Brianna’s Face and Neck Lift Journal

Hello, Kibbitzers! I promised our Twitter followers that I’d document my experience with getting a face and neck lift, so that if/when you decide to take the plunge, you’ll have at least one honest account of what it’s all about. I’ll even include all of the horrible, unfiltered pics of myself, since I’ll (obviously) be SO gorgeous afterward that I won’t need filters of any sort. So here we go…

PRE-OP VISIT (T-14 DAYS)

Today I visited Dr. Cheng’s office to meet him in person for the first time. I’d had my consultation with him via Zoom due to the COVID pandemic, but he warned me he’d need to see me in person before he would know whether I just needed just the mini facelift (which is actually called a rhytidectomy) or whether he’d need to add in a minimal-incision neck lift (submentoplasty) to restore me to my former youthful glory. Fortunately, I knew I wouldn’t need anything above my cheeks, thanks to my diligent Botoxing since the age of 40.

Full disclosure: I’m fucking 55, people (as of last week)! And after a lifetime of drinking, smoking (not for several years, but I’m still an e-cig addict), decades of acne, a 100-pound weight loss, and general party-hearty living, well, let’s face it…I’m no Jennifer Anniston. Exhibit A:

Ok–faked you out. That’s what I look like when a considerate iPhone takes my picture (with my son the day after my birthday). HAWT.

Here’s what I ACTUALLY look like, sans considerate photo filtering. Excuse the red eyes. It’s allergies. I swear I’m not stoned (right now anyway):

Closeups of my face and neck (you guys know I must love you to actually post these!):

It’s totally horrifying. But that’s why I’m spending $17k of my hard-earned cash. Gotta fix this shit or die trying (and I might…we’ll find out).

Suffice it to say, after Dr. Cheng got a look at this mess, he knew I needed the works. Picture me in a chair in front of a mirror. The doc is poking and prodding me and stretching my skin, dictating things like “55-year-old female, moderate jowling, significant skin laxity, vertical lines and nasolabial folds…” (FML) to his young, perfect-looking medical assistant. Sigh. I’m going to need the lower face lift, a neck lift, and Renuvion (some kind of plasma device that’s supposed to shrink your hideously aged skin with electricity, helium, and black magic).

I had to sign so many forms that they actually turned it into a book for me to take home and put on my shelf. WTAF.

This is the Table of Contents. Seriously?

They told me I’d have to quit alcohol and caffeine, like immediately (ha!). My independent research says I only have to do that a few days before surgery. So “immediately” is definitely off the table. But apparently, e-cigs are as bad as real cigs before surgery, so…I guess that’s my weekend project. Totes not sure this is worth it. But it better be. Look at all this shit!

They gave me this giant matrix of crap I am supposed to take and do starting now and continuing after surgery. (Eat pineapple every day? I’m calling Teresa Giudice immediately to tell her we’re going to be like BFFs now.) This shit is cray. I tried to rotate this photo, but apparently, our low-budget WordPress blog can’t handle it, so please turn your head sideways to read it.

So that’s where I’m at today. Befuddled. Skeptical. Terrified. Broke. Contemptuous (quit my e-cigs? Now I’m like 90 Day Fiancé’s Angela Deem…just call me “Briangela.”). I better look 20 years younger when this shit is over, or Dr. Cheng and I are going to have words. And by “words,” I mean “REFUND.”

More later…when the shock wears off.

T-7 Days

Decided that just in case the surgeon is right, I’ll start cutting down on caffeine. Making my second cup o’ Joe decaf. Ordering supplements and starting my 1000 mg of Vitamin C.

This weekend is the 4th anniversary of my wedding to the world’s best husband, so fuck everything, mama’s gonna have a drink.

Here’s how I plan to get through this shit.

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By the way, you can subscribe if you want to know when I update this blog. I’ll keep you posted, peeps.

T-1 Day

So, tomorrow (Wednesday) is the day! Tonight, I can’t eat or drink anything after midnight. I started taking my arnica and antibiotics. I was taking 1000 mg of vitamin C for two weeks beforehand.

SURGERY DAY

I arrived at my appointment at 8:00 am. I’ve been doing a lot of meditation and deep breathing trying to get myself all mentally prepared for the situation and I was able to stay really calm. Even in the pre-op appointment right before the surgery, when they took my blood pressure, it was 114/ 76. (Full disclosure: I did take like 1/2 Klonopin, so that might have something to do with it).

