A few weeks ago I was watching a segment on "Fox & Friends" about Christie Brinkley, at age 63, rocking a swimsuit on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
She appeared flawless. Beautiful long, blonde hair – gorgeous smile.
Her face was glowing with youth. Her arms looked toned and tanned. She looked half her age.
“I’ll have what she’s having, please!” I yelled out from the back of the studio to my friends Ainsley, Steve and Brian.
I was serious. I wanted to know all her secrets. The producers, realizing this was a pretty big story, booked a dermatologist on the show to talk about this age defying woman.
They admitted that yes, Christie Brinkley has some good genes, but she’s also had help along the way. Little magic wands like Botox, fillers and lasers.
Wow! Sign me up!
Look, I’m no fool. I’ve been in TV for two decades. We have magicians as makeup artists and hair stylists that perform miracles here at Fox News – oh and the lighting in the studio is everything.
Every anchor knows the power of the “eye light” that beams light from below your face blasting out those wrinkles and age spots on your neck and under your eyes.
I’ve told many people I wish I could carry this light around my neck everywhere so I always look this good. Kim Kardashian uses a thing called a “lumee” case that’s basically little lights surrounding your iPhone so when you take a selfie, you look like you’re a toddler.
Now, I’m sure Christie Brinkley had some pretty amazing lighting people around her when she was taking those spectacular photos on the beach.
But I was starting to hear more and more about these new injectables, lasers and even something that freezes the fat below your chin.
I fully admit to using Botox on my forehead and between my eyebrows. It’s an easy way to smooth out the creases with no downtime.
Believe me when I tell you if you don’t see wrinkles on someone over the age of 45 it’s not because they have a great new face cream!
Every time I would see my doctor would ask if there was ANYTHING he could do with my neck. I’ve had a bad relationship with my neck since I was little. There are weird lines around it like a tree trunk -– they’ve been there since I was a baby.
But now at age 46, I’ve started to notice excess skin gathering like an accordion in the middle. So now along with being able to count the rings around my neck to guess how old I am there’s also some crepe paper attached to it.
My doctor told me there was a procedure that’s fairly new, but it’s changing the game in cosmetic surgery. It’s called “fractora,” an outpatient procedure done in the office that takes under an hour and that regenerates your natural collagen and tightens that old skin.
How long would this miracle laser treatment last for? Five years or longer… What about the downtime?
About 5 days. All right!
The kids have their school break coming up -- I was going to take the time off anyway to be with them. Perfect!
Oooh I started to imagine myself in V-neck dresses without feeling like I should be gobbling to Thanksgiving dinner.
I went home and told my husband I wanted to do this.
Full disclosure: My husband hates the idea of any kind of surgery or injecting anything into my face. But I’ve convinced him that all of this is safe and I have a very well-respected doctor who has an office in Manhattan. I promise I won’t do anything else after this. OK, he relents. I know you’ve hated your neck since I started dating you. Hmmm…Was I that obvious?
So, I start the process. I got a date on the calendar. I take out my credit card. I tell a few people, but keep it kinda quiet because who’s going to know? When I come back to work I may have to wear a few scarves or turtlenecks for a few days until I totally heal to a new and improved neck like a swan.
I get to my appointment early and crack a few jokes with the nurses after they give me two Tylenol. “Don’t you have anything a little harder than this?” I’m excited and a little nervous.
The doctor comes in and performs the procedure. My husband picks me up and doesn’t say so at the time, but later tells me that I looked terrible. Especially the left side of my face. My head is bandaged and so is my neck.
I get home and my kids look a little scared. “What happened mama? Why do you look like a Q-tip? Are you OK?” Yes, boys. Everything's fine. I just had to go the doctor for a little thing with my neck. This bandage will be off tomorrow and I’ll be fine. But for now mama has to lie down.
The left side of my face was puffed out like a chipmunk. I followed the doctor’s instructions and elevated my head and took more Tylenol to minimize bruising.
