morphed into Yuppy nerves. It was time to get to work, make connections, and start creating some brand-new baby nerves. When I closed my eyes at night, I could feel the gentle hum of their hard work as they rebuilt my body’s infrastructure.

But sometime around the end of the second week, a few of the hard-working nerves got burned out. They started to question the meaning of all their endless hours of struggle. I noticed that there were parts of my face that no longer hummed with activity. Instead, some areas seemed to have thrown in the towel. Construction on one ear was still moving forward. On the other, a Gone Fishing sign had been hung out. When I closed my eyes at night, it felt like the nerves were experiencing a rolling blackout.

Then, a few days ago, the CEO nerve apparently decided it was time to play hardball. The lazy nerves got a new manager, and this guy means business.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! You call that a synapse? It looks like the mess we find in her hairbrush every morning. Get back in there and fix it, Mister. And don’t even think about asking for overtime. There are nerve cells south of the neckline who’d give their left dendrite to have your job—and they’d do it for half of what you’re making.”

Suddenly, I felt a new surge of activity. Areas that had been numb the night before were up and running the next morning. Creepy crawling sensations increased, but the thought that work was getting done faster made up for it. I started feeling more energetic. I thought: This might actually turn out okay!

And then yesterday, a couple of the stoner nerves returned, coming down from a ‘bad trip.’ Paranoid and jittery, unable to navigate the new neural network, they wandered around under my skin, mumbling quietly, until something set them off. “Man, I know I used to go this way all the time, but OH MY GOD, YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!”

At which point, I grabbed the tiny spot on my head where it did, in fact, feel like flames had erupted. And then… nothing. The stoner nerve had apparently wandered off again, his message of catastrophe forgotten. The problem is, now I’m sitting here wide-eyed, wondering when he’ll wake up and start screaming again.

I’m nervous.

I (no longer) Feel Bad About My Neck

The late Nora Ephron wrote a hilarious book intitled, I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, in which she enumerated the physical indignities suffered by a woman as she ages. Among the most painful - for her - was the appearance of her neck. The sagging, the wrinkles, the turkey waddle were daily insults she found both unbecoming and unjust. And while I quite agreed with her sentiment, I couldn't help thinking: Well, at least you used to have a nice neck. I never did.

The first indication I had that my neck was, shall we say, less than swanlike, was back in kindergarten. Remember those 'silhouettes' they used to make—outlines of our softly rounded profiles, projected onto a screen, then transferred onto black paper, cut out, and framed for presentation to our proud parents? Well, when the day arrived for us to receive our cameos, mine was sadly missing from the pile. My moment of confusion was quickly cleared up when the teacher announced to the entire class that MY silhouette would have to be re-done because, during the cutting out process, she had accidentally removed my 'double chin.' The thing is, I wasn't really a fat kid; I just had my grandmother's neck.

Skip forward through the years and I was constantly on the hunt for some way to get rid of (or at least hide) my lousy neck: exercise, chin straps worn at bedtime, various hairstyles. One unsuccessful attempt was captured for posterity in what was my 'official' 7th grade photo. I'd convinced myself that wearing an 'up-do' would counterbalance the appearance of my neck. Instead, the pulled-back hair was like an arrow pointing straight at the swath of skin that fell from chin to collarbone without so much as a hint of contour under the jawbone. The face said 'middle schooler' the neck said 'pushing forty.'

In contrast to Ms. Ephron's experience, though, I found that aging was, if not a cure, then at least a mitigator of the problem. As the area became leaner, my neck deflated somewhat. I still hated my profile, but it could have been worse. The grandmother who so kindly willed her neck DNA to me had grown heavier with age, eventually developing a neckline that suggested she might have had a goiter hidden under there.

You'd think with all this history of neck-hating that tightening it would have been first thing on my list of requests when consulting with a PS, but it wasn't. Something I'd read years ago about muscle attachments, hyoid bones, blah, blah, blah had convinced me it was an impossible task. So, why get my hopes up?

Well, I'm sorry Gram, but it looks like your neck has finally passed away - again. Prompted by one of the other posters on this site *cough* Financegirl *cough* I decided to take a true profile photo of my neck today. (I lost the ability to see my neck in a side-view mirror years ago.) When I looked at the picture, I was shocked. I mean, it looks... normal. Really nice, in fact. And although it still feels like it's made out of plastic, I no longer care.

Of course, there's a little voice inside my head saying, "Don't get carried away. It'll never last." But for right now, I'm just going to enjoy feeling the teensiest bit swanlike. Proof, for those who need it, is attached.