When I talked to Dr. Johnson the anesthesiologist, he informed me that my doctor apparently doesn’t like his patients to be completely asleep. I calmly responded, “oh, fuck that.” I told Dr. J. that this was not the deal and that I paid good money for that anesthesia and he better give me the good stuff and knock my sorry ass out. So, being the smart man he was, he followed the patient’s orders and did. So that was lovely. The last thing I remember was him saying that they had to strap my face down to the operating table, which was a little nerve-wracking. But 30 seconds later, I was completely unconscious. They did put a breathing tube down my throat, which gave me a little bit of a sore throat the next day. But it was basically NBD.

Next thing I know, I’m waking up and all I remember was feeling a little nauseated.

So, they gave me an anti-nausea pill and that was that. My wonderful, calming 28-year-old son was there to pick me up and he was just so sweet. He took me home and got me all situated in my recliner, where I would be sleeping for week two weeks (because you have to sleep with your head elevated). I was worried it would be hard to sleep in this chair, but it really hasn’t been that bad. I thought I’d be all sleepy and nodding out all day from the pain meds and stuff on the first day, but I really wasn’t. In fact, it was kind of weird. I wasn’t tired at all. Maybe because the anesthesia was like taking a four-hour nap.

It started to hurt – sort of like a burning pain. I was super swollen, as you can see in the pictures. One of my eyes was almost swollen shut, but there was very little bruising. The only bruising that I really have is around my neck and I’m not exactly sure why it’s there. It could be from the Renuvion (They stick a wand down underneath your skin and administer this plasma treatment. It super-heats your skin, which contracts it. Then they cool it with helium gas, which helps avoid damage to your skin. So apparently, most of the swelling is from helium gas.)

So when I came home from the surgery center, they had my head all wrapped up in this huge bandage with two drains coming out of my face (gross). It was not, as you might imagine, a super comfortable thing to have on your face, but the pain wasn’t that bad. When you get surgery like this, they cut your nerves, so there’s a certain amount of numbness, so it’s not as painful as you might expect. My doctor said that instead of taking the whole dose of the painkiller every four to six hours, he suggested taking a half every three hours. So, I did that to try to just keep the pain at a constant level and it was totally bearable. I did have a hard time sleeping that night. Partially because I had these drains in my face, which I thought was gonna freak me the fuck out. But I kind of made a mental decision to just stay calm about everything and I’m kind of proud of myself because I did.

My husband (who works in a nursing home) was supposed to help me with the drains. After you empty the drains, you’re supposed to squish them flat. They’re like these plastic bulbs, so the idea is that it creates like a vacuum-like negative pressure, so it’ll kind of suction any drainage from the wounds. (I know this is kind of gross, but you guys said you wanted the truth, so I am telling you all the details.) So anyway, my husband came and emptied my drains at around midnight. At first, he decided to squish the drains flat just like my son said (the doctor had told him what to do). But then I guess he started to doubt himself. He came back out of the bedroom and did something else to them. It’s kind of hard to explain and I am not going to post pictures of this, but he pressed them in on the bottom so they still had air in them. And then he went to sleep. But then I got all nervous about it. I was like “what if he messed these up so they’re not going to work and then the doctor doesn’t take my drains out tomorrow?” I really wanted those fucking drains out of my face. So then I spent about two hours in the middle of the night researching to see if he was right about all that and if they were supposed to be squished. What I read was, yes, they are supposed to be squished. So then I had to find it within me to empty the drains again and squish them flat. I was pissed off at Andrew, because I’m thinking “what if I didn’t research this?” Made a mental note to myself to bitch at him in the morning. After that, I fell asleep for about four-and-a-half hours.

DAY 2 (Thursday)

When I woke up, it hurt quite a bit. So, I took my nausea medication, my antibiotics, and my pain pill.

So, there’s definitely pain and there were times when it got a bit overwhelming, but not super intense. I mean, it wasn’t like “Oh my God, it hurts so bad.” It was more like “Ow, this hurts.” (This is my highly scientific pain scale.)

Later that day, I went to the doctor for my post-op (see my pic above…I was in disguise) and he took out the drains and cleaned my incisions and showed me how to do it . And then they washed my hair. It was kind of scary. Like, the fear of the pain made me kind of woozy. Anyway, they washed my hair and braided it and they put me in this funky face compression thing with these foam pads that are apparently supposed to squish my face back to normalcy. I’m supposed to wear that for the next week. I am also supposed to wash my hair every other day to make sure no bacteria from my hair gets into my wound.

It hurts to chew so I’m eating soft foods like mashed potatoes and drinking these little probiotic yogurt drinks so that the antibiotic doesn’t bother my stomach.

