As a cancer survivor, I’m a veteran of too many surgeries–leaving the landscape of my body literally covered with scars which are the permanent markers of battles I’ve fought. Although I wear those scars proudly, I vowed never to have any surgery unless it is absolutely necessary. Which sets me up to potentially become the only woman left in America of my generation and income bracket who will be a walking testimony of what aging looks like.
I am grateful for every extra year, day, and even wrinkle I’ve been given. I know what’s most important in life–and it’s not how I look. I planned to let nature take its natural course, expecting to be the perfect embodiment of imperfection–the poster child of aging gracefully.
And then yesterday as I was putting on my makeup, I looked in the mirror and suddenly realized that my eyelid was drooping so much that the eyeliner I was applying would be invisible. And in that moment I came face to face with my face.
And as comfortable as I’ve been with the truth of aging, I suddenly saw below the surface, in my own eyes, there is another truth: Why should I look older than everyone else who’s had their eyes done?
So how’s this for karma? The very day after my moment with the mirror–it just so happens that I have an appointment with a plastic surgeon. This was a complete coincidence orchestrated by the gods.
I have this appointment because I have a basal cell skin cancer on my nose. And today I’m meeting the surgeon who will sew up my nose after the cancer is removed.
Many years ago I had a skin cancer on the other side of my nose, and it was not a big deal. So I am surprised when Dr. D tells me it will take a few weeks for my face to recover. Because the surgery may leave me with swelling, black eyes, bruises, looking beat up as if I have had….plastic surgery.
Immediately it strikes me: Is this a sign? Does this mean that in its infinite wisdom, my body has created this skin cancer–to get me into the office of a plastic surgeon who will soon have me anesthetized on the operating table, with all his tools at hand?
If it’s not a sign, at least it’s a blinking light. I think back to the mirror and ask the doctor: If I walked into your office as a regular patient, what would you recommend? He studies my face and tells me I am a perfect candidate for a brow lift.
He would make a cut across the top of my head, and pull up my skin from the brows up, thus lifting all the things that most need lifting. And luckily, says Dr. D, a brow lift would leave me with the very same aftermath that I will have anyway from the skin cancer surgery. (Meaning, no one would notice the staples in my hair since they would be too busy gawking at the unsightly mess on my face.)
In fact, he says, unless I choose to volunteer the information, no one would ever need to know that I had the brow lift at all.
“You mean I could do this without telling my husband?”
I assure Dr. D that I was kidding (although I wasn’t completely). And I take in the serendipity of this apparent nudge from the universe. The fates must have intended for me to have a brow lift; otherwise, why would I have contracted skin cancer requiring plastic surgery? And financially, it’s such a deal. I’ve already got the operating room booked–I can just think of it as a “two-fer.”
Thus in the blink of an eye(job), my idealistic plan to be the face of reality suddenly vanishes. It’s shocking how fast I can flip over to the dark side. I felt completely secure in my commitment to age naturally. If this could happen so easily to me, I can only imagine how vulnerable other people are to a critical remark or an upcoming high school reunion.
So I head home from Dr. D wondering whether my vanity will trump my integrity.