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Linda Briggs in the press 1999.  Daily Mail
Linda Briggs Story about her cosmetic surgery

 

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Centre pages of the Daily Mail big enough to read.


"THE
first grey hair appeared when I was 25, along with the first wrinkle. I was having too much of a good time to worry about it then, but at 27, it was quite a different matter I'm getting old — I'm nearly 30" I wailed.

The end of the world came with my 30th birthday, I didn't stop crying all day. I wanted to be an eco warrior and go as wrinkled and grey as nature Intended, but nature really screws things up when you're not paying attention.

I went for a new hairstyle and a new diet, and my shelves were full of Leslie Kenton's health and beauty books. Start going to more aerobics classes, I told myself, then at least you can keep your muscles toned.

I had always been fit and active, but as I approached 35 my metabolism changed.  Now I needed more exercise just to stay the same size. I hennaed my hair but it wasn't permanent enough.   Why did I have to look so old? Nature had no right to do this to me.

My head still said I was 25 and I had the energy of a 25-year old. I Just looked older.  I Ignored my 40th birthday. I wasn't going to have a party to celebrate the fact that I was getting old.  I accepted the presents but not he birthday.

Then, in June 1997 I read a newspaper story about Cindy Jackson's cosmetic surgery. She is one year two months younger than me — and she looks wonderful.  I felt nothing but admiration for her achievements.   She has done exactly what she wanted and made her­self beautiful Into the bargain.

Inspired by Cindy Jackson, I stepped up the fitness regime, cut out all the unhealthy food and bought a book called Facercise by Carole Maggio. Following the book’s instructions, I’d stand for hours distorting my face into all sorts of shapes and sizes. I even took a photograph before I started, so I could see if I was making any progress. I stuck to this for months and yes it did make a bit of difference but nature was fighting against me all the time. I needed something more drastic.

A friend recommended a course of electronic face-lifts. After about three sessions, I caught my husband looking at me intently. When I asked why, he just said, "I’m lucky to have you." So it seemed the treatments did work but I could still see the ravages of time trying to etch their way across my face. My crow’s-feet looked like a centipede curled around each eye and my hair was thinning quite rapidly.
I had my haircut fashionably short and wore classic clothes, so I looked like a smart businesswoman. People would occasionally compliment my style but the wolf whistles had stopped a long time ago

THE FINAL STRAW

I thought I was coping quite well with ageing until my younger sister’s wedding. As we were mingling with the other guests for the photographs, a friend of my sister’s asked if I was the bride’s Mum. It was so painful, I felt as if I’d been stabbed. I had just spent a fortune over the past three weeks trying to look beautiful. I’d had the full facial treatment; eyelashes permed and dyed, a couple of electronic facials. I’d had a haircut and applied anything else that happened to be left on the bathroom shelf.

I began to have doubts about how my lack of confidence in my appearance could affect my job. How could I teach other people to have confidence (I took a year off to counsel people with learning difficulties) if I didn’t like myself the way I was?

I began to scan the cosmetic surgery ads in the Yellow Pages, dismissing some instantly because they were vulgar or tacky. I saw three consultants but ended my search at …………………… because I was impressed by their manner and the way they handled my enquiries. We talked at length and they suggested upper and lower eyelid reduction and a lower face-lift to get rid of the saggy skin under my chin.

I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing until I’d made the decision to go ahead with the treatment and knew how much it was going to cost. He sulked for a couple of hours, forbade me to do it, wanted to know all the pitfalls and said he liked me as I was. "Isn’t it all a bit drastic?" he asked. "Of course it’s drastic, that’s the whole point" I replied. I didn’t have to put my foot down very firmly. I just said ‘It’s my face and I am doing it, so get used to the idea’.

We had to make some changes to our budget because we’re building a new house and all of our money is being sucked into that. But we decided that my needs were greater. Compared to the cost of the new house £4,800 was a snip for a renovation job. I only told a few friends before the operation and responses ranged from "You vain thing" to "You’re very brave". My mother-in-law thought I should grow old gracefully and not waste the money.

The day before my operation, I arrived at the ……………. Clinic at about 3.30pm. Any doubts I had disappeared after one look in the mirror – the saggy skin had to go. The staff did everything possible to reassure me and make me feel comfortable but I sent my husband away because he was worrying and looked as if he was about to have a coronary. He kept saying he didn’t like the idea of me being cut up and that he loved me the way I was. He went home, only to ring me later in the evening to say he missed me.

