My story of having basal cell carcinoma removal on my face using the Mohs surgery procedure. Before and after pictures and what to expect.
"It looks like basal cell carcinoma."
Those were not the words I was expecting to hear my dermatologist say on the morning of January 2nd. I was accompanying my Dad for his checkup when I asked the doc to just take a look at what I thought was a clogged pore. I sat there stunned as he explained needing to send a sample off for a biopsy.
As a blogger and direct sales trainer I spend a good part of my week having to look at myself on camera - whether it is performing a live training webinar, Instagram story, or on my weekly video mastermind chats.
I noticed what I thought was a clogged pore on my nose - and not wanting to make it all big and red, I simply left it alone.
It went from looking like a blackhead to a tiny little flesh-colored bump - nothing at all that would cause alarm.
Over time though I noticed it getting bigger, and I tried several different facial masks to see if I could open the pore, and even went as far as ordering a set of aesthetician tools to see if I could eliminate it.
When my Dad said he had an appointment with his dermatologist and said I could go along, I went in to see if there was anything he could suggest to help me unclog this angry little pore.
When the doctor started poking around though he realized this was more than a clogged pore and decided he wanted to send off a sample for a biopsy.
Six days later I received a phone call - that it was, in fact, an infiltrating basal cell carcinoma - and he wanted me to have it removed ASAP.
I made an appointment at Henghold Skin Health & Surgery Group for January 18th and went on about my day. I remember having a mole removed from my neck as a child, so I expected this to be the same.
It was a simple outpatient procedure that required about 3 stitches and a day out of school. That was exactly what I anticipated for this. I could not have been more wrong.
On Monday, January 15th I got a phone call asking if I could come in sooner... like the next day. "No problem," I said, eager to get the surgery done and over with and back to my normal schedule.
I rearranged some meetings for later in the week, organized the girls' schedule, and arrived bright and early the next morning for the Mohs procedure.
Henghold Skin Health & Surgery Group is located just off North Davis Highway and is absolutely beautiful. The staff was fantastic and put me right at ease as my anxiety began to grow.
I still was expecting a simple in-and-out procedure with a couple little stitches, no big deal. I mean the spot was so tiny. I took my MacBook and a couple snacks and I was good to go.
The Mohs procedure is the best "skin-sparing" surgery for most basal cell carcinoma tumors. The doctor begins by removing the tumor, and then a small margin around the tumor for testing.
That skin is then put under a microscope to make sure there are no more cancer cells. If cancer cells are present, the doctor will take another small layer for testing until all cancer cells have been removed.
The nurse gave me a few local injections to numb the area, and the doctor made a perfect circle incision and then put a pressure dressing on the wound for me to wait while it was tested.
They said it can take up to an hour to test the sample to make sure no cancer cells are present. I headed to the waiting room where I was met with gentle smiles from others who had pressure dressings just like me on various places of their faces, neck, and hands.
The waiting room was nice and open and even had a table for me to work while I waited. They even gave me a little restaurant buzzer to let me know when my results were in! How cool is that!?
I settled in with my snacks and MacBook and began to work. Before I knew it my buzzer was going off.
I was very fortunate that Dr. Henghold got all of my tumor on the very first try. The next step was to close the wound.
Because of the location and because of how deep he had to go to get all of the tumor, Dr. Henghold had to get pretty creative in how he closed me up.
Because he is also a plastic surgeon he was able to work with the contours of my face to put me back together in the most natural way possible.
This called for some significant cutting and pulling though, and by the time it was all over I had about 30 stitches in the shape of what resembles an upside down question mark.
This part took over an hour - Dr Henghold took his time to make sure it was absolutely perfect. I have to say though, it is an indescribable feeling to be able to hear someone cutting the skin on your face and sewing it back together.
The nurse fixed me up with another pressure dressing and a prescription for pain meds and an antibiotic and I was ready to go.
As I was checking out, the weight of it all finally hit me. As I sat there I was hit with a wave of emotions and the tears just started falling.
In just two weeks I had gone from thinking I had an annoying blocked pore to hearing I had skin cancer to having a pretty extensive "minor" surgery that will forever change my appearance. It was a lot to take in.
The staff was incredible and sat there with me and let me just talk through my emotions - helping me pat the tears from around the dressing and kinda "put me back together" emotionally before I left.
Mike picked me up and we went to fill my prescriptions and get a few snacks before heading home. The lidocaine was already wearing off and I knew then I was in for some pretty serious pain.
I took the prescribed pain pill, but by that evening the pressure was unbearable and I had to call in for something stronger. Finally, I was able to get some relief and was able to sleep off and on for about an hour at a time that night.
My first day post-op was pretty easy. The pressure dressing has to stay on for the first 48 hours - which was not uncomfortable but because of the location, it was difficult to see around it very well.
