30 May Real Patient Journeys: Diary of a rhinoplasty patient.
By Caroline Elie, real patient.
I was nine years old when someone pointed out to me, for the first time, that I had an aquiline nose. At the time, I remember rushing to find a dictionary to see the definition, to learn more about what this type of nose was. An aquiline nose is defined as a long nose, a crooked nose… a different nose.
The years passed, and during my adolescence I became more and more uncomfortable with my appearance. My nose was resolutely different from the others, it bothered me, and I knew it, but an inner force pushed me to try to accept it, to love this trait that differentiated me from others. I lived between two frames of mind, either the complex, or the feeling of having that je-ne-sais-quoi. My self-confidence developed over time, always taking into account this complex that bothered me constantly. Was it a trait I hated? Was I rather proud of this different nose? I didn’t know. The hours of internal analysis and the conversations with my friends helped me get through my adolescence. I also made it through by being confident, by loving who I am and coming to terms with the idea that it was OK to look the way I did, all-the-while, still uncertain of the feelings I had towards my nose.
Something inside of me was telling me that self-acceptance was a great strength, a great pride, and for some reason, that cosmetic surgery was out of the question. It was superficial, it was a shameful, it was wrong. Years passed, but I continued to look at myself in the mirror with those same mixed feeling. Since my preconceived notions about cosmetic surgery were strong, and it seemed cosmetic change would never be an option, I continued to work to accept myself as I was and love the nose that I hated in my heart. I had to stop obsessing, to move on and stop talking about it.
At thirty-three years old, I felt strong, happy in my own skin, proud to be where I was professionally and personally. I had overcome emotional mountains, professional failures, and gained a well-deserved inner well-being. My nose complex, however, was still front and centre in my thoughts. It’s something I’ve lived with every day, every time I looked at myself in the mirror. I got used to avoiding having pictures taken of my profile. Despite my complex, I learned to pretend as much as I could that I had no problem with this facial feature. One day, by chance, this thought crossed my mind: the nose will not go away, never. You have to either accept it, or change it. It’s a choice you have to make.
I realized then that despite my inner journey to peace with this complex, despite all the love I have received in my life and all the external comments questioning my inner ill-being, I am still unhappy in my own skin. I have other complexes, other worries, but my nose, it really bothers me. Was I ready to live like this for another thirty years? Sixty years? Ready to analyze every photo that there will be of me again during all these years? To only see this when looking at myself?
I couldn’t take it anymore. Suddenly my perception had changed, and I no longer saw any reason to continue living like this. Why live with this complex, half happy, if I could change my life and find some inner peace towards that?
A few days later, I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I broke down in tears in his office.
October 3, 2017
I go alone to my exploratory appointment with the friend-recommended surgeon. I feel feverish, nervous and above all very emotional. Talking about my complex aloud makes me feel very fragile. He takes pictures, asks me questions, and then shows me an example of what my nose would look like after a correction. I insist that I want to look like myself, that I want to get a slight correction, that I want to keep my nose a bit different, because it’s me. I leave his office papers in hand, my head is spinning at the idea of thinking that I might actually do it. I will have to face myself, I will have to deal with the reaction of others and I will have to see how this affects my personal finances.
December 14, 2017
I think about the plastic surgery a lot; I think about it every day. I look at myself, I ask myself if it is necessary. I have lived with this complex for years, after all. I am slowly getting comfortable with the thought of going through this, of saying goodbye to this part of me. I talk to some friends, I look at my finances. I think I should do it during the winter when I’m usually less busy.
January 11, 2018
I wake up every morning thinking about my nose job and I’m starting to get excited about changing my life. I’m also very nervous, and I haven’t announced it to my boyfriend yet. I’m afraid of his reaction. I want to be completely sure and ready when I tell him. I talk to a friend of mine who is in the aesthetics industry, and she refers me to a surgeon in Toronto. One of the best in Canada. She’s telling me to take my time, so that’s what I do.
February 6, 2018
On my way back home today, I feel an urgent desire to tell my boyfriend about my surgery. I have a big lump in my throat, I dread the moment, but I can’t hide it anymore. I’m determined. I tell him over supper. I’m direct. He responds gently, he seems open-minded. He wants to understand the reason for my decision. I start explaining to him, spitting my emotions, weeping for relief, and assuming my choice fully. I feel liberated. Relieved to see that the news seems to be well received on his side. We spend more than an hour discussing during the night.
Above: Caroline before her rhinoplasty
March 1, 2018
I’m flying to Toronto for work today. I managed to get a last minute appointment for a consultation with Dr. Somogyi at Toronto Plastic Surgery. Being referred by my wonderful friend, he took the time to make some space for me between two appointments. As soon as I land in Toronto, I jump in a cab and go straight to his office downtown. He welcomes me warmly, despite his busy schedule.
I’m nervous. I explain to him what bothers me, I repeat that this is an extremely difficult decision for me. I ask him if this is going to be drastic. I do not want it to change me too much.
