What It's Like to Go Through an Extreme Makeover

For Cynde Baker of Niles, Ohio, becoming the subject of a WKYC-TV 3 "Ultimate You" makeover by Beachwood plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Foglietti was the chance of a lifetime, an aesthetic-surgery luxury she could never afford on her own. But what's it really l

For Cynde Baker of Niles, Ohio, becoming the subject of a WKYC-TV 3 "Ultimate You" makeover by Beachwood plastic surgeon Dr. Mark Foglietti was the chance of a lifetime, an aesthetic-surgery luxury she could never afford on her own. But what's it really like to turn back the clock, especially when the cameras are recording every detail for public viewing? The 46-year-old registered dental hygienist tells all.

It started with a breast lift. That's what I went to Dr. Foglietti for in the beginning. I've always been large-busted and, as I got older, I felt a lot of pulling on my shoulders — my bras were uncomfortable — and my back was hurting. Losing 40 pounds three years ago had only made the sagging worse. My breasts were like tube socks with grapefruit in them.

I'd never had a major surgery, so, to me, it was a big ordeal that women would go in and have all this done. But on June 13, 2003, I went under the knife for a breast lift and augmentation (the implants replaced lost breast fullness). I had no complications, no problems, and returned to work after a week. My breasts were back up where they were supposed to be, nice and perky, and my backaches disappeared. It was the smartest thing I've ever done.

It was during a follow-up visit in July that Dr. Foglietti told me he had an offer that I couldn't refuse. He was participating in a Channel 3 series of "Ultimate You" makeover segments to air on the news in November and needed to choose a patient. He said I came to mind because I was in the right age bracket — Channel 3 wanted someone in their 40s, when women typically have a lot of cosmetic surgery — I was a lot of fun and I followed doctor's orders.

I also had other issues with my appearance. I always wore a lot of eye makeup to try to conceal the fact that my lids were drooping. People would look at me and say, "Oh, you look so tired!" when I really wasn't. I had little jowls. I had a double chin. And after I lost the weight, I had this pouch of skin on my stomach and all this excess skin around my neck, like a turkey wattle. It was so bad that one patient said to me, "Oh, honey, you should try some Preparation H on your neck. It will tighten that tissue right up." I just wanted to die.

But when I drove home from my follow-up appointment that day, I felt as if I was the luckiest girl in the world. Because my breast lift had gone exactly as Dr. Foglietti said it would, I wasn't afraid or nervous. I was excited. Even though I'd just started a new job, my boss, Dr. Kathleen Montgomery, agreed to give me the two weeks off necessary to recover. And my boyfriend was so very supportive. He said, "I love you now. I'll love you after."

Channel 3 videotaped my consultation with Dr. Foglietti and an interview with health anchor Monica Robins in which I talked about why I wanted a makeover. On the morning of Aug. 29, Monica was at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation Ambulatory Surgery Center in Beachwood with a videographer, asking me if I was nervous while I was prepped for just under six hours of surgery: upper and lower eye lifts, a brow lift, face/neck lift and tummy tuck.

Dr. Foglietti came in and drew lines on my face and body with black felt-tipped pen, indicating the excess skin to be removed from my eyelids, neck and stomach and where my brow had to be pulled up. It was kind of funny — after the doctor left, I forgot the marks were on my face and began talking for the camera. When I walked into the operating room, Monica and the videographer followed.

I came out of surgery by 6 o'clock that evening and spent one night at the center. At midnight, I got up to go to the bathroom for the first time and looked in the mirror. I expected to be real swollen, all black and blue: I was neither. In fact, I experienced very little pain. Granted, I had to sleep sitting up. And after the tummy tuck, I couldn't just sit up when I was lying down; I kind of had to roll out of bed. But the tummy tuck wasn't nearly as bad as some people said it would be. "You're going to be all hunched over! You won't be able to climb stairs!" they warned me. None of that was true. I climbed stairs the day I came home.

Four days after the makeover surgery, I called Dr. Foglietti's office and said, "I'm beautiful!" I ended up having just a bit of swelling through my cheeks, a little bruising at the base of my neck, where the compression bandage ended, and some pinkness from the sutures around my eyes. And I didn't take any pain medication. I couldn't believe it: I was out and about in a week. I'd watched those other makeover shows on TV, and some patients looked like they'd been hit by a truck.

When I look at myself in the mirror today, I think I look 10 years younger. I feel like I look 10 years younger. Whether someone else thinks that or not, it doesn't really matter. I like what I see.

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