Cosmetic surgery changed our lives
As more and more Ulster women opt for surgery to enhance their appearance, we talk to the founder of a Co Down clinic and her daughter about their involvement with the treatment, and to a Holywood woman who was happy to pay out £3,250 for her curvy new figure
I wouldn't make an 18-year-old look like Jordan
Halina Ashdown-Sheils, 51, owns Advanced Cosmetic Surgery, which has clinics in Holywood, Co Down, Dublin, Cork and Galway. She has spent tens of thousands of pounds on surgical procedures for herself, ranging from breast augmentation, a face-lift, liposuction, to cheek implants and lip enhancement. Currently single, she has one daughter, Debbie, and divides her time between her luxury apartments in Belfast and Dublin.
JUST a few weeks ago my sister Vanda, 41, died suddenly. She worked in my clinic in Dublin and was such a lovely, fun person.
Emotionally, this has been the worst time of my life, but losing Vanda has also reinforced my view that if someone wants cosmetic surgery, then they should go ahead and have it.
A few years earlier Vanda had liposuction and a breast augmentation - she was very proud of her boobs; they were gorgeous. Vanda enjoyed life; she seized the moment, and now I appreciate how right she was to do that. Vanda was at work when she suffered an aneurism; a few hours later she was dead, and death is so very final.
And why not have cosmetic surgery anyway? After all, there's no stigma attached to it these days. Since I opened my clinic in Holywood ten years ago hundreds of men and women, of all ages, from Northern Ireland have underwent treatment under our care.
Currently one of the most popular procedures is a penis enlargement. On average it adds an extra three inches, and scores of men have had that done through our Ulster clinic.
There are many reasons why people have cosmetic surgery. Many people just want to look better, especially as the years go by. Critics say it's better to grow old gracefully but that's precisely what cosmetic surgery allows you to do.
For example, I'm 51 and not under any illusions that surgery has made me look 21, but it does make me look good for my age.
Not that long ago women tended to let themselves go after they'd had a family. Now you see women with kids who look better than those with none.
Plus, we're living in a divorced society. Marriages end and men and women think: 'why shouldn't I have something done to help me attract a new partner?'
But it's not all about vanity. Sometimes it's not about looking beautiful, but about looking normal.
It's not unusual for people to come to us with rather serious psychological problems, stemming from their appearance.
We have treated 18- year-old men and women from Ulster, but I believe we were right to do so.
It's true some people might say it's outrageous to carry out a boob job on a teenage girl but I'd disagree.
If you are an 18-year-old girl, have a flat chest and are very self-conscious about your figure, then that is a major problem to you. Now, if you wanted to look like Jordan, then I'd definitely say 'no.' But I certainly wouldn't see anything wrong with taking you up to, say, a B-cup.
Equally we've treated a girl whose bra size was an FF. We reduced that to a C. Afterwards she told us: 'You have no idea how wonderful it is to walk into a crowded room and have nobody turn round to stare at me.'
A large number of young men with protruding ears also come to our consulting rooms. Some have refused to cut their hair and resorted to trying to stick back their ears with tape. Imagine how that would lower your self-esteem.
But we can correct the problem with a simple operation.
Treatments have advanced so much since I had my first operation when I was 30. In fact, it was going to see that surgeon that set me on the path to establishing my own cosmetic surgery company.
I come from a family of big-bosomed women but after having my daughter my breasts weren't as firm and I wanted to have an uplift. But back then everyone was much more secretive about cosmetic surgery; I didn't even tell my family I was considering having it done.
But I did feel anxious, so I asked my surgeon if there were any former patients I could talk to. He hadn't thought of setting up a support line like that so I offered to arrange a system whereby patients could talk to each other.
I ended up working for that surgeon and then a couple of years later I set up my own business in England.
In 1993 I moved to Ireland, because there was a niche in the market here. It's proved a hugely successful move and given me a wonderful lifestyle - a big change from my upbringing. I'm one of six children and from a very tough working class background. I grew up near Doncaster and I had nothing.
That first breast op cost me about £1,500 - a lot of money at the time - but I was delighted with the results. I could wear my favourite skimpy tops again.
Some people can become addicted to cosmetic sur- gery - and we always keep a careful eye out for those sort of people at the clinic - but I don't think I am. I just like to have something done, as and when I need it.
I didn't have my second op - surgery to my upper and lower eye area - until just before my 40th birthday. That cost £1,500. Eight years ago I had a breast enlargement, which cost £3,000, and for my 50th birthday, I treated myself to a face-lift and neck-lift, priced at £3,950.
People think that because I work in this industry and have had quite a few ops that I must be quite blase about it all now, but the opposite is true. If anything, I'd say I was more anxious because I know so much about it and am aware of all the risks.
I didn't sleep a wink the night before my face-lift. I kept saying to the surgeon 'now promise me I won't wake up with that scared, plastic look; promise me you won't pull the skin too tight.'
I've also spent £2,800 on liposculpture, £2,600 on cheek implants and have regular treatments of Dysport - a new version of Botox that smoothes out the brow area. That costs £350.
I've also had some fat transferred to my lips to plump them up. That's a pretty popular procedure, though Leslie Ash's infamous 'trout pout' killed the lip side of things for us for six months. She looked ridiculous.