THE DAY OF THE OPERATION
My consultant visited me early to discuss what I didn’t like about my face. Peering over his glasses, he scrutinised me intently, pulled my face this way and that and took some photographs. When he walked into the room, I must confess to feeling apprehensive about what sort of job he would do. But I watched his actions and the way he completed his forms with meticulous, neat handwriting. No need to worry, I thought, if a doctor writes like that, then his stitches will be tidy. I no longer felt nervous. I just wanted to get on with it.

The lady from theatre collected me at 1pm. We went over the forms and checked my ID bracelet to make sure I wouldn’t come back with breast implants instead of raised eyelids .I woke up in my room at 2.45pm with the nurse telling me it was all over. She had already put pads on my eyes, so I just lay still. The first thing I noticed was that my head felt tight; I had a crepe bandage around it with bits of hair sticking up as if I had put on too much mousse. I tried a drink of water but couldn’t manage the straw. The right side of my face felt as if I had just come home from the dentist and I couldn’t get my mouth around the glass without dribbling.

The tingling in my head wasn’t painful; it was just different. It reminded me of when my mother put rags in my hair when I was a child to make ringlets. When Journal’s photographer arrived, I remember thinking that I must look like I’d been run over by a train. I had to keep putting cold pads on the eyes to keep the swelling and bruising to a minimum. Shortly afterwards, my husband walked in with the largest basket of flowers I have ever seen. He does everything to extremes.

THE NEXT DAY

My appetite was back to normal and after a good night’s sleep; I was ready to go home after lunch.  A nurse cut off the bandages and helped to wash the blood out of my hair, so that it would look more presentable as I walked out of the hospital.   In the bathroom mirror I could see the left side of my face and neck was swollen but the right side had escaped too much bruising. There were lots of stitches around my eyes so steri strips were put on the top and bottom eyelids to stop the ends of the stitches dangling across my eyes and irritating me. My hair was full of staples just above and behind the ears but somehow I managed to hide them with some careful drying. I put on my dark glasses and ventured from the room, hoping that I wouldn’t see anyone. The surgeon, bless his heart, always gives his ladies a big bouquet of flowers to take home and I was very touched by the gesture.

When I looked in the mirror at home – peering through the maze of stitches and steri strips – I was completely shocked by the smoothness of my skin. After years of watching the wrinkles creeping across my face and my skin sagging, it took some getting used to. The next thing I noticed was that my hairstyle was completely wrong for the shape of my new face. Previously, my face was long and saggy, now it was more rounded.

The bricklayer who was working on our house came to have a look at the state of my face. He is a well-tattooed chap and by no means a wimp but he was horrified by the extent of the bruising and stitches. He thought I was stark raving mad


WEEK ONE

I find that sleeping at home is a bit more difficult than sleeping in a propped-up hospital bed. I can only lie on my back, as it is too uncomfortable to lie on my ears. They feel quite numb and on close inspection I can see there are stitches all the way down the front of them – I hadn’t thought about that. There is still a lot of bruising and dried blood around my face – I look as if I have been hit with a plank of wood across the left side of it. Still no pain; just that tender feeling that goes with severe bruising.

I have to shower and wash my hair every day in order to keep the incisions clean until they heal. I can’t exfoliate my skin and I’m not allowed to use soap until the stitches come out on Friday, so my face has started to resemble a wall that had just been stripped of wallpaper and not wiped clean.

A friend wanted to visit to have a look, so I sneaked down to the gate and left a key in the lock so I wouldn’t see any neighbours. When she came up the drive, I was playing in the garden with the dogs. She said, "it doesn’t look like you, it’s so different." We went inside and she sat and stared at me for about 10 minutes, occasionally saying, "I just can’t believe it."

The staples in my head are still very tight and it makes movement a bit restricted. I feel tired, partly because I can’t get comfortable in bed and because my body is trying to heal itself, so I am taking it very easy this week and have told everyone that I am away on holiday. I am ignoring the phone. Because of all the hair washing, my colour has faded to a dark blonde instead of a light brown and I can see the roots showing through. But I will have to wait until all the cuts are healed before I dare put any colour on it.

