Skin Cancer Series: Reconstruction Surgery

Welcome to Part Four of the Skin Cancer Series. This post will be all about my reconstruction surgery.

In Part One of the Skin Cancer Series, we talked about how I was diagnosed. Part Two was all about options to cure basal cell carcinoma. In Part Three, I discussed my experience with Mohs surgery. Which brings me to Part Four, the reconstruction surgery.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma Recovery

After getting Mohs surgery on my forehead and resting at home for a few days, it was finally the day to get my reconstruction surgery. On Thursday, January 17, 2019, I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 12:30 PM. Michael drove me to the hospital with the bandage from my Mohs surgery still on my head. I checked in, and got taken into the in-patient ward. Here, I was given a hospital gown to change into and a hospital bed to lie on. I got in my gown and hopped in my bed. Michael kept me company until it was time for me to go. 

Reconstruction Surgery: Preparation **WARNING: GROSS PICS COMING** 

After a bit of a wait, my hospital bed and I were wheeled down the hall to the day surgery waiting room. Here, I was given a hair net and was checked in again. A short bit later, my doctor came over to look at the cut from the Mohs surgery. He reconfirmed what Dr Yiasemides said; it was a smart choice to get Mohs. He was surprised at the size of the cut. My doctor and his assistant went over the game plan with me. They told me how they would cut my head open to get the best possible result cosmetically, and be able to get the wound completely stitched up. 

My doctor told me that they would cut across the top of my head, from the middle of the right side of my head until the area of the left side where the cut was. From there, they would cut into the Mohs cut and down, forming a sort of “Z” pattern on my head. 

The anaesthesiologist came by to explain to me how the anaesthetic would work. He poked a needle into my arm to prep the drip, and soon enough I was being wheeled into the operating room. 

As soon as I arrived in the operating room, I was hooked up to the anaesthetic and within less than 5 seconds was completely knocked out. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in a waiting room with other people in hospital beds, all of them either knocked out or waking up from anaesthetic. 

Reconstruction Surgery: After 

A few minutes after I woke up, I was wheeled into a recovery room. Michael was alerted that I was finished with my surgery, and he met me in the recovery room. I was still a bit doozy from the anaesthetic, but the nurse asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink. She gave me a bottle of water with some painkillers, which I took right away. 

I was given another bottle of water with a sandwich (a vegan one!) while I waited to become more sober. I had a massive bandage around my head and felt doozy for about two hours after the surgery. 

My doctor called and asked if I would consider spending the night in the hospital. He told me that the pain from my procedure may be so intense that the strongest painkillers may not help. He offered to allow me to stay in the hospital overnight to be hooked up to an IV drip to be more comfortable. I am not a fan of hospitals, and really wanted to go home, so I decided to stay in the recovery room for a few extra hours and then go home. 

The nurse stopped by a few times to make sure I was okay and give me more painkillers when I asked for them. Who knew getting your head cut open would hurt so badly? 

She asked me to get up and walk around eventually, to make sure I was alright to go. I walked up and down the recovery room with Michael holding my arm. By 8 PM, I was heading out of the hospital, on my way home. 

Reconstruction Surgery: Recovery 

I went to sleep almost immediately upon arriving home. Surgery is exhausting!

The next day, I woke up with pain in my throat, pain in my head, and a swollen face. My eyes were puffy and swollen, my cheeks were swollen, and my throat felt like someone had shoved an oxygen tube down it (oh wait… someone did). I took painkillers consistently through the day as I facetimed my family and watched Netflix. After my 4PM nap, I looked in the mirror and saw my puffy face, now complete with two black eyes. I was a real beaut! 

Disclaimer: these photos are completely unedited and taken with my iPhone (I was not feeling up to a photoshoot with my DSLR but still wanted to document the process). 

I had the bandage on my head from Thursday post-surgery until Monday. I downed two Panadols every 3-4 hours during this time, and took the stronger painkillers (I was prescribed Endone) when I needed it. The prescription painkillers were the strongest that the doctor could prescribe, and there were times when I desperately needed them. They did the trick though, and helped me sleep. 

The black eyes were slowly starting to fade by Monday. By Tuesday, I was taking Panadol every 5-6 hours, and my black eyes were faded to yellow. The swelling and puffiness was gone by Monday, and the red, swollen inner corners of my eyes were starting to go back to normal. 

I had an appointment to get the bandage off my head