A woman is surrounded by radiating layers of lines that represent her anxiety about her upcoming Mohs surgery.

When a Friend Says Mohs Is 'Only Day Surgery'

When I told a friend that I was upset to be facing more Mohs surgery, she said, “It’s only day surgery, right?”

Is Moh's surgery serious? Yes!

Maybe I took it the wrong way, but she seemed to be dismissing it, along the lines of those who say, “It’s only skin cancer". Maybe she was trying to make me feel less stressed by putting it in perspective relative to major surgeries. But it didn’t feel that way. A lot of surgeries are “only” day surgeries.

In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly two-thirds of all surgeries are performed in outpatient settings.1 They almost equal the number of procedures requiring hospital stays, and they include lumpectomy and gallbladder removal.2 Which is to say, outpatient procedures are not 'nothing'. Straightening out the double negative, that means, they are something.

You’re not going to get as worked up as if it was open-heart surgery, but still, you’re entitled to feel apprehensive.

My Mohs surgery experiences

As I have written, I have had so many Mohs surgeries that I lost count. I get tired of it. Also, it keeps me from playing tennis, for at least two weeks, and tennis is good medicine for me.

Tomorrow I am having squamous cell cancers removed from two places. I am trying to figure out how they’re going to do it. I have a cluster of two or three on my left temple and one on the right side of my neck at the bottom of my hairline. That one concerns me; it feels like it is about an inch long, and I wonder if I am going to need a graft like when I had a quarter-sized squamous cell carcinoma on my ankle.

Also, to get to the left temple and the right side of my neck, are they going to put me on a skewer and turn me around and around like a rotisserie chicken?

Anxiety that comes with Mohs surgery

Perhaps I am overthinking. Okay, not perhaps...I AM overthinking. It’s natural but not productive. That’s how it is with worry.

Usually, when I get to the Mohs surgery center, my blood pressure is high. I told someone that I thought of taking my prescribed Ativan. The person said maybe I should ask if it’s okay. But on the other hand (“I have five fingers", an editor used to say if we said that) maybe I don’t need it. I know how to slow down my breathing and breathe more deeply. I know that when I do it, I relax.

Breathing exercises vs. medication

Science backs this up. “Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body,” according to Michigan Medicine. A post on their website states, “This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.”3

I could compromise by taking the Ativan with me and not taking it before. If I need it, I can always put it under my tongue at the doctor’s office. The area underneath the tongue has tiny blood capillaries, so the medicine goes directly into the system without passing through digestive barriers. In any case, I’ll be well prepared.

I told my friends that I was worried, and they said the anticipation is usually worse than the thing itself. I told them that they were right.

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