“Let’s shut the video off. I want to do a little medical history before we begin the injections.”
That was esteemed plastic surgeon, Dr. Philip Miller. I was sitting in his comfortable, green leather chair in his medical office in midtown Manhattan. Dr. Miller was next to me on a stool. The bright light from the video camera was shining in my eyes. I barely noticed. I had only one thing on my mind: Botox.
I had just finished interviewing Dr. Miller for the second in a series of betterafter50.com videos about looking your best after 50. My partner Felice had met with Dr. Miller a few months earlier, completing a very informative video on how to lighten brown spots. This next video is all about Botox. We had just finished the introductory portion of the video; it was time for the injections. Someone had to volunteer to be the patient, right?
I jumped at the chance to be in the hot seat, “take one for the team” so to speak, get rid of a few wrinkles for the cause. I wore a black dress, so you couldn’t see me sweat as he brought out the needles. The price of beauty, I kept telling myself.
“Ok. Sure. Go for it. It’s medical history time.” I told him.
Dr. Miller’s assistant, Stephanie, pressed the off button on the video, and the bright lights went out. No cameras, of course, while we were taking a medical history and getting the consents signed. Dr. Miller turned his gaze to me, looked at me intently.
Any history of Diabetes? No.
Heart disease? No.
Neurological disorders? No.
I almost said “no.” Really, I almost said “no.”
“You have a history of cancer?”
“No. I mean yes. I have cancer now. I was just diagnosed. I have breast cancer.”
A heavy silence filled the room.
“Sorry, I forgot. I mean I sometimes forget that I have cancer. Should I have mentioned that?”
“It’s ok. How are you feeling?”
“I feel great.“
I explained all about my cancer. I explained how the Grand Pubah of mammograms missed the cancer on a yearly mammogram. I explained how my primary care physician found it on a routine breast examine. I explained that I have Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, that there were two spots they found on the right breast. I explained that I was on Tamoxifen, and that I would be going in for a unilateral mastectomy in late October. The doctor listened to all of it carefully and empathetically.
But suddenly, as I was telling him my story, a million questions ran through my mind. I know it is safe to use Botox cosmetically if you have cancer (there is more concern with neurological disorders), but was it right?
What was I doing here at a plastic surgeon’s office getting my face injected when I have so many more important things to think about? Billy Crystal’s character, Fernando Lamos, kept running through my mind.
Just because it is safe, I wondered, should I do it?
These are all questions I had asked myself months before, of course. Once answered and the decision made to go forward, I promptly put them out of my mind. Now that the needles were filled, and I was in the chair sweating and talking about my cancer, I started second guessing. I was sweating so much I thought I might slide right off the chair. There was still time to bolt. Get another patient to take my place.
I took a few deep breaths. Relaxed. Thought about why I had made the decision to do this in the first place.
At the beginning of the summer, a friend of mine who had a mastectomy suggested that before my surgery I go in for a manicure and pedicure. “You want to feel as pretty as you can when you come out of surgery with one boob less, with drains hanging out.”
“Good advice,” I thought. But I always take things to the next level.
I decided I would add a Keratin treatment to the mix. Then I decided on the Botox. Certainly, the cancer had given me a few extra lines. The way I saw it, I was just fighting back.
Botox was exactly what I needed before my mastectomy.
“Can I still have the Botox even though I have cancer?” I asked meekly.
You will have to watch the video to find out.