My instructions were to take it easy and rest as much as possible... but I am a terrible patient and wanted to get up and work.
Needless to say, I wore myself out pretty quickly. The worst part was dealing with the pain medication side effects. I was itchy and irritable and felt like I was in a fog.
The second day I was able to take off the pressure dressing and really see what was underneath... which was two surgery shiner black eyes and a lot of swelling.
I got pretty nauseated while cleaning the wound and redressing it - not necessarily because of the pain but also the anxiety around what I was doing and seeing just how much damage had been done.
I was unable to open my left eye when I first woke up. Since the tumor went down the left side of my nose, the left side of my face bore the brunt of the surgery and was also pulled the tightest on the closure.
By midday though I was feeling much better and took a very restful nap that afternoon.
The third day was the worst - I was very very swollen and still in quite a bit of pain - even with very strong painkillers.
Because of how tightly the skin had to be pulled on my left eye it was very sore and swollen and constantly watered. I cleaned and redressed the wound again - not getting sick this time - and decided to relax more than I had the days before.
By the evening though the left side of my face had swelled pretty big - making it difficult to eat.
During the early morning hours of Day Four Mike woke me to take my pain meds. I barely woke up as I stammered to the kitchen to take a pill, and was thankfully able to get right back to sleep.
When I woke up later that morning I immediately noticed that I could open my eyes wider than I had the days before.
I was due for more pain meds in two hours but I felt great... so I just relaxed, had some coffee, and went about my normal morning routine. My left jaw was still very swollen but not as painful.
When it came time to take my pain meds I was not hurting... at all. So I didn't. Within a few hours, I felt like the brain fog from the painkillers was fading, and though I had some pain at the incision, I felt much much better as the day went on.
It is now the afternoon of Day Four, and while I look like I have some bulldog jowls and a pretty gruesome black eye, I am doing ok still with no pain meds - not even Tylenol.
On Tuesday I will have the stitches removed, and then I will continue my path to healing - both physically and emotionally. I am excited to see what my face will look like once these scars fade and I will be left with the memory of this week.
While basal cell carcinoma is one of the "best" cancers to get - left untreated it can still grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five adults will be diagnosed with skin cancer - nearly 9,500 diagnosed every day. Out of the six members of my immediate family on my Dad's side, I am the fifth to be diagnosed and go through this process. It is nice to know I am not alone.
Ironically, my scars will be healed about the time us Floridians start heading back to the beach, and it makes me acutely aware of the hours and hours I have spent "laying out" over the last 37 years.
The beach has always been my happy place - my "church" - and where I have "found myself" many, many times. It is where I go to recharge, to rest, and to fill my soul with a little "vitamin sea."
This year though I will go with a new respect for the sun, a big floppy hat, and copious amounts of sunscreen. My time at the beach will be more about the time and people, and less about achieving the "perfect tan."
I hope that sharing my basal cell carcinoma story encourages you to visit your dermatologist and stay diligent about your skin health. Never in a million years did I think that little spot was anything more than a clogged pore, or that I would need to have a full-blown surgery to remove it. My only regret is that I did not visit my doctor sooner.
Glad it was caught!!! In the bad news, I have some things like that too..Yikes.
Heather Slane says
Girl... i have been following your story & praying for you! My mom has a spot on her nose that needs to be looked at but it’s been put on hold because she’s dealing with kidney stones. After your surgery this week, i encouraged her to please call and make an appt, which she did. I was happy to read today that you went to Henghold as that’s where she is going, but seeing another dr there for consult. Take care of yourself & keep sharing... you never know whose life it could save!! Love & hugs!!!
Thank you for sharing your experience. I to have had basal cell carcinoma and have had a piece of my ear cut out in to the cartlidge as well as on my breast(tanning at tanner). Two pre cancer cells frozen.
I’m always looking for information and people that have experienced the same. Glad you have recovered.
So I have my mohs surgery on my nose tomorrow at 8.00 am. I have never been a sun worshipper but have red hair and lots of freckles. I grew up in Ireland but, despite the climate, suffered sunburn many, many times. I have been told there will be more BCC in the future!
Hi, I am glad you are out of that so quickly, I just got the diagnostic of BCC. In the same place as you had it.
I am So curious about the scarf. Do you another picture, when it is totally healed?
Moscato Mom says
Hey Diana! To be 100% honest - I am still not 100% healed. The scar has flattened out, but at the top where it had to "fold" still has a bump that I have been working on scar massage with. My most recent picture where you can see it (with makeup on of course - it is quite red under the makeup) is here - https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156697663359305&set=pcb.10156697666519305&type=3&theater Good luck to you, and feel free to reach out with any questions. <3
cassie love says
I have a BCC, that is being removed on 1/27. I am a sun lover, tanning bed user, tanning worshipper. I too am worried about life after the surgery. I'm sitting at work, trying very hard not to cry. The actual biopsy was the size of a pencil eraser, so maybe there's not much more. It's in my hairline above my left eye. Thanking you sharing your experience.
