I am having Mohs surgery tomorrow morning to remove a basal cell carcinoma on my face, near my right eyebrow. I scheduled this appointment weeks ago, and the day is almost here. As I write this, I am realizing that it may sound strange to have waited for weeks to have the skin cancer removed. When I called to schedule the surgery after my diagnosis, the woman who made my appointment told me that I could safely wait for two months. I checked with my dermatologist just to be sure, and she too said I could wait. Even though they told me it was safe to wait, I would have rather have scheduled the surgery immediately, but I was going on vacation two weeks after the diagnosis, and I knew that I wouldn’t want to travel with a bandage on my face. Also, I was booked with work commitments, and my work involves conducting interviews and groups, and I didn’t want to distract from the interviews by having a bandage on my face. For both my vacation and my work, I wouldn’t have minded having a small bandaid but I wouldn’t know for certain how I would look until after the surgery. And that’s what’s on my mind right now, the uncertainty of tomorrow.
What is Mohs surgery?
My layman’s definition of Mohs surgery is surgery designed to remove the skin cancer in a way that gets all the cancer cells out but removes as little of the surrounding tissue as possible, resulting in fewer stitches and a hopefully smaller scar. The medical definition is similar: “During Mohs surgery, thin layers of cancer-containing skin are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains. The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove as much of the skin cancer as possible, while doing minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue.”1
The uncertainty of Mohs surgery
Even though Mohs surgery offers benefits over traditional surgery, in that the surgeon knows that all cancer cells have been removed, and that as little tissue as possible is removed, the fact that I won’t know how much needs to be removed until the procedure is finished is scary. I could walk out tomorrow with a small incision, or I could leave with a huge bandage covering my eye, making it difficult to see. I also won’t know how extensive the skin cancer is until they start removing and testing the tissue. I won’t know anything until tomorrow, and that is terrifying.
So how am I coping with the uncertainty of tomorrow? I have been trying to distract myself with work all day, but it’s obviously on my mind since I took the day off tomorrow and have been trying to get as much done today as possible. I’ve also been walking a lot and taking classes at the gym, knowing that I won’t be able to exercise for at least a week. I think that distraction is an effective coping technique when it doesn’t interfere with following a treatment regimen. How did you cope the day before your surgery?