45 Years Old: Time for a Tune-up - Greenville, SC

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I am 45 years old. Recently, I have begun to...

I am 45 years old. Recently, I have begun to notice my face becoming lax, especially around the mouth and jawline. Many of my older female relatives have quite heavy jowls, so I know it's just a matter of time for me :)

I've never had any problem with the idea of plastic surgery - although I had always thought I would wait until at least my fifties. However, I've read a number of medical articles that suggest facelifts done in the mid-to-late forties have higher rates of patient satisfaction. So I made the decision to have the procedure this year - and hopefully have many years to enjoy the results.

I am having a facelift and neck lift: nothing done to the eyes at this point, since my upper and lower eyelids are still in pretty good shape.

I visited Dr. Graham's office last fall and was impressed with his surgical background, his personal surgical suite, and his staff. He was honest about what the procedure would and would not accomplish. He stressed that my face would continue to age after the lift and that I might need additional work to maintain the results in 10-15 years' time. There was definitely no hard sell: just a realistic description of the procedure, the expected healing time, and the likely results. Dr. Graham has excellent credentials and has been the chairman of plastic surgery at both of our area hospitals, so I feel that I am in good hands.

I have decided to take my best friend with me on the day of the surgery. My husband is supportive of my decision - but I still think that he would be pretty upset by my appearance right afterwards with all the drains and dressings. So my girlfriend and I will stay at a nearby hotel for a couple days immediately afterward until the worst of the swelling has passed. I love my husband, but I am pretty sure he would say things like "You look terrible - Is that normal?! Are you sure you did the right thing?" And I don't need that!

I am definitely nervous about the surgery: I mean, who wouldn't be, right? Fortunately I am super-busy at work right now, so I hardly have time to think about it. There's even a little part of me that is looking forward to taking 2 weeks off work to finally rest :) But I won't kid myself: this is real surgery and there will be plenty of ups and downs during the healing process.

I am really grateful to the other ladies on Real Self who have shared their photos and stories. You have given me the courage to take this step and to see past the first rough post-surgery days to the final end result. So I am excited to pay it back by sharing my journey with you.

Pre-op visit today

Today I met with the surgical nurse who walked me through everything that would happen on the day of the operation. I must say that all the staff at Dr. Graham's office are very helpful and kind -- it makes a big difference when you are feeling nervous!

We reviewed all the prescriptions I would need to fill: antibiotics, Celebrex, anti-nausea meds, pills for pain, etc. There was an antibiotic ointment for the sutures and special gauze pads to wear under the compression garment. She also recommended that I pick up some Arnica tablets for bruising.

They will send me home with a special wedge pillow to elevate my head... We will see what my cats think of that -- they will probably want to sleep on it immediately!

I'm also scheduled for lymphatic drainage massages several times after the surgery to assist with swelling.

Only 9 more days - eek! It's kind of hard to believe. I am trying to stay focused on work in order to keep my nerves at bay.... But I can't help but spend more and more time on this site following everyone else's experiences.

Out of surgery

Had a great experience today with Dr. Graham and his surgical staff. I'll write more when I am rested, but just wanted everyone to know that the surgery went well!

My surgery buddy Tamara changed the drain like a champ, too! My husband would have been out on a stretcher lol :)

No pain at the moment - just stiffness and tightness.

Morning of day 2

Definitely verrrrrry swollen, especially on my left side. But as yet, no bruising. Perhaps the arnica and bromelain are working there. I can see a real improvement in the nasolabial folds - they are basically gone. The sutures around my ear are very neat and close to the hairline - I do a lot of sewing and embroidery, so I am definitely impressed with the tiny, regular stitches. It's been hard to sleep - maybe once some of the swelling goes down I will be able to sleep better.

Another pic

This one from the less-swollen right side looks a bit better!