Face the Face

Just a photo this time. The day is quickly getting away from me. Still feeling pretty good.

Enough already

Years ago, a friend of ours was asked to play tour guide when a Japanese executive from his company was in town. Hoping to impress the man, our friend planned a day chockfull of the sites and wonders of the city. At first, the executive seemed happy, exiting the car and taking pictures at each stop on the tour. But about halfway through the afternoon, he took one final picture, turned to our friend, and said, “I’ve enjoyed this enough.”

That pretty much sums up the way I’m feeling about my plastic surgery.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still happy with the improvement, and considering the amount of work I had done, it really is surprising how far I’ve come. But at this point, the giant leaps have tailed off, leaving me with the feeling that I’ll always be stuck at about ninety percent of the way to the finish line.

At the risk of sounding ungrateful…

I’m tired of massaging my scars, and the lumps behind my ears, and on my neck, and under my jaw. Tired of doing lymphatic massage, too, even though it helps, so I can’t really think of a good reason to stop.

I’m tired of having to tuck something behind my ear so it doesn’t hurt when I sleep on my side. And when I do sleep on my side, I’m tired of worrying that I’m smooshing my face and making it look bad again.

When I don’t lie on my side, I’m tired of having to prop myself up because of my sleep apnea. Even if I thought I could stand wearing a CPAP, I just know the face mask would push all the new fat in my cheeks out to the sides of my face until I looked like a male orangutan.

I’m tired of having places on my body that I can’t feel. It’s like we had a fight and they all moved out without leaving a forwarding address. When I dry my hair, I’m tired of hitting the top of my head with the hair dryer.

I’m tired of feeling like there’s not enough room under my jaw for all the stuff that’s under there. It’s like I’m playing Pass the Lemon every time I look down, except that it’s a marble, not a lemon. And there are five of them.

I’m tired of the bruises under my eyes and tired of doing all the things that are supposed to get rid of them but don’t. I’m very very tired of eating pineapple.

I’m tired of wearing camouflage makeup. I’m tired of wondering if other people notice that I’m wearing it and, if they do, if they think something bad happened to me or that I’m just a klutz at putting on makeup.

I’m also really tired of hearing myself complain. So, it’s a good thing that even though I feel tired, I don’t look like it.

Things are looking up

I finally got a haircut - yeah!!! I was so nervous about it that I'd put it off until I absolutely couldn't stand it any longer. My poor stylist. She's so wonderful and understanding. I told her how freaked out I was and she just went slowly, making sure I felt okay at every step. And now it's done. What a relief!

Seven Weeks Today

Okay, so… seven weeks. And the question is, how am I doing? For the most part, pretty well.

I definitely feel stronger; I'm pretty much back to my regular workout routine. And I think the work that Dr. Naficy did is beautiful. Even if my ears are completely exposed, you can't see the scars at all, which is amazing to me, and the ones on the back of my head are completely hidden in my hair. The only one that's still pretty noticeable is along my hairline and my bangs cover that, plus it's fading, so I don't expect it to be a problem much longer.

The tightness in my neck is diminishing, too, though it could be partly that I'm getting used to it. And I'm getting the feeling back in my left ear, but it's kind of a mixed blessing. If I touch the ear, I can feel it, but when I stop touching it, it still feels like I am for a few seconds more. Plus, it doesn't feel like a normal touch, more like a low-level electric current. It's more interesting than alarming, though. Just more strangeness from my weird nerves. The only lump left is behind my left ear and then only intermittently; it goes away as soon as I do the lymphatic massage.

There are other things that are more problematic—mostly, things that no one can see. The incisions behind my ears have gotten really tender this last week and it's made wearing my glasses very difficult. Most days, I stick around the house so I don't have to have them on, but when I go out I don't have much choice. I ordered some contacts (which I haven't worn in years), but they're not as comfortable as they used to be, so I can't wear them for more than an hour or two at a time. This wasn't a problem the last couple of weeks, so I'm hoping it'll go away again soon.

I've also had some really intense shooting pains along the incision at the top of my forehead. They're better today, but for about three days there, they were really bothersome. Again, I have to just chalk it up to the nerves reconnecting. I try and remind myself it's a good thing.

The only thing I really didn't expect that I'm anxious to have resolve are the bruises on my cheeks. The one on the left is almost completely gone and the one on the right is about the size of a quarter, but they're hard to cover with make-up because they're not purple anymore, they're green. Not only that, but in their place I now have light brown smudges.

