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Aging Well
Beauty & Style

Thirdage Health Close-Up: I Had Plastic Surgery

My neck, which I had always considered a slender stem, disappeared into a fleshy zipline from chin to collarbone in my 40s and 50s. By age 45 – way before Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck book came out in 2008 – I had a full-fledged obsession about my saggy bag neck. Although I gave up fantasizing about a nip and tuck in my 60s, due to a reality check in regard to finances, when I came into some money, I finally pulled the trigger at age 64. Three months into recovery, I’m so glad I did.

But there were a few surprises. I had the best surgeon – based on word of mouth first-hand referrals, research, and an interview (after 20 years of interviewing potential surgeons). I had comprehensive preparation on the procedures and day by day recovery. (Bonus: some of the women on the clinic staff had undergone the same surgeries so could give me the inside scoop on pain level and their own rate of recovery.) I had been given a detailed booklet describing everything we discussed.

Feeling the transformation of surgery is a lot different than reading or hearing about it, however; especially given the excited and terrified state I was in pre-surgery. I was confident of my surgeon, the clinic, and my best friend caregiver. Everything went perfectly during surgery and recovery from my short flap rhytidectomy with platysmaplasty and upper and lower lid blepharoplasty. I love the results. But here is what I want you to know about a lower face lift – beyond the elastic wrap around the whole head and plastic drains for 48 hours, applying ice to reduce swelling and bruising, keeping the head elevated, and sleeping and resting a lot during the first week or two

-Depression: I had skipped over the page in my booklet that was titled Emotional Reactions. With the elastic headgear off I was horrified at what my face looked like. I knew it would look like that, but I didn’t know what it would FEEL like to look like a bruised pumpkin. When I confessed to the surgical assistant that I was depressed and crying and questioning my decision, she said “You’re right on schedule with that.” My surgeon, Dr. John G. Westine, reassured me that it is disorienting when you don’t look like yourself and the first week is an emotional roller coaster for most people.

-Tightness of skin: I had been warned my neck would feel “wicked tight.” While it didn’t interfere with swallowing, it felt like I had a rope around my neck, or as if I were wearing a too tight choker necklace, and went on longer than I thought it should – even though it was perfectly normal to feel that way. At 2.5 months, my neck still felt tight, especially if I looked up. But 2 weeks later, although it looks “tight,” with no flab, but it no longer feels tight.