Moscato Mom says
So sorry you are having to go through it as well. Hoping for a super easy recovery and no scarring - feel free to reach out to me if you ever need to talk <3
I'm having Mohs surgery this week. My BCC is in the soft fleshy part under my left eye. I'm not looking forward to this. But your blog post was greatly informative, and I appreciate you posting it. Seeing the photos of your dressing have helped, too. I like knowing what to expect. Wish me luck!
Moscato Mom says
Hi Kathryn! Sorry just seeing this - I hope things went well! Many hugs and prayers for a fast recovery. Feel free to email me directly with any questions (or if you need to complain lol) I am here for a shoulder if you need it. 🙂
I just found your blog this morning - thanks so much for sharing. I will have Mohs in the morning, in the exact same spot. I then have another spot on my forehead that will have the mohs procedure sometime in the future (am on a wait list), and two melanoma spots (back/arm) that come off Friday. I've been a sun worshiper for 58 years, and would go to the tanning bed before vacations to get that glowing base tan. I've never used sunscreen on a regular basis, even though my dad had melanoma 20+ years ago, and my mom went through the Mohs procedure on her forehead. I now will be wearing long sleeves and sunscreen daily! Mom's scar was just round, the size of a quarter, but I couldn't imagine how he will do it on the bridge of my nose - not much skin there! You are so kind to have shared your pics and your experience. I now have an idea of what I might expect - in that area anyways! Thank you!
Moscato Mom says
Oh Cindee! Sending so many hugs and prayers! Feel free to keep in touch with me. The first few days were tough, but now 7 months out - life feels normal... except for not being a sun worshipper anymore! Ha. Take good care - I know your doctor will do great. <3
HeidiMarie Pagliassotto says
Thank you for your blog. I too that I had a pesky pore that was always clogged. Exact same location. Mine, when I wasn’t picking at it, was scaly brownish fleshy color. Always looked like I needed lotion and a good scrub. Very small but enough for me to see daily.
I had mine zapped yesterday but the scab I was to have for a week or so came off that night in the shower. Doesn’t look like I had anything done. I’m feeling it must be deeper. Ugh
Can a CT scan or MRI see if it’s deeper? I mean, my bone is there, not sure where else it would go.
I’m to see my dermatologist in a month but I’m not sure if I should go sooner.
I hope everyone on this blog is doing well and have made a full or close to full recovery.
I am very private about my health but had to share this with my IG and FB friends. My pictures had people surprised that something like that could be skin cancer. Everyone was thankful they learned something new. I hope you either share this blog with others and/or share your story w others. We can really try and make a difference in people’s lives.
My FB heidimarie pagliassotto
My pics are post zap.
Moscato Mom says
Hey Heidi! I am not sure if an MRI would show. I opted for the Mohs surgery - which makes sure it gets all of the cancer cells. Your dermatologist may recommend it. And I totally agree about sharing. I have shared so much of this journey on my instagram (personal is @ketoandcardio and some on the @moscatomom) and have talked to many people in DMs who have had questions and stuff. It definitely needs to be talked about more! Happy healing to you! <3
carrie graham says
Found your blog when searching images about mohs procedure. I will be having surgery done under my eye soon. basal cell. Thanks so much for sharing as I was so curious how this all might pl
ay out. Very nervous 🙁
Kelli Sanders says
Thank you for your post! I will be having the MOHS done Jan 23rd. I had my consult yesterday and left thinking "This will be no big deal." I told my husband I could probably drive myself, easy in and out. Be back to work the next morning ( I am a special education teacher so I hate taking days off). Thankful to have found your blog, although my anxiety is pretty heightened now, I am feeling more prepared for the day...and week thereafter. My spot is on the left side of the bridge of my nose, very similar to yours. I was told the closing of my wound would be "creative", I am glad to see that your are just as beautiful and I am hoping my scar doesn't affect me.
I had Mohs surgery on my eye brow during covid. They wouldn’t let anyone go with me, so I decided to drive myself. I barely made it home. Have someone take you. A nurse told me that lidocaine can make you feel funny. It made it hard for me to drive. Plus, my eye was starting to swell. My nurse told me to keep aqua for on it for a month, not just the week the doctor told me. My scar is barely noticeable.
thanks so much for sharing your experience. I have my surgery in a few weeks and I really had no idea what to expect. It looks like the recovery is a bit more than I expected. I'm thinking I'll clear my schedule for a few days after to make sure I have time to recover.
