Building Healthy Habits for Life after Mohs
Last updated: August 2021
I’m no stranger to surgeries. I’m currently 6 weeks into recovery from a third surgery on my right arm. All three of these surgeries were from self-inflicted athletic injuries. I have a bad habit of pushing my body a little harder than I probably should which inevitably leads to many injuries. This got me thinking a lot about my Mohs surgery a couple of years ago and how dramatically different the Mohs surgery and the right arm surgeries were from each other.
Pain is sometimes easy to forget
Right now my shoulder surgery is fresh on my mind. All I can think about is how careful I’ll have to be moving forward to make sure I don't re-injure it again in the future. However, this is my third surgery on the same arm and I remember having those same exact thoughts after both of the other surgeries. Yet here I am, back in my trusty sling once again.
I enjoy pushing myself
It’s easy to remember something when you have a painful reminder of your limitations, but once the body recovers, it’s amazing how quickly you can forget and fall into old habits. Honestly, when it comes to physical injuries like repairing my shoulder or my elbow – I’m ok with that. I enjoy pushing myself to the extremes, in the gym, and on the field, and understand the risks associated with that.
Mohs surgery is different
Skin cancer, however, is a completely different monster. I had my Mohs surgery a couple of years ago and I was fortunate enough to have made a full recovery. While I remain at high risk, I have no lingering signs of skin cancer. Unlike my shoulder injuries and surgeries, which I felt control over, I feel no control over skin cancer.
Skin cancer scared me
All I could do was hope that the doctor would be able to remove all of the cancerous tissue. I was terrified, more so than I have ever been in my entire life. From a physical recovery standpoint, the Mohs surgery was a piece of cake, but mentally and emotionally it still haunts me. I’ll do absolutely everything in my power to make sure I’m never in that situation again.
There's no reward in sun damage
There is no risk and reward balance with skin cancer. There’s never a good reason to go out in the sun unprotected. If the worst-case scenario happens, and you get skin cancer because of decisions you made when you were younger, it’s impossible to know if you’ll even be able to recover from it.
It's a lifelong commitment
While modern medicine is amazing and the survival rate of skin cancer continues to improve, there are no guarantees. The only real control you have is to do everything you can to try and prevent it. This means developing habits to protect your skin from sun damage that you’ll maintain for the rest of your life because it’s just not worth the risk. And it's not worth having Mohs surgery for.
Skin cancer is different
Having a bad shoulder certainly isn’t enjoyable, but it’s something I’m willing to live with. I’m sure in a few years I’ll be dumb enough to forget about all of the current shoulder pain I’m having, and I’ll probably be back in the gym doing stupid things and lifting stupid weights in no time. However, I know for a fact I’ll never forget my sunscreen again. And I know for a fact that I never want to have Mohs surgery again. Whether it's 5 years from now or 50 years from now, I’ll be taking care of my skin to the best of my ability. Skin cancer is a different monster.
Was Mohs surgery different for you than other surgeries you've had?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?