Day 3 - getting my energy back

I'm still really swollen but I feel worlds better today - as though I am beginning to get my usual energy levels back. I am taking it easy because I know I should.....but really I feel as though I could do light housework or go for a walk. I'll wait a few more days, though, since I don't want to do anything that could make the swelling worse. Still no bruises, and the incisions seem to be in good shape. I am keeping them covered with the antibiotic ointment. Underneath all the swelling, I think my face and jawline are looking really good....I will just have to be patient (not a character trait I am normally known for!)

Day 4

Still v. swollen, esp on left side - I am stopping by my PS office this afternoon just to be reassured it's normal. Poor doc - I bet everyone panics and asks this after a facelift! Truth be told, I can already see how nice it will look in a few weeks.

I was feeling like a slug just watching TV all day, so now I've picked up a Dickens novel that's been on the shelf for a few years. It's engrossing + gives me the sense that my brain is not turning to mush :)

First light yellow bruising showed up today - only on the neck, and really it's quite minimal.

Day five - And Lo the Swelling was Diminished!

My PS assured me that I am healing just fine, and indeed my swelling is down at least 20% on my highly subjective chipmunk resemblance scale. Got some impressive multi-colored bruises happening, especially on my neck. Going without the face bra today too, on doctor's advice. He has indicated that I only need to wear it at night.

For my Real Self friends who are wondering about returning to work, I would say there's no way I'll be ready until at least the two-week mark -- BUT, I do feel ready to begin some light computer work from home. Today is the first day I've felt that way. Plus tbh I dread the email backlog if I stay incommunicado much longer!

It's pretty funny that the neck tightness I had attributed to the compression garment is actually still there when I remove it: it's actually the tightness of my new wattle-free neck. I am not complaining!

Have a good day everyone - wishing you all speedy healing xxx

Day 6 - Venturing Out

I promised a neighbor that I would feed her feral cat colony while she was on vacation, so today I have to briefly leave the house. I put a little makeup on the front portions of my face only. I live in a college town with people from all over the world: I'm pretty sure no one will look twice at the headscarf.

Anyone else sleeping really deeply these days? I feel like I am suddenly getting the best sleep of my life these last few nights - maybe my body sleeps really deeply so that it can get on with the business of healing? I'm also taking two really good naps a day.

Swelling is still pretty significant, neck bruising is definitely in full effect. I'm hoping week 2 will be when my face regains something like a normal shape. I've got these weird divots in my cheeks too, but I know they'll start to disappear along with the swelling....

Good luck to all the pre-surgery gals and happy healing to everyone!

Day 8

Got some stitches out yesterday - didn't hurt at all. Then had a lymphatic massage, which felt great and will hopefully get some of this swelling moving.

I'm including a picture of the front incision area so you can see what a nice job Dr. Graham did. The front incision runs behind the tragus rather than in front of it, as I have seen elsewhere. I don't know the pros and cons of these two approaches, but in my case cutting behind the tragus certainly seems to hide the suture line very well.

My face still feels really hard and swollen in places, but I know it's early days still. Trust me when I say that the second photo is taken from the only angle that hides the swelling decently! But it gives me something to look forward to. I have to keep reminding myself that I am not going to be the only person in the history of facelift whose swelling never went away :)

Day 8 - Stop taking selfies :)

When I smile you can see the bumps and swelling a lot more. Also: filters!

Day 11 - Salt is not our friend

My bruising is fading, but the swelling hasn't budged much in a couple days. My neck is still pretty thick, my upper cheeks are hard and swollen, and I've got some divots in my cheeks. Not that I am complaining: as far as I understand it, this is par for the course. I have had to give up my beloved Mac and cheese, since every time I ate it (with its delicious 600 mg of sodium) - I swelled back up to day 2 levels. Very discouraging! I've been drinking lots of water and tea to try to flush out the edema....probably it's just giving me the illusion of control, though. Nothing's gonna cure this but time!

With some clever camera angles, I get a cheering sense of how it will all look when the bumps and swelling resolve. But bear in mind that if you saw me in person, I would not look quite as good as these photos suggest (yet!).