The next day I took off my bandages. The left side of my face was still very swollen and I was finding it hard to talk out of that side of my mouth. I couldn’t chew properly. Well, maybe this might help me lose a few pounds too? Nervous giggle.
I had the email of my doctor’s assistant and typed: “Hi there. Just wanted to know if it’s normal that one side of my face is very swollen and it’s really challenging to talk. Could you ask the doctor?”
She emailed back and said to send some pictures – one smiling, one normal, one with a pursed mouth like I’m pouting.
My bottom lip had looked like it had vanished. My smile was lopsided. I started looking stuff up on the internet.
Yikes. Close the computer.
Then I looked at the possible side-effects on the sheets I had initialed before the procedure. Fourth one down: Nerve injury, marginal mandibular nerve palsy, inability to depress lower lip, temporary change in smile or facial expression.
Yes, this looked like what I might be experiencing. I was suddenly mad at myself. Why didn’t I read the fine print? Why did I just gloss over these many side effects without asking questions? How many times do we glance through pages of paperwork without fully reading it and nonchalantly sign on the dotted line? This was on me.
I went in to see the doctor. I took my husband with me who was trying to hold back his anger. The first question is: “Will it come back?” My doctor says, “ Yes. 100 percent.” How long? “Well, we’re not sure. But a few weeks. We can fix it a bit with Botox. You can probably mask it with makeup.” But what about the fact that I can’t speak certain words? And my lopsided smile? “Well that will resolve itself eventually.”
Lately I’ve been thinking about this: If I could choose between having a smooth neck or getting my smile back to normal, there is no question. My smile means everything to me.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul. I disagree. My smile is my window.
I was near tears. This is not what I signed up for. Darn it.
My husband Sean asks the doctor what the percentage of patients was that this happens to. Answer: about one to two percent.
Wow. I wish I was that lucky when it came to playing the lottery.
I went to work the following week. But I couldn’t go on air. My words weren’t coming out right.
I wasn’t able to smile, laugh and deliver the weather with my Fox and Friends Family.
At first I was embarrassed. Then sad about what I had done. And then shame.
Why was I so vain to do this to myself?
I had to start admitting to my colleagues and friends what happened.
To those I have told, there has been overwhelming support, and I’m hearing stories about other people that have also had complications with cosmetic procedures.
A few months ago Kelly Ripa admitted on her show a little secret she hadn’t told anyone: She had “bad Botox” that made the left side of her face frozen and she couldn’t smile for months.
It happens a lot more than we hear about.
But, we don’t talk about it because, well, we live in a society where we are all supposed to look healthy and beautiful and young “naturally.”
I know I work in a business where that is magnified to a certain degree. But I don’t want to be ashamed by what I did. My mom consoled me by saying “Please don’t feel shame. I would do it, too!”
We’re now on week nine. I’m still not 100 percent, but things have improved. Many of you have emailed and sent messages asking where I am – wondering if I’ve had a flare-up from the MS that I was diagnosed with a decade ago. Thankfully, I’m healthy and doing just fine. I even asked my neurologist if the MS made me more susceptible to what happened during the procedure. She said absolutely not. It was unrelated.
Please know this is not something I could address in a tweet or a Facebook post. I wanted to have a place to explain what happened in my own words, openly.
Here’s what I’ve learned: These new lasers, injections and cosmetic procedures that look as if they can turn back time? There’s a little more to it. There are risks. It takes a while to heal. It’s also expensive. There are many possible complications that we need to be aware of before we sign on the dotted line. We should ask our doctors the worst- case scenario so we’re prepared.
The other thing I’ve realized? I think we spend too much time focused on our flaws instead of embracing the things that make us all shine.
This weekend my husband commented that he caught me smiling at my kids without being self-conscious. For the last few weeks he’s noticed I’ve been smiling less or covering my mouth to hide it. But now, finally, my big smile was coming back! Tears sprang to my eyes.
My kids could care less about what my neck looks like -- but when they see their mama smiling big and wide that’s what they remember most. And they always smile right back.