I read in here that it's called hemosiderin staining and is the result of iron left over in the skin after the bruises heal. Most of the docs say that it'll fade, given time, but a few mention Q-switched laser therapy as helpful. I'll talk to my ps when I see him next month and see what he recommends. In the meantime, my glasses pretty much hide it. You know, when I can wear them.

Would I do this all again, given the annoyances? Absolutely. For one thing, I can see so much more now that my forehead isn't encroaching on my eyelids! And having a nice-looking neck is a huge plus. The correction Dr. Naficy recommended for my chin is a big improvement, too. Very subtle, but it does make my jawline much smoother. I got a nice compliment from the endodontist when I went in last week to have a tooth checked. (He said he thought I was about 40.) And my husband keeps telling me how great I look. When I look in the mirror, I'm happy with the changes.

A picture's worth a thousand pixels

Thought I'd post a couple of pictures. First, to show the hemosiderin (and how much the makeup helps). I'm actually getting better at covering it with the makeup. Second, so you can see how I look at seven weeks one day. As I said, overall I'm very pleased.

Look at me, I'm a work of art!

Okay, so here it is the end of October and I'm finally updating this thing. I actually decided to take a break from RealSelf for awhile; it felt like I was getting a bit too obsessed about my face.

I think that anyone who's had this type of surgery will tell you that recovery is a process. Things that don't bug you one week can flair up again the next, leaving you wondering if you're ever going to be able to move on with your life. A month ago, I thought the tenderness and discoloration under my eyes was pretty much gone, then I put on a pair of safety goggles while I was doing some work on the house, and ended up making the whole thing worse again. It's better now, but the setback was discouraging, to say the least.

At the same time, though, other things were getting a lot better: for one thing, my hair has been growing back—yeah!—and the numbness in my face and neck has faded quite a bit. The fat grafts are also starting to get established, which means that my cheeks are getting fuller, which is cool.

Before my surgery, I thought that everyone would be remarking on how I looked, afterward, so it's been surprising that no one has. For awhile there, I even felt a little let down. Not that I was dying to have people ooh and aah over me (ugh), but I guess I thought there'd be some acknowledgement that I looked, I don't know, better. For the most part, though, people who know me just sort of forget that I've even had PS.

And then I noticed something that had changed.

Since April, I've been having to take a lot of plane trips. I go by myself, hurrying through the airport and the plane, feeling pretty anonymous. After the surgery, of course, I had to take a couple of months off. Then, two weeks ago, I was once again heading out of town and as I walked down the aisle of the plane, not one, but TWO men winked at me! It was nothing threatening, mind you, just an acknowledgement that I looked good. Until it happened, in fact, I hadn't realized how long it had been. It gave this 60-year-old a real kick to think she'd turned a couple of heads.

Then, last week, I went to see my shrink for the first time post-op. He said I looked more rested and relaxed than he'd ever seen me (12 years). He said that when I told him I was having a brow lift, he was kind of concerned—he was afraid I'd end up with 'flying eyebrows'—but he was amazed at how natural my brow looks and how everything else I had done works together to make my overall look natural. I dared him to find the scars on my ears, too (he couldn't). Finally, he said, "This is amazing. You plastic surgeon is an artist."

I agree. Thank you, Dr. Naficy!

Six Months Already??

It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve been remiss in my duties here at Real Self, having not checked in with the rest of you for awhile. The last couple of weeks, in fact, I’ve been feeling like a heel, as many of the other members of my ‘graduating class’ have been showing up with great pix and new information. So, with that in mind, I’m going to spend a few minutes giving my six month update.

First of all, I don’t think a whole lot about my FL most days—at least not like I did those first few weeks and months. It’s not that I don’t still have some issues to deal with, it’s just that they don’t seem as immediate and overwhelming as they once did.

The neck tightness is still there, but instead of a rope, it feels more like I have a shoelace tied around it. And the hairline incision is no longer puckered, making it almost unnoticeable.

The hemosiderin is nearly gone, too, though I’m amazed at how long it’s persisted. I have only one very small spot under my left eye, and that’s not even entirely the fault of my brow lift. I’d had a small scar there before the surgery (had a tag or something removed) that had been a very pale pink, and for some reason the hemosiderin just settled right into it. It’s getting lighter, but if it’s not gone in another month or two, I’ll probably have some laser work done to get rid of it. For now, though, I’m kinda done with having my face messed with.

The skin behind my ears is also more tender than I’d expected—more so on the left than the right. In the last couple of days, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a stitch in there that’s causing the problem and I’ve gone back to massaging the scar a couple of times a day to try and break it up. That’s the downside of feeling better, I guess. You forget to keep up with the work you still have to do.

