NORTH CAROLINA TRIANGLE’S PREMIER HEALTH PUBLICATION • WITH 70,000+ HEALTH-CONSCIOUS READERS BIMONTHLY

CYNTHIA GREGG, MD
FACE & BODY SPECIALISTS

pdf of this article

For more information about the practice, contact:

CYNTHIA GREGG, MD
FACE & BODY SPECIALISTS
Cynthia Gregg, MD, FACS
Cindy Wu, MD, FACS

3550 NW Cary Parkway, #100
Cary, NC 27513
Telephone: (919) 297-0097
www.cynthiagreggmd.com

Improving Quality of Life:
A Key to “Optimal” Health

““I could argue that everything we do is about helping our patients achieve optimal health,” observes Dr. Cynthia Gregg, one of the area’s pre-eminent facial plastic surgeons.

Dr. Gregg, right, and Dr. Wu

“Because ‘optimal’ is such a personal thing. It’s about each of us wanting to be our best, to feel our best. And what all my patients tell me is that they want how they look on the outside to match how they feel on the inside.

“Like it or not,” she says, “we live in a world where people respond to us, in large measure, by how we look. And when people experience an improvement in their appearance, they simply carry themselves differently, with more confidence and openness.”

Dr. Gregg is double board-certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. And she views procedures such as rhinoplasty (nasal surgery), otoplasty (to correct protruding ears), and face lifts as critically important in helping many patients to achieve their goal of “optimal health.”

“Some of my rhinoplasty patients, for example, need help in overcoming functional issues, such as breathing problems due to obstruction,” she explains. “For others, the size or shape of their nose is a significant emotional problem. I have been struck often by the stories my patients tell me about how self-consciousness about their appearance affects their lives; even something as simple as being reluctant to have their picture taken or to be looked at in profile can have an enormous impact on their quality of life.”

Procedures that Transform Lives

One recent rhinoplasty patient’s experience, underscores the transformative power of this procedure, notes Dr. Gregg. “This young patient—Shannon—needed surgery to correct problems from a broken nose and previous surgery—problems she had suffered from for five years (see below). And, when we removed the bandages a week after the surgery, both Shannon and her mother cried with happiness at the changes they saw.”
Shannon had come to Dr. Gregg with pain and breathing issues as well as cosmetic concerns. And it was her mother who insisted that she should not just accept the pain or not being able to breathe through her nose. Dr. Gregg also refused to accept that, promising the teenager: “It will be better.” And she was right.

“It’s always a blessing,” notes Dr. Gregg, “to do a rhinoplasty or a septoplasty/rhinoplasty combination that not only preserves or improves breathing, but gives them the confidence to be who they feel they are on the inside.”

Another procedure that can be life-changing is otoplasty. “We perform this surgery to set ears closer to the head or to reduce the size of large ears,” explains Dr. Gregg. “We often perform this surgery on children, because protruding ears can be a difficult burden for a child. But one of the most rewarding cases I recall was man in his mid-70s who decided, at long last, to fix the appearance of his ears, which had been an emotional burden to him for his entire life.

“Fred told me that, in his childhood, he had been tormented because of the size and shape of his ears and that, all through his life, he remained self-conscious about his appearance—something that affected his confidence and sense of self-worth. Even though he made the change late in his life, it was a change that completely altered the quality of his life.”

The Healing Power of a Face Lift

“Transformations that occur as the result of a rhinoplasty or otoplasty are dramatic,” acknowledges Dr. Gregg, “but although the changes made with a face lift are more subtle, they are just as powerful and just as positive.

“Many of my patients are middle-aged,” she notes, “and are focused on that goal of ‘achieving optimal health.’ They’re making a real effort to take care of themselves and to lead a healthy lifestyle. And, often, they’ve lost significant weight in that effort.

A patient before and after a face and neck lift.

“They feel so good from their shoulders down because they’re feeling fit and wearing smaller sizes,” notes Dr. Gregg, “but their faces make them look older. Because, when you get your body in shape and lose weight, you’ve deflated so much that your face can look sunken. So, there’s a mismatch between the way you feel and the way you look.”

Dr. Gregg often suggests a lower-face lift for these patients. “Major weight change doesn’t really affect the brow or the eyes, she explains, “but it can dramatically affect the jawline and the neck. You start to see hollows where there was fullness, and with age, the skin loses some of its bounce, compounding the problem.

“I had one patient who had lost a hundred pounds and who said: ‘Now you’re going to make my face match the rest of me!’ The face lift was the final step—completing all the hard work she had done to improve her overall health and physical condition.”

The Right Surgeon at the Right Time

When middle-schooler Shannon first came to see Dr. Gregg in 2017, she had already had a rhinoplasty performed elsewhere following an injury that badly broke her nose. Neither Shannon nor her mother thought the results looked or felt right, so they sought a second surgery with Dr. Gregg.

But Dr. Gregg told Shannon to wait. “There’s a right time for rhinoplasty,” she explains. “You don’t want to operate on someone’s nose until it’s fully matured, and Shannon, at 14, hadn’t finished growing. The initial surgery had been premature.”

As she was leaving her consultation with Dr. Gregg, Shannon told her mom that this advice made her feel better about Dr. Gregg. “Taking that pause to say there’s a whole picture to look at before we address that problem—that’s what gave me the confidence to go back,” she says.

Shannon and her mom returned in June of 2021. Now 18 years old, Shannon was most bothered by the painful bumps she had on her nose from the first surgery. Her nostrils also looked very asymmetrical due to a deviated septum. Dr. Gregg very clearly spelled out what she could and could not do.

“I loved instantly that Dr. Gregg did the whole process,” says Shannon. “She met with me to understand my story, and explained that because I had a previous surgery, this rhinoplasty would be higher risk. She made sure I knew this, but she also made me feel better because I was still in pain and didn’t realize how much I couldn’t breathe.”

By understanding Shannon’s priorities and challenges, Dr. Gregg was able to lay out a comprehensive plan to address them; and she performed Shannon’s second surgery in mid-December of last year. Dr. Gregg got rid of the painful bumps, but also straightened the septum for both aesthetic and functional reasons.

After five years of not breathing through her nose, Shannon had to be coaxed to try it immediately after the surgery, and was amazed to find that she could. And it was only a week later, when Dr. Gregg removed the cast, that Shannon and her family all cried to see the dramatic improvement.

“I remember that I took home flowers from Dr. Gregg to mark that day,” Shannon recalls, “And later I started crying again because I realized I could smell the flowers from across the kitchen!”

Full recovery will take many more months, but Shannon is thrilled with her progress just a few months after the surgery. “It’s amazing,” she says. “I don’t have a sensitivity anymore, which is fantastic. There’s no more unevenness on the surface of my nose and the swelling has gone down a lot.”
Because this was Shannon’s second surgery, she will have a slower recovery. She was originally nervous about that, so Dr. Gregg scheduled her surgery so most of her intensive recovery would occur during her month-long winter break.

By the time Shannon returned to school, things were mostly business as usual, despite some initial exercise limitations. But already, she’s back to her active lifestyle, even participating in college sports. “The only person who can really tell that anything’s happened is me,” Shannon says, smiling.

And the biggest takeaway for Shannon? “Don’t accept that you can’t breathe and don’t accept that you’re in pain.”