Obviously celebrities have a considerable impact upon our business; after Demi Moore had a boob job and appeared in Striptease we were inundated with people asking for Demi's boobs. She's since taken flak for having a lot more work done, though it's all part of a very healthy lifestyle - she watches her diet and exercises regularly.
Victoria Beckham is one of the most photographed women in the world and there's frequent speculation as to whether she's had a boob job, though funnily we don't get anyone coming in asking to look like her.
I don't know what's she done with her breasts but they look like two hard balls, an effect heightened by how unnaturally thin she is. Most people want a healthier look.
I'd consider the new buttock implants designed to give you a bum like Kylie's. But apparently you can't sit down for six weeks after having them, so I'll wait until the procedure's more advanced.
I've no qualms at all about telling people I've had surgery. I recently split with my long-term partner; he'd been with me when I had my boobs and face done, and he'd no complaints!
Obviously, a few patients have been unhappy with the results but that's not because anything went wrong with the surgery. It's more a case of 'buyer's remorse' because they had unrealistic expectations.
Most people are thrilled. Recently we had one Ulster couple who'd taken early retirement. He had his eyes done, she had a face-lift and they headed off on a cruise. They're having a ball.
There's no doubt attitude to life also plays a big part in keeping young.
As the tragic death of my sister Vanya brought home to me, you should get what pleasure and enjoyment you can out of life. You never know when it'll be over.
- Advamced Cosmetic Surgery, tel: 028 9042 1616.
I begged mum to let me have surgery
Deborah Ashdown, 33, an English teacher, has one daughter, Katerina, four.
EVERYBODY assumes that because mum owns a cosmetic surgery clinic then she'd let me have whatever I wanted done.
But, initially, she refused to let me have any liposculpture.
Before I had my daughter I was a size 8 and went to the gym every day. While I was pregnant, however, I went up to a size 16.
After the birth I really struggled to get my figure back and after six months I asked mum for some liposculpture. But she told me I'd been very active before Katerina was born and I just needed to go to the gym more. I was very upset. I did lose some weight but there were problem areas where it just wouldn't budge.
I'd keep trying to squeeze into clothes that were too small, but I ended up crying in the changing room. It was all so demoralising. Eventually mum saw how depressed I was and agreed I could have some liposculpture on my tummy and hips. I thought the results were wonderful.
A little later I asked mum if I could have a breast augmentation. Breast feeding had made them sag. That operation took one hour and I went up a cup size to a 36C.
I think they look great, and so does my new partner!
I used to look like a wee boy because I'd no bustBy Mandi Millar
Kassy Japp, 24, from Holywood, Co Down, says she's delighted with her new figure, achieved through a £3,000 breast enhancement by Advanced Cosmetic Surgery
THE best thing about having had my breast enlargement is that I don't have to wear chicken fillets down my bra anymore!
When it comes to enhancing my bust, you name it, I've tried it - even those rubbery things you put in your bra that look like fillets. It's just such a relief when you come to the end of the day and don't have to fish them out.
I had been thinking about having a breast augmentation for about two years and finally had the operation two months ago.
I just went from a B cup to a C cup - nothing Dolly Parton-ish or anything.
Admittedly, I am quite body-conscious. I'm quite athletic and go to the gym twice a day, but I didn't have a curvy figure. If I was training, maybe wearing a Lycra top and a cap, I'd look like a wee boy because I'd no bust. I was self-conscious about it.
Once I'd decided to go ahead with the operation I went for a consultation with the surgeon and he explained the procedure and also the risks - things like encapsulation, when the body doesn't accept the implant, and also scarring that can occur.
Then I met with a patient advisor who confirmed the price - it cost £3,250, not much more than the price of a good holiday - and talked me through how I'd be getting to and from Dublin, which is where the surgeon worked.
I had another consultation with the surgeon on the morning of the operation and I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything for 12 hours beforehand.
I wasn't nervous at all - in fact I surprised myself. The only time I started to have butterflies was when I was on the operating table, but then I was unconscious in a few seconds anyway.
My husband, though, was worried about the fact it was an operation.
The procedure took about two hours and when I came around I had no pain at all. I just remember waving over to the nurses. It was quite difficult though to breath deeply because of the tight bandaging across my chest.
I had no pain at all for the first two days because of the drugs and even after that it was more uncomfortable than anything else for a couple of weeks - you have to lie on your back when you're sleeping, that sort of thing.
The first time I saw my new breasts was four days after the operation when the bandages came off completely. I noticed the difference right away because there was still some swelling.
My first reaction was, wow, that's fantastic! There was never any point when I thought: 'God, what have I done?'
Mine are silicon implants which will last 10 to 15 years before they need replaced. I've just got two wee scars in the natural fold underneath my breasts.
I think the key is to do your research - find out about the cosmetic surgery company you're with, the surgeons you are with, and talk out any doubts you have.
The operation was such a success I'd consider maybe having something like liposculpture. But that would be it - I don't feel anything else would be necessary at the moment.
You'll always get some people saying you should accept yourself the way God made you, but this is the 21st century and when people said that to me I just thought, well, to hell with you!
I'm over the moon with the results - and so's my husband.