Surrounded by clocks, a woman covers part of her face with her hand.

My Experience With Facial Mohs Surgery

Even though I’ve had skin cancer since 1995 and have had numerous surgeries and procedures, I’ve had only one Mohs surgery and I was nervous.

I was nervous about my Mohs surgery

I was nervous to have Mohs surgery, so I talked with friends who had previously had the surgery. I also did some research on it, though I don’t recommend looking at all the photos online prior to your surgery. I also prepared myself mentally as much as I possibly could. My surgery would be on a small area of basal cell carcinoma just under my nose.

The morning of

The morning of surgery, I prepared by packing a bag with food, water bottles, reading materials, and a phone charger. I had no idea how long I would be at the surgeon’s office but had been told it could take all day. My son-in-law went with me and stayed throughout the day. The nurses said he could stay in the room during the procedures if he wanted to (he didn't).

Check in and surgery prep

After checking in at the front desk, I was taken to the room where I would spend the day. Since the surgery was done during the pandemic, patients were asked to stay in the rooms instead of going to the waiting room between procedures and also told to not leave to go get food. Two nurses came in to take photos and vitals and explain what I could expect throughout the day. The doctor then came in to see if I was ready.

The first round

I was given multiple numbing shots, and once the surgical area was numb the doctor came back to remove the first layer of tissue. Once he was done, the area was covered with gauze. I then waited for the doctor to examine the tissue to see if there were clear margins. I was feeling pretty hopeful that one round would do it, but then a nurse came in and said that unfortunately, he would have to take additional tissue. Since it had been a while since the first surgery, she tested to see if I was still numb. I was not, so additional numbing shots were given.

The second round

After a while, the doctor came back and took additional tissue. Once he was done, the nurse didn’t immediately cover the area, as she was inputting information into the computer, and I felt something weird on my face. I realized it was blood running down from the surgery area into my mouth and also running down the side of my face. I told the nurse I thought I was bleeding, and she cleaned it up and covered me up. Then I waited for the results. I was feeling slightly hopeful this was the last round but was also starting to feel more apprehensive.

Third time's a charm?

One thing that surprised me was how many patients were being worked on simultaneously. The nurse said there were five patients having surgery while I was there. I had never before had a surgery where the surgeon and nurses went back and forth between rooms. After a half-hour or so, a nurse came back in and said we would have to do another round, and an additional round of numbing shots was given. The doctor removed more tissue and then asked if I wanted to see the surgical area. I told him no. The nurse put gauze over the area, and after another half hour or so, the doctor came by, gave me a thumbs-up, and said it looked good. He told me he had to do surgery on someone else and then would be back in to close my surgical area.

I was exhausted

I had a long wait while he did surgery on someone else. By this time, I was exhausted mentally and physically and wanted the day to be over. I knew that closing the wound would probably take a while, and even though I tried to prepare myself for that, I wasn’t prepared to hear the doctor say to the nurse “when I put her lip back together” and then say something about moving it over and taking a little more off one side. That was slightly traumatizing, but I think the hardest part of the closure was as the doctor pulled the stitches tight, I could feel my lip lifting up off my face. I tried to lift my head because I was afraid my lip was going to be pulled off. I doubt this was actually a possibility, but at that moment it felt like it.

Mohs is exhausting, but the skin cancer is gone

All in all, I was at the surgeon’s office for seven hours and had three surgeries and a large amount of numbing shots. It was an exhausting day, but the upside of having Mohs surgery was knowing right away that all of the skin cancer was gone. I’m happy to say I’ve healed pretty well from the surgery. The scars are faded, but my smile is now crooked. I’ll take that, though, as it’s a small price to pay to have the skin cancer gone.

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