A woman sleeps fitfully while bandages and gauze wraps float around her. In her dreams, she still worries about the pain of healing after surgery.

Healing After Mohs Surgery Can Be a Real Pain

“Dammit,” I said to no one in particular.

Mohs surgery recovery

Actually, I was talking to myself in the mirror. The bandage that I had precariously positioned over the stitches from my Mohs surgery had slipped off. It was the morning. I had put it on at night and didn’t need to change it until bedtime. But I needed to change it again.

What a pain. The stitches are at the top of my cheekbone, right near my ear. I tried to position the gauze so it just bordered my ear and didn’t go over it. But part of it touched my ear. Part was on my face, so it was teeter-tottering. The part on my face stayed put, but while I was sleeping, the part touching my ear popped up. I tried to smush it back into place. But it wouldn’t stay, so I had to do it again. Little pieces of hair came off with the home-made covering.

The steps of post-Mohs surgery bandaging

I had to: Clean the area. Apply Vaseline. Cut gauze to shape. Put it on and hope that it didn’t fall off. Rip off pieces of tape. Put around the perimeter. Put on more pieces to hold it more securely. Pat into place. This irritated the area.

Sometimes the healing is as bad as the procedure itself

First of all, there is the pain when the anesthesia wears off. I thought back to when I had the last of my three Caesarean sections. The anesthesiologist had added morphine. I wasn’t in pain like I was after the first two. Then it wore off. Ouch. It’s similar with a Mohs.

When the anesthesia wears off from a Mohs surgery, searing pain goes through you. It subsides after a few days, and since I’ve had these before, I try to keep the time limit in mind.

The challenges of a Mohs wound

For the week before the stitches come out, you have to clean it nightly, apply Vaseline, and cover. The post-surgical care is not so bad when the surgery is on a flat area. But the body is not flat. That is, unless you’re Flat Stanley, the flat little guy who my kids, in third grade, sent to their grandparents as part of the Flat Stanley Project, which grew out of the adventures of an eponymous character in the book by Jeff Brown.

My most precarious bandage was on the tip of my lip. Not only was it hard to keep on because of the curve of my mouth, but it also fell off every time that I ate. I also had a Mohs surgery on the top of my head to remove a squamous cell cancer there. The dermatologist shaved a little bit of hair, but not enough to put a Band-Aid there. I guess the hair around it protected it from the elements.

Life while healing

Tonight I’m going to a movie with my boyfriend. I’m thinking of asking him to sit on my right side. The mess of a Band-Aid is on my left side. Beneath it, lower on my cheek is a scab from when the dermatologist zapped a pre-cancer. In summary, the left side of my face is not a pretty picture.

The good news is that:

  • I’m three days from having the stitches out.
  • It will be dark in the theater.
  • These things probably look worse to us patients than to other people, who probably aren’t laser-focused on our skin like we are.

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