Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pamela - Operation Relaunch Life

Hi everyone. It's Pam with an update on my progress with ORC. I am deep into makeover territory now. My latest appointments have been in the city with Dr. Jeannie Tsai at the SF Aesthetics and Laser Center.

Before my initial consultation regarding filler injections with Dr. Tsai, I did alot of consulting with my friends and relatives as to whether I should even consider the procedure. On the one hand, as a natural healer type, I tend to shy away from anything artificial or potentially toxic, so I really had to weigh if this was for me. On the other hand, this is a HUGE, once-in-a-lifetime gift, and though I wouldn't have given it to myself (my financial priorities primarily being my children and their education), I rationalized that this opportunity could potentially enhance my ability to provide better for my children in the future, so I wanted to give it my full consideration.

Hearing people's opinions on this procedure was interesting. As I had expected, the more holistic, healthy types tended to give the thumbs down. Younger people tended to almost scoff, though they're the first to tattoo or pierce themselves to enhance their appearance. The men I know generally said, "you look fine the way you are, why would you want to do this."? When asking the opinion of the women my age, they were almost unanimously thumbs up, and dare I say some were even a tinge envious.

My initial meeting with Dr. Tsai was very positive and exciting. She has a lovely and easy going manner. She thoroughly explained the procedure, in which a gel is injected into areas of the face to plump up the skin where there is sagging and where tissue has been lost. The gel is composed of hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in the body which has been chemically changed by cross-linking the molecules to make them more stable. This way the gel doesn't breakdown as quickly in the body, so the results can last months, and in some areas years. How long the filler stays put depends on how active the muscles are in that part of the face. For instance, the areas around the eyes and nose last longer than around the mouth. Dr. Tsai had reconfirmed that the risks are minimal, and she has never seen an allergic reaction to the gel.

From what I've read about filler, it's all about how skillfull and aesthetically oriented the injector is, and I trusted Dr. Tsai completely. Allowing someone to inject filler into your face requires alot of trust, and I was confident that she had not only the medical expertise, but also had the artistic sensibility to successfully remodel my face. She also showed me several  before and after photos of patients, including herself. Not only did she impress me with her competence, but her thoughtful communication and sensitivity to giving me exactly what I wanted from the procedure. Together we made a plan regarding which areas of my face to inject, and also talked about the importance of follow-up visits.

On the day of my first appointment I was quite nervous, worrying about any possible bruising and hoping I wasn't going to regret this decision in any way. Dr. Tsai had already heard all my concerns and she immediately put me at ease as she began the numbing of my lips with a topical anesthesia as they are the most sensitive area. She then began the injections on the right side of my face. After multiple injections, and many breaks in between to check out the progress in the mirror, my face did instantly look plumped up. The entire procedure took just over an hour, going by very fast, with any pain or discomfort overshadowed by my curiosity and fascination with the entire process. There was a point where we stopped and Dr. Tsai asked if this was enough or did we want to do more. We decided to do a little bit more in the lower lip and around the eyes (I can see how some people might over do this, thinking more is better). Six or seven vials of Juvaderm later, I had a new face, a face that for the most part that looked brighter and happier. We took copious amounts of before and after photos and it was very easy to see the improvements made in my lips, nasolabial folds, cheeks, forehead and around my eyes. The immediate results were pretty amazing if you study the before and after photos. But if you were to just look at the whole face, from a more gestalt perspective, the impression of improvement is more subtle.

The days following the injections there was some minor bruising and a few areas that had a lumpy feeling, and I did have to adapt to my lips feeling puffed up. On my follow up visit Dr. Tsai did notice some swelling that she said was not a problem and that would go down soon. What's amazing is that the gel can continue to be molded into place with firm pressure, and Dr. Tsai encouraged me to come in for additional follow up visits if I had any discomfort or concerns. Oddly, I have felt happier since doing the procedure, maybe relieved that it turned out so great. But also, I wonder if it's like the phenomenon people describe of putting a smile on your face and actually feeling happier, even if you didn't start out that way.

One really unexpected surprise came as a result of this procedure. People often told me that my mother and I shared a very strong resemblance. My dear mother passed away over a year ago after a long battle with brain cancer, which eroded her mind and spirit, and devastated her once bright appearance. Sadly, watching her slowly die in that way, and all the accompanying grief, left me with the experience of seeing my dying mother's face in my own reflection. But unexpectedly when I looked in the rear view mirror while driving home from my appointment with Dr. Tsai, I didn't see that sad dying face anymore. I was astonished to see the earlier me, the one before all the hardship. It felt like having a reset, a fresh start. What an unexpected gift. Thank you to Dr. Tsai and her staff and all the wonderful people involved in Operation Relaunch Career.

Sometimes I notice it is hard for me to accept all these wonderful gifts I am being given as a result of winning this life changing contest, but please know I am filled with appreciation and gratitude, and that you all have made a wonderful difference in my life. One of my friends had even said, "Your experience should be called Operation Relaunch Life."

Pamela Mulvey

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