Moscato Mom says
Hi Cindy! My recovery was a bit more lengthy because of my reaction to the sutures, but I think giving yourself the time to heal is super super important. Much luck to you and prayers for fast healing. <3
Sandy Lockey says
Thanks for sharing. I had this same thing back in the late 80’s. It was horrific. The dermatologist sent me home to just let it heal. After I got home that afternoon and went to change the bandage of course I had to call a plastic surgeon the next day! It was on the side of my nose. I never go out without sunscreen and a hat!
Thank you for sharing your story. I too had a "pimple" in the bridge of my nose. Same place as you. At first I thought is was an infected pore and tried squeezing it, only made it bleed. Then I kept breaking it off and making it bleed. At the insistence of family, I went to have it checked and was prepared for them to laugh and say it was adult acne, buy some Clearasil. Was surprised when the doc said it was cancer and probably basil cell, which is very curable.
She said they would schedule Mohs procedure as soon as pathology confirmed.
I really appreciate you sharing both the technical and emotional aspects of your experience.
Wishing you all the best.
Moscato Mom says
Hey Bob! Wow, what similar stories we have! I was FLOORED when the doc said cancer. I thought I just needed a facial. Wild, isn't t? Sending you good thoughts for speedy healing <3
I went to my dermatologist and she did a biopsy on my nose .... the exact spot as yours was. She is sure it is a basal cell and Mohs surgery will be next. I am so scared!
Moscato Mom says
Hi Sallyann! I am so sorry you are going through this too! Next week marks 18 months since my surgery - I will be doing an update - but just know there is nothing to be afraid of. The Mohs surgery is pretty incredible and as minimally invasive as possible. Just be easy with yourself and give yourself time to heal. Even though it is "minor" surgery, it is still surgery. So just be gentle with yourself. Big hugs and feel free to reach out to me any time with questions or just to chat. Prayers for fast healing! <3
I just had Mohs surgery done today, also on the bridge of my nose. My closure had to be a zig zag with extra cutting to close as well. I don’t want to be vain, but I’m afraid of what it will look like as it heals- especially being front and center on my face. I appreciate you sharing your experience- it’s so similar it helps me not feel alone. Basal cell carcinoma may be a significantly less serious cancer to get, but it’s still scary and a lot to emotionally process, especially when you’re young and already taking good care of your skin.
Hi There - just wanted to say “THANK YOU” for posting your BCC / Mohs experience. I just had my procedure for a BCC on my nose yesterday and I was able to walk into the appointment informed and empowered to take this on. A huge part of that is because of you, and other brave women, for sharing your experiences online. I cannot overstate how helpful reading and seeing the experiences of other young women has been for me. I wish you all the best!
Great write up! Very helpful & intuitive - I am pretty certain I have one of these going on right now - just popped up, out of nowhere. I have also been a pool & beach lover since before I could walk. . . I consider this a semi light procedure for myself, after my medical history - so, I’m getting this looked at ASAP - there’s no need to procrastinate. . . Again, thx for the write up 🙂
Tammy Boudreau says
I hope you are doing well 🙂 I had a sore for a few years on my nose (same spot as yours) that would keep bleeding. I also suffer from Psoriatic Arthritis and see a number of specialists. Thinking the sore was from my disease, I would constantly point it out and I would get told "that's just acne". I eventually had a nasty outbreak of psoriasis on my face, and my doctor sent me to a dermatologist. He took one look at that "sore", found out I'm on Humira (can intensify chances of skin cancer), and took a biopsy right away. Then gave me prescription for my facial psoriasis. Just found out Friday afternoon that it's BCC, and they are setting me up for MOHS surgery. Due to the Pandemic, I may not get it done for a few months yet. I'm hoping since I've had it for so long it didn't do too much damage. Here's the nasty part... I have three more similar "sores" on my nose (one on either side of my nostril and one on the tip), and one on my cheek that have recently become troublesome. I'm beyond myself right now 🙁 Dermatologist won't bother doing the biopsies, since the surgeon can do it during my MOHS procedure. At this rate, I'm not going to have a nose left!
My incision is very similar to yours and about the same area... more right towards my eye. My daughter calls it my "question mark" scar. I have MOHS on Nov 28. Not healing as well as I would like but the steroid injections to flatten the circle part is helping. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=709818939922385&set=pb.100026828550785.-2207520000..&type=3
Daily sunscreen and hats will be my new best friends. Thank you for sharing your story.
Candie Crawford says
I am currently going through the same thing. Had a spot that looked flesh colored and ignored for almost 3 years. I have a consultation to have the surgery in a few weeks. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m really nervous on how big the area actually is. I have also found a new respect for the sun and “tanning”.
Would love to see an updated picture!
Hi. My sister was just diagnosed with a Pasal cell on the very tip of her perfect little nose.
I would like any feed back...I think we need to have a plastic surgeon along with the Mohs procedure. Anyone know of that type of partnership in the Boston area.
My heart hurts for her..........