I have to admit that I was incredibly nervous heading into today. I knew that this surgery wasn't going to hurt as much as, say, childbirth (which is still vivid in my mind), but I was really freaked out about what it represented--my first round of cancer. (I'd like to say "my only" or "my last," but I'm realistic enough to know that I do have other moles that are likely to be dangerous and need to come off soon.)
The nature of Mohs surgery is that the doctor cuts of a layer of skin, then tests it to see if he got all the cancer. The actual cutting only takes about 5 minutes, but then there are 45-60 minutes of waiting while the lab tests the sample. After that, if the sample shows that the doctor didn't get it all, you have to go in for another shot of anasthesia and another round of cutting, then another round of waiting, and so on. For me, one of the hardest parts was the waiting and fearing that I'd have to do it all over again.
Luckily, the doctor managed to get it all in two rounds. He even managed to do this without shaving any of my head, which was another big fear of mine. I haven't actually seen the spot, as it is covered with a huge bloody bandage, but this is probably for the best, as I'm sure it will just upset me when the bandage comes off tomorrow.
While the doctor was very good and efficient, he did not have exactly what I would call a good bedside manner. When I first went in, he couldn't find the spot, as it was in my hair. He said, "Well, if I can't find it, we'll just send you home today. Eventually the lump will grow back and you can come in and have it removed then." I think he was trying to be reassuring, but it had just the opposite effect. Um, really, you're going to send me home with cancer still in my system and just let it grow back? No thanks. But he did eventually find the spot and go in for the surgery.
Later, by way of conversation, he said to me, "You know, it's highly unusual for someone with as dark of hair as you have to get basal cells on their head." Yes, I'm just a freak. I'm only 31 years old, which made me the youngest person in the waiting room by several decades. And I don't even like being in the sun, which of course is one of the major risk factors in developing skin cancer. Lucky me that it still showed up.
I would say that the most upsetting part of the procedure for me was after the whole spot was gone. I knew that they would have to "clean up" the wound at the end, but I did not realize that this would involve stitches. I get really quesy when I just think about stitches. It conjures up memories of when I was in the eighth grade and had those seven moles removed and had over 100 stitches in my body. I can still practically see them in my memory: blue thread standing out against ugly yellow bruises. Plus I hate the sensation of the needle pulling the stitches tight. And then I'll have to go back and have them removed, which also majorly turns my stomach. Plus I also have stitches in me right now from the second degree lacerations that Liam's birth caused, so all in all, I kind of feel like I'm only being held together my little bits of string. Ugh. Moving on.....
I also didn't realize how sore I would be afterwards. I'm tempted to say, "What was I thinking, doing this so soon after Liam was born?" But I know what I was thinking--that I wanted to get the surgery over with as soon as possible as so not to give the cancer any more time to spread. So in that regard, I'm glad to have it done, but OUCH, I hurt a lot and have a newborn at home (not to mention a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old). I can take painkillers, but the good ones kind of knock me out. Thankfully, we have a friend coming over tomorrow to help me out. The process is not entirely over, as I have to go back 2 weeks from now to have the stitches removed, and then again a few weeks after that to have my other moles checked, which may lead to starting this process all over again.
Oh, and did I mention that thanks to my status as the mother of a newborn, I got to lock myself in a public restroom to pump breast milk in between surgeries? Which just made the whole thing even more awkward. Although probably not as awkward as it will be when I get to take the GRE next week, while wearing some kind of dressing for my gaping head wound and still needing to pump in the middle of that..... Again, it bears asking: What on earth was I thinking when I scheduled all this for the same month?!?! (I actually do know the logical answer to that, but it somehow seems less logical in the midst of actually doing it all!)