And I’m eating crappy things like chicken and stars soup. I don’t know about you, but whenever I feel sick or am feeling sorry for myself (o4 both), I revert to childhood and eat the stuff my mama made me when I was sick.

That night my husband helped me clean the incisions for the first time and that was extremely nerve-wracking. My anxiety about it made me feel like I was going to faint. Like with the hair washing at the doctor’s office, I think it was more the fear of pain than actual pain that bothered me. Or maybe it was the narcotics. Either way, I had to sit down so I wouldn’t faint.

DAY 3 (Friday)

My husband went back to work today. I was very worried about cleaning the incisions myself. But I did it. So, yay me. I have to clean the incisions four times a day. They said the more I clean it, the faster it will heal, so I’m following the doctor’s orders. The surgeon also said that most of your healing happens when you’re sleeping. I want to heal fast, so again—being a very compliant patient…zzzz. The swelling went down a lot yesterday. I can see out of my right eye again and now my eyes don’t look like they’re going in two different directions.

They said that the swelling and bruising would be the worst on day two and day three and would start to get better on day four. That seems to be the case. I stuck with the soft foods (but including chocolate, because hey—when you feel sorry for yourself, what can you do except eat chocolate?). When my husband came home from work, he had to help me take a bath and shampoo my hair in the area of the incisions, which made me very nervous. He kept touching my face and I was like, “Can you please stop touching me? Every place you touch me totally hurts!” I had to tell him like 20 times. I know he was trying to hold my head in place or whatever but dude, MY SKIN HURTS everywhere, not just where the incisions are! And speaking of the incisions, as you can see in the pictures, you can barely see them. They are so much less horrifying than I expected. My surgeon is awesome! There are these tiny little perfect sutures that you can almost barely see. It’s gonna be like no big deal once I’m not swollen anymore. I won’t worry about going out or covering them with makeup or anything like that.

Later, my husband helped me wash my hair. Not going to lie. That was kind of a traumatic experience. But then we got that over with and I cleaned my incisions for the last time for the day and then chilled out and went back to sleep.

DAY 4 (Saturday)

I slept for HOURS on Saturday. Then I stopped taking my pain pills very early so I could take my sleeping pill that night. Then I slept another 8 hours. So that was awesome. I got up Sunday morning at 8 and took my medication. Looking in the mirror, I realized I was looking a lot better.

I cleaned my incisions and then I took that goddamn compression thing off my head for a while because it is SO ANNOYING. It’s squeezing my throat and it hurts. I put on this blue thing Velcro thing you can see in the picture below. It comes with four gel ice packs that into little pockets so you can ice your face effectively. Then I edited the RHONY podcast that Mary did with Brad. Kiki and Kibbitz is like the postal service, baby. Neither rain, nor snow, nor black of night will stay these podcasters from delivering their sarcastic messages of joy to the world.

Day 5 (Sunday)

And on the 5th day, she rested (again). And then binge ate everything in the house.

Day 6 (Monday)

I woke up today in pain. I swear, though, it’s from the damn compression thing on my head. I just took what I intend to be the last dose of those narcotic pain pills and I’m gonna switch now to just plain Tylenol. Hopefully, I’ll do OK with that.

Gotta wear this damn thing on my head until Wednesday when I get my stitches out and then I can wear it just at night. Can’t wait! I wish I didn’t have to work until then. But tomorrow (Tuesday) I’ll be back at it.

Here’s how I look today. Almost freakin’ human.

DAY 7 (Tuesday)

Almost back to normal! Back to work today and stitches come out tomorrow. I’m really sick of this damn compression garment on my head. Last night I had a really hard time falling asleep with it, so I took it off. I don’t seem to have woken up more swollen, so…who cares. I still have some weird lumps and bumps. Pain is finally truly minimal. First day I woke up and it didn’t really hurt. Yay!

Day 9 (Thursday)

Yesterday, I got most of my stitches out (there are two stitches remaining under each earlobe). It was a bit unpleasant, although I admit that my fear was worse than the actual stitch removal. One of my ears seems inflamed and the doc is worried it could be becoming infected, even though I have cleaned very carefully and took all of my antibiotics. I’m supposed to watch it for a day or so and see if it gets worse. If so, I have to take a more broad-spectrum antibiotic, which I am hoping to avoid.

My swelling is a lot better. Still a couple bruises, but they aren’t that bad — certainly less than I expected. My eyes are still not looking symmetrical — one has more swelling in my upper eyelid and the other side is more swollen underneath (my upper cheek area). My neck is still swollen. And I have a weird dent in one cheek where the muscle was reattached under the skin (I had a deep plane facelift, which means that they move the muscle, not just the skin).