I'm still super pleased with the outcome and can't wait for a few more weeks to pass so that I can stop thinking about my face all the time. I would say I've got 2/3rds of my usual energy back, and I am doing a significant amount of work from home now.

Day 13 - first time at the coffee shop

So...first world problems: what to do when the house cleaners are coming and you are holed up recovering from plastic surgery? I made my first real foray into the outside world to do some computer work at a local coffee shop. No stares of horror or astonishment, so clearly I can pass for a normal human being!

Swelling is a lot better today..although my little excursion completely wiped me out energy-wise. One coffee shop visit + short trip to grocery store and pharmacy = exhaustion for the rest of the day. Feeling kind of guilty that I should have gotten more work done from home.

But all in all a good day! Best of luck to all the pre- and post-surgery gals out there xxx

Day 16 - Better every day

Here are some no makeup pictures first thing in the morning: the residual lumpiness in my cheeks is almost completely resolved and the front sutures are seriously invisible. All that is left is a little bit of swelling in my upper cheeks and neck, which is probably noticeable only to me.

I did run into the office yesterday and got some longer than usual stares...as well as complements on my blouse and my new hairstyle ;)

You wonder how many people secretly suspect what you've had done and are too polite to ask! I really don't mind talking about it -- all the gals at my hair salon know, for example. It's more that I have a very conservative workplace, and I work in a field where everything that is not male, factual and pragmatic is deemed frivolous. So I guess I don't want to be perceived as doing something as stereotypically "feminine" as worrying about my appearance. Lol - maybe I'll dress sloppily for a few weeks to offset any additional attractiveness!

I had the remaining stitches out on Thursday - a little stinging, but really no big deal. My PS stressed that I should not do any strenuous exercise or yoga poses for another couple weeks. I am walking around the neighborhood though - staying on the flat parts. I will be going back to work on Monday, too - I feel ready at this point, both from an appearance and an energy standpoint.

After two+ weeks, I feel really positive about the whole experience: there were a few rough days in there, but it has definitely been worth it.

Day 20 - back at work and healing well

A couple people asked to see pix of the scars behind my ears and under my chin. In both cases, these scars are already very thin and difficult to see - even though I am less than 3 weeks post surgery. All but the last bits of swelling have gone away, and I am very happy with the results. I'm back at work now and don't feel self conscious at all. I still have a little less energy than usual, but that's to be expected. Best wishes to all! xxx

One month post

I've been cleared to exercise by my PS and I am gradually adding some yoga and light weights + cardio back into my routine. That feels good after a month of not moving much! He also instructed me to massage the small remaining hard/swollen areas under my chin and on the sides of my fave, so I've been doing that a couple times a day. Overall I feel very good. The results are continuing to settle with time - I am more pleased every week. I am definitely starting to look more and more natural - although at this point the weekly changes are less noticeable. I have a little numbness on the sides of my face, but it's no big deal.

I'm going to visit relatives over the holiday weekend -- so we'll see if they notice anything!

I notice that I feel like going out and doing things more. I have become a real homebody these last few years - but now I am more excited about going to social events, dinner, plays, etc. I think the increased socializing will be good for my mental health and happiness. I am usually somewhat shy...but that can so easily devolve into reclusiveness. Anyway - I feel more cheerful and hopeful now.

5 months post

Really pleased with my results....I actually have trouble remembering how I looked before. I can wear my hair back again, since my neck line is smooth and there are no more jowls! That in itself was worth the cost and downtime of surgery, since it saves me so much time on busy mornings!

5 months post

Dr. Graham and his staff are truly outstanding: skilled, professional, compassionate and helpful in every way. I would recommend them to anyone who is seeking the highest standard of plastic surgery expertise in the Carolinas. The practice has a warm, caring vibe that makes you feel like you are spending time with friends. Special thanks to Babs, Sara and Erin who made me feel at home during the pre- and post-surgical experience. I could not be more pleased with the outcome of my procedure.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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