On Friday , I drove myself back to the clinic to have the staples and the stitches removed. My surgeon looked very pleased with his handiwork. The nurse took about 40 minutes to remove all the staples and it scarcely hurt at all. She had a special little tool that made the job easier. Removing the stitches around the corners of the eyes made me shout a bit, though and my eyes watered but that has been the only pain. I’d compare it to having my legs waxed or my eyebrows plucked. When my husband saw me that evening, he said I looked much better now that the stitches had been removed.

People’s reactions have been really interesting this week; I was talking to a young girl I know for several minutes before she realised it was me, while many male acquaintances stare me in the eyes and make far more conversation than they used to.

WEEK TWO
Until last week, I didn’t know that I had blue eyes. When the steri strips came off, I couldn’t believe they were my eyes and I just kept staring at them. I now have to look at the before pictures to remind me of how awful I looked.

I inherited droopy eyelids from my father’s side of the family. All his brothers and sisters have eyelids that hang over the eyes. My vision has also improved. The next thing I noticed was that the daylight was so bright I had to wear sunglasses most of the time. It probably explains why I always used to walk around the house putting the lights on.

I went to a work meeting on Tuesday evening and all the women commented on how much younger I looked. When I got up to talk to the group, one of the young men came up to me afterwards and said I looked ‘really marvelous’.

Everyone seems to be reacting to me differently now – even if it is only a quizzical stare because they can’t work out what has changed about me.

My mother made the worst fuss of all. She said she couldn’t see any difference and how could I put myself through all that? My father, however thinks I look better.

WEEK THREE
I feel as if I have been given a good 10 years back. I no longer believe that I have to get older. My face now matches the age of my body, which has always been in good condition. I am really pleased with my eyes because I can wear eye makeup and you can finally tell I have long eyelashes. I still have a little numbness just in front and behind the ears but that’s fading slowly, so I’m not worried. The scars are occasionally red and I put vitamin E oil on them at night to help them heal.

A friend said that my face now looks softer. I am not a hard person but because my face looked very stern, no one spoke to me unless they had to. Now I find that new people are suddenly making lots of conversation.

FIVE WEEKS LATER ( 23RD SEPTEMBER )
Five weeks after my surgery, it’s time to show off my face-lift to the world. Because I need a new hairstyle to go with my new face, Journal has arranged for me to have some hair extensions from Antenna. First my own hair has to be coloured to match the extensions and because it is rather brown, it is a long process. Once my hair is blonde, it looks so different that I begin to get apprehensive. But approximately four hours later, I have a beautiful head of long blonde hair and a husband whose eyes are out on stalks. His jaw nearly hits the floor.

At the studio, a surprise is waiting upstairs for me.  It’s Cindy Jackson – having her makeup done. I’m thrilled.  She looks just as wonderful as her photographs. Here is my inspiration for my face-lift shaking my hand and asking me how I am. This is just too good to be true. After our makeup is done and we’ve taken our pick from the rail of slinky designer dresses, the photo session begins. It’s obvious that Cindy is a professional when it comes to posing. She gives me tips on how to stand to flatter the dress. I am still learning what my new face looks like and now I have to cope with the hair as well.

Back home in Norfolk, away from the glamour of the photo shoot, I venture out for a quick shopping trip. I make my way straight to a makeup counter inspired by some new suggestions from the makeup artist at the photo session, I need some different products.  I've only been there a few minutes when an assistant asks if I need any help. I’m shocked – I never got this treatment as a shorthaired redhead. I often stood for ages trying to work out which colour I needed, while the staff tapped their feet impatiently because I was in the way of shelf stacking. But on my way home, I’m in for yet another surprise, as a couple of men smile as they walk past.

THE VERDICT
I would certainly have another face-lift if I thought I needed it – or any other cosmetic surgery, come to that. I only have to look at the before pictures to remind myself of why I had it done in the first place. There’s no way I would want to go back to looking the way I did. I feel much happier about my appearance now. It’s not that I hated myself before; I just decided that I didn’t want to look so old.

I teach confidence building and self-esteem and wouldn’t recommend that anyone uses cosmetic surgery as a tool to build confidence. You need to learn to be confident, no matter what you look like and then make changes to your appearance when you can justify the reasons to yourself. And don’t ask for anyone else’s opinion unless you really want it.

NB. The name of the surgeon has been left out of the copy of this article deliberately. After the publication of this feature the surgeon was subject to an investigation by the GMC after many patients had complained that they had not obtained the same results.

As a result of the controversy this article caused, Linda set up her own Information Service to try to help those seeking cosmetic surgery.


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