Botox and Beauty

by Helene Louise  

Years ago, if I heard the word “Botox” I immediately thought of speculation in the gossip magazines about whether or not a Hollywood star was suspected of having rejuvenated their appearance using Botox injections. Botox, (for those not as familiar with gossip magazines as I used to be), temporarily relaxes specific muscles for a period of three to four months, providing an opportunity during that time, to appear less wrinkly. However, as I’ve learned in the context of my daughter’s rehabilitation after a childhood stroke, Botox injections have a much wider application, such as addressing muscle tightness related to various conditions including the effects of strokes, even in children.

At the beginning of January, my daughter had the privilege of receiving such a treatment here in Montreal. Botox was injected into her arm and hand to try to relax those pesky muscles that despite all of our rehabilitation efforts over almost a decade and a half, remain so tight that they limit the use of her right hand. As is the case in the context of beauty treatments, in the context of physical rehabilitation, Botox temporarily relaxes specific muscles for a period of three to four months, providing an opportunity during that time to, not appear less wrinkly as in the glossy magazines, but to work really, really hard during that little window of opportunity to try to strengthen the opposing muscles enough so that hopefully, when the Botox wears off and the muscles that were injected go back to their usual state of tightness, greater mobility and dexterity remain.

This sounds easy and straightforward but in real life, or at least in my life, not so much. Since the Botox took effect, we’ve been getting up extra early every morning to do what we’ve been calling the “hand Olympics” because with the stress of any given work/school day for each of us, and the regular homework/activity schedule in the evenings, it’s the only way we can consistently fit in the effort required to make any progress at all. And, it does feel like we’ve been training for some kind of Olympic event only on a teeny-weeny micro level where heroic achievements are measured in micro-millimeters. Thankfully, we have seen progress. In the darkness of the early morning hours, we’ve been thrilled to see my daughter’s hand be increasingly responsive and see what is possible for her when the muscles aren’t working against her.

Now however, at about the three-month mark, we’re at the point where the Botox will start to wear off. Will any of the progress we’ve seen, remain once the Botox has worn off? Will we have anything to show for the many early morning hours we’ve put in somewhere between a quick breakfast and the start of another long day? I’m not sure. Still, I remain hopeful. Even if those pesky tight muscles are so stubborn that afterwards, the tightness from the stroke overrides the gains we’ve seen over the past three months, I will see beauty. Unlike the glossy magazine covers, I’ll of course have all the same wrinkles as I had in January, maybe even more because it’s been stressful to try to fit this in every day and try to remain patient (I need to refer back to my own book to remind myself about the challenges of staying patient in the context of physical rehabilitation...).

But, throughout this period of intense effort, with a daily opportunity to annoy each other before most people are even out of bed, we continue to do our best on a shared goal. Helping her as a teenager is certainly very different from the period of time I wrote about in my book, when she was a young child and everything could be turned into a game. But, we're still working together, we're still coming up with new ways of doing the exercises and we're still finding ways to make each other laugh.

I certainly hope that in the next few months my daughter will have the satisfaction of keeping at least some of the increased mobility she's working so hard to gain. Either way, she'll have a clear memory of what was possible which will surely be a powerful motivator and an important reference point for her future efforts. Along with the fact that even bleary-eyed, we're still cooperating and laughing together more often than we're not, this is the beauty in the Botox that I'm seeing right now.

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