Cosmetic Surgery Changed My Life

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Two local women tell how their procedures brought new hope and comfort.

Photography by Stefan Andreev

One suffered physically from her husband’s slow death, one celebrated new life  – – But not its impact on her body.  One felt prodded by the passage of time.  And one feared the ravages of an unforgiving inheritance.  These four woman turned to cosmetic surgery in the hopes that pieces of themselves lost to the random acts of life would be returned to them by kinder reflections.  Their personalities are as different as the procedures they’ve chosen, but the end results are the same.  Loretta Fox, Monique Wright, are just a few of the many women along the Gulfshore for whom cosmetic surgery has changed their lives – not to become different, but to become themselves again. 


            “It diverted my attention from my grief”

            A decade ago, the anguish of four long years watching cancer take her husband the breathtaking sorrow after his death were apparent on Loretta Fox’s face.

            “I had lost my husband, and my face just hung.” Says Fox, now 71, of Naples.  “All the muscles just collapsed in that year of my grief.  I had aged tremendously, I was like a zombie.  I really didn’t care.”

            Her daughter, Naples plastic surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Fox, says her mother’s grief-induced weight loss made her wrinkles more pronounced.  A year after her father’s death, she performed face and neck lifts on her mother to help her refocus her life.  “She was single, and she wanted to date again.” Dr. Fox says, “She wanted a nice, rested, refreshed look on her face.”

            “I have to say, it did work, “Loretta says “Its diverted my attention from my grief to a new life, a new beginning.”

            A few years later, Loretta again turned to her daughter for a breast lift and implants.  Then, after she complained to her daughter about what she thought was a fat stomach, Elizabeth explained that it was not fat but excess skin and loose muscles from having three children.  That led to Loretta’s tummy tuck.  A similar complaint by Loretta about what she thought was cellulite led to thigh and arm lifts for excess skin. 

            “It wasn’t a matter of me asking (for surgery), “ Loretta says, “It was a matter of me saying, “I have to lose more weight, ‘She said, ‘You’re never going to lose it.  It’s excess skin, ‘I wouldn’t wear a bathing suit for years.  I thought if you didn’t have a perfect body, hide it.  We went on vacation last year, and I wore a bathing suit.  I felt a lot better than when I had the lumpy-bumpies.  When you’re young, your body’s in good shape.  You don’t even realize it.  When you lose that, that’s when you feel bad.  ((The surgeries) broke a pattern of just sitting.  It broke a pattern of just sitting.  It broke that pattern of grief.” 


            “I just wanted back what I had before”

            After giving birth to two daughters, Monique Wright’s proportionate C-cups grew to double-Ds.  She thought they would return to normal after she finished breastfeeding and resumed her active lifestyle, but that didn’t happen.  Her daughters are now 10 and 12, and Monique 40, has long since dropped the baby weight.  But her breasts remained so cumbersome that she had to wear two bras at a time for support when she went jogging.  The straps dug into her shoulders , and she had constant back pain from subconsciously shrugging her shoulders to conceal her chest.  “We learn to live with the pain like it’s normal, “ she says.

Then, during the summer before her 38th birthday, Monique took part in Naples triathlon. “That was it for me, running in a bathing suit,” she says. “That was the turning point.”

She had been hesitant to seek help because she considered cosmetic surgery to be all about vanity. “As women, we don’t ourselves first,” Monique says. “I just wanted back what I had before. Some things you can’t do with just diet and exercise.”

After consulting with Dr. Fox, Monique decided to have a breast lift and reduction. She also opted for a tummy tuck when Dr. Fox explained that muscles loosened from childbirth were also contributing to her back pain. Stretched skin would also not return to pre-childbirth condition from exercise alone.

“I questioned, ‘Do I really need that? But it really did help with my back pain. It supports my back muscles, and now I have a waist. I think I have a nicer belly button than I did before.”

It took a while to go from a guilt factor to appreciating the benefits of the surgery. “The biggest thing for me was getting over the feeling I was being selfish,” Monique says. “It was expensive, and insurance didn’t cover it. If I had gone smaller (breast size), it would have been medically necessary. But I wanted to look like I did before. I’m happy when I look in the mirror now. I was wearing minimizing bras, and they’re ugly. I can wear Victoria’s Secret now, and the straps aren’t three inches wide. Buying a bathing suit before was always such a monster chore.”

Dr. Fox says she reassures her female patients (she says male patients don’t need reassurance because they don’t generally feel guilty about it) that feeling good about yourself has nothing to do with vanity. “It has to do with nurturi