He takes pictures, then shows me using a very sophisticated software what my nose would look like after the intervention. We discuss details – from the bump that doesn’t bother me too much, to the tip of my nose that I find slightly bent – he listens attentively and reassures me. He is calm, very charismatic; he seems to really like what he does. I feel reassured.
I leave his office slightly shaken. This is happening: an approximate date has been set. I’m calling a friend to tell her, and get her opinion. She tells me it’s great, that if I decide to do it, she will come with me, no matter the distance. I hang up thinking more than ever that moving forward is possible. I want nothing more than to move on from this complex.
March 14, 2018
I’m doing a Google search to look for reviews of Dr. Somogyi. I want to know his reputation, even though I got a good impression when I met him. I only see perfect comments. I read touching testimonials, where people seem to be grateful to him.
I am happy and nervous at the same time, thinking about what is coming. I’m starting to talk about it with my close friends. I get a lot of support from some people. Sometimes a little misunderstanding about my decision, but I know deep down that this is the right thing. I feel half freed from this facet of my life.
March 28, 2018
I think a lot about how I will deal with the announcement on my blog and on social media. It stresses me out so much that I even dream about it at night. I’m a little obsessed and definitely preoccupied by it. I start planning my trip and thinking about the weeks following the surgery. I plan to be back on TV a few weeks after the recovery. I finally announce it to my parents at a family dinner. Their reaction is neutral. It is as if they have been expecting it for a long time. I am stunned to see that they are not shocked, and that they simply ask me questions about the operation. I think maybe I was the one who always thought it was such a big deal all these years.
April 11, 2018
It’s my birthday, I’m thirty-four years old today. I am extremely stressed when thinking about the next few days. My friends surround me with love and good advice. I am very emotional, excited by what is coming. I am finally starting to talk about it openly and to be happy that I made this decision.
April 13, 2018
I’m packing my suitcase for Toronto, as we’re leaving on Sunday. All of a sudden, I start crying. I’m disconsolate. I think of all those years during which I had this complex, and I didn’t feel good in my own skin. I can’t believe I’ll finally put all this behind me. I cry out of nervousness, out of relief. It’s a lot for me. That’s all I’m thinking about.
April 16, 2018
I arrive at The Cumberland Clinic in Yorkville, Toronto, at 7am. I’m extremely nervous. They call me and tell me it’s my turn. I hug my friend, a tear in my eye, and I go get changed for the operation. A nurse gives me a few pills to swallow and tells me about the next steps. Then I meet Dr. Somogyi. I’m glad to see him. I trust him fully, and I know I must not be nervous. He reassures me, of course, with his big smile. Then they leave me to wait in a room for a few minutes. I find the energy to look through a pile of magazines next to me to distract my mind a bit. I think everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay.
They call me to go to the operating room. I lie on a bed surrounded by instruments. The nurse is holding my hand while the anesthesiologist put a needle in my arm. I see Dr. Somogyi smile and tell me it’s going to be okay. I close my eyes.
I wake up a few hours later. My throat is dry, my nose is jammed and my head is heavy. A nurse gives me water and speaks gently to me. I come back around quietly.
It’s done. It’s done, Caroline.
My good friend then drives me back to the apartment I rented for the week. I’m a little dizzy, not super strong. I lie on the couch for the rest of the day while my friend watches over me.
Dr. Somogyi calls me in the evening to find out how I’m doing. I appreciate his phone call, and I tell him how I feel.
Above: Caroline’s results
April 18, 2018
The last two days have been quiet and a little difficult. A cloth blocks my nostrils and I still have a cast that protects my nose. I feel better, I’m not dizzy anymore and I slept well. I have appetite too. My face is a little swollen and I have little bruises under my eyes, but I’m happy with my condition. I expected much worse! I’m already ready to go back to my normal life, but I have to be quiet a little longer. I have a follow-up appointment that day and they finally release my nostrils. I can breathe freely, even if my nose is heavy and sensitive. I feel much better and I can even work remotely all day.
April 20, 2018
I woke up early today, I’m ready to go home. I prepare my suitcase and I look forward to leaving the apartment, excited to be returning to my life. I have an appointment at the surgeon’s office that morning to have my stitches removed and also the cast removed on my nose. I’m afraid it’s going to be painful. When I arrive I’m greeted with kindness. Dr. Somogyi’s assistant asks me to lie down to remove my stitches. It doesn’t hurt at all. Then Dr. Somogyi arrives in the room and looks at my face. He takes the cast off. It’s a weird feeling, it’s still sensitive. But wow. Just four days later and I’m already liberated. Obviously, it’s ideal to keep it on a bit longer, but since I am going back home that day, it’s an exception.
I get up to look at myself in the mirror. I don’t have the bump anymore. My nose is no longer pointing down. It’s me again, I see the difference, even if my face is still swollen.
I start crying.
I have finally put that part of my life behind me.
I finally did it.
I can now live freely.
I thank life for this great lesson. I know there is a reason why I had to wait so long to make that decision. I feel good about myself, and now I want to share my story, because I know that I’m not alone knowing what it is to live with this kind of complex.