If I have one complaint, it’s that there’s still a lot of the top of my head that’s numb and the whole thing gets VERY itchy, especially at night. I try to resist, but there are times when I just scratch the top of my head for maybe a minute, moaning in pleasure. Man, you know you’re getting old when scratching an itch drives you into fits of ecstasy. ;)

The second thing I’ll say is that it’s amazing how quickly you get used to the ‘new you.’ For someone who felt she missed her ‘old’ face, I can confidently tell you that I never even think about what I might have looked like ‘someday.’ If anything, in fact, I’m relieved that I won’t look like I might have. What once seemed like drastic change now feels normal to me. In fact, when I look back at pictures of me taken pre-op, it feels like those are what look strange, not the way I look now.

And third (gotta stick with the whole numbering thing), I find that I’ve started branching out a bit, taking some chances I might not have before my surgery. Last weekend, for instance, I was acting in a movie. A friend who’s an independent filmmaker cast me in his latest horror flick (we’re talking very low budget here), a job I never would have accepted before, especially since my scene was shot almost entirely in profile! As the makeup artist was doing my face, she commented on my ‘lovely neck’ and I nearly burst out laughing. Me? A lovely neck? Who’d a thunk?

So, yeah. Six months is a big milestone. I’m not one hundred percent of the way to ‘normal,’ but it’s close enough to feel ‘as good as.’ For those still struggling in the early days of his process, hang in there. It really does get better.

I'm including a couple of current pix (hairline close-up, plus side and front view) along with a couple of pre-ops that I'd been trying to get off my husband's camera for... Well, about six months. Enjoy!

It's always something… or not

I have, on occasion, been accused of being someone who can't take yes for an answer. It's not that I don't like good news or appreciate it when things turn out well. Maybe it's just knowing that nothing lasts forever. I mean, who wants to look like a dope in the face of the inevitable? Because of that, I'm always preparing myself for the worst, even though (to be honest) it almost never happens.

Case in point: Last week, I got this sharp pain behind my left ear. Not immediately behind my ear, but on that bone behind it. You know the one. It was tender, and every time I pressed it with my finger, it hurt. I pressed it a few more times—maybe only forty or fifty—just to be sure. Yup. Still hurt.

So, how did I react to this sudden tenderness, you ask? Did it occur to me that I'd just increased the intensity of my workout? That I'd recently hauled a thirty pound bag of cat litter into the house? That I'd spent five hours writing at my computer and might possibly have pulled a stiff muscle? Nooo. I came to the perfectly logical conclusion that whatever was anchoring the tightened muscles back there had come loose and at any moment the entire left side of my face was going to droop like a spinnaker on a windless day.

My husband—who faces impending disaster with an almost inhuman calm—was no help. He told me it was probably nothing, but that if I was really worried I should maybe ask the doctor. Poor deluded man. He was going to feel pretty foolish when it turned out I was right this time. Besides, what could the doctor do?

It's been eight days, and so far the face hasn't fallen. And in spite of my vigilance (there, I pressed it again) the tender spot isn't as tender as it was. Maybe it was just a strained muscle after all. Still, it never hurts to be prepared.

Feeling and looking good.

I had to have a picture taken today, so I thought it might be a good idea to give you a quick update to go with it. In short, I'm feeling really good. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Maybe it's just the next stage in this whole FL recovery thing, maybe it's just the first signs of Spring. Either way, it's nice.

That's not to say that my face feels exactly like it did, pre-op. I still have residual numbness on my scalp and along my jawline, and some continuing tightness in my neck, but honestly, it hardly bothers me anymore. I knew going in that nerve regeneration would take awhile, so the numbness isn't surprising, and at this point I think that I'd be more worried if my neck didn't feel a little tight. Knowing myself, I'd just start worrying that it was reverting to its old ways.

The thing I'm happiest about is how natural the changes look. No puckers, no telltale scars, no asymmetry that might tell people I'd had work done. Not that I'm keeping it a big secret—I'm actually pretty open about having had a FL—but I wouldn't want to think that that was the first thing someone thought of when they saw me. In fact, when I do tell someone I've had a FL, their first impulse is to think I'm kidding. LOL. It's like when I tell them I'm 60 and they say, "No, you can't be." I feel like saying, "Would I tell anyone I was 60 if I wasn't?"

The other nice thing is that I'm okay with not doing anything more. I'm happy with my face the way it is. It doesn't feel like anything but me now.
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon

He and his staff are wonderful. Very patient, didn't try to push me to do more than I wanted. Dr. Naficy came very highly recommended. Surgery is in three weeks.

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