I’ve had a rough time sleeping over the last two nights because of pain and now some weird itching (from the nerves regenerating). Putting in some extra time on meditation and staying calm about it….ommmmmmmm. Here are my pics from this morning. And yes, I do sonetimes get dressed (why am I wearing pajamas in every freakin’ pic? At least I put my makeup on for you!).

This is not the ear that might be infected:

This IS the suspicious ear. Yoou can see the weird skin dent underneath. Damn, I hate these closeup pics. I think I need some laser skin resurfacing or some shit. I now regret every sun tan and sun burn I ever had.

Day 10 (Friday)

Hello, friends. I can practically TASTE the weekend. So tired. I just haven’t been able to sleep well. I am starting to wonder if it’s some kind of weird rebound insomnia after taking the opiate painkillers early in this process.

Today, I cleaned my incisions really well. I don’t *think* that ear is infected. But I’m going to send a photo (below) to the surgeon later and see what he thinks. But the real news is: I woke up today and the pain was gone.

Last night, my neck really hurt. It felt bruised under the skin (even though there were not more than a mere shadow of a bruise in one area). But it HURT. I iced it for a long time, took some Tylenol and eventually fell asleep at like 3 am after eating all the leftovers from dinner, yogurt with blueberries, and keto cereal with almond milk. I HAVE TO STOP EATING. But today, I woke up and it was better! Not 100%, but that bruised feeling is gone. I haven’t taken any Tylenol and aside from feeling really tired (not sleeping for 3 nights will do that to you), I feel good.

What’s even cooler is that I think I look almost normal! Still puffy. Still haved that weird dent on my cheek that the doc says will go away. But look at me! Aside from a slighly crooked smile and my one eye still not quite looking the same as the other, almost normal, right?

Even better on Zoom with my ring light (go Zoom! Love the “tune up my appearance” feature!)

And least, but not least, my “suspicious” ear. This was after a rigorous cleaning. Gonna take another pic of this and send to the doc this afternoon. He swears this “dent” will go away. I’ll hold him to it!

Day 14 (Wednesday: Two-week-iversary!)

It’s Day 14, people! Two weeks and all my stitches are out. It’s weird to think about it. The worst is behind me. Still have healing to do, as you can see. But I’m not hiding out anymore.

Last night I slept in my bed for the first time in two weeks. You’re supposed to sleep on a stack of pillows for a week or two after a face/neck lift. But I chose to sleep in my comfy recliner instead. But last night, I FINALLY slept through the night again. I dunno if meds and anesthesia f-cked up my sleep or what, but I hope it’s behind me. It might also be because I’m back to my daily routine, which includes meditation and gentle yoga in the morning and incline intervals on my treadmill (or walking somewhere) later in the day. Whatever it is, glory hallelujah. (I just re-read this and realized what a pompous Cali-asshole I sound like. But I swear, I just sleep better if I take time calming my mind and also burning off energy on the treadmill.)

In the pics below, you’ll see that dent is still there on my right cheek. Doc says it’s normal and should resolve in a month or two. That might sound long, but for some reason, I don’t care. LOL. You’ll also see in the photos that my swelling is almost completely gone. Side pics show the healing of my ears (by the way, the biggest incisions are behind my ears, but I just can’t take pics of them). You’ll see a small silicone bandage on my right ear. Yesterday, I saw the surgeon for my two-week appt. He said that it would help the scar heal in that area…that’s where we thought it was infected earlier. It’s not, but it’s a little inflamed.

So I forgot to mention that the doc had me using this for two weeks before and two weeks after the procedure. He says it helps build elastin. I feel skeptical about stuff like that, but he says he uses it, too. So who knows. But they have a lot of other products. If I see big changes in my skin texture (from those old acne scars and the vertical lip lines), maybe I’ll try their maintenance product. Bloody expensive, though.

What else can I tell you? My neck still has a weird tight feeling that’s not quite pain. But it is annoying. It will go away in time, I’m sure. Mostly, 14 days in, this has really not been a huge deal. I had two days where I felt “challenged” by the pain, but in general, I’d easily go through it again. Look how there’s no hanging skin under my chin. It’s awesome.

By the way, feel free to leave comments or questions! I’ll post a follow-up in a week or two.

Swelling is almost gone!
Left ear…looking a lot better. Still bruised on this side of my neck.
Formerly suspicious ear with silicon scar bandage, Dent in my cheek, but little bruising…no more loose skin under my chin! Yay!

For those of you who are interested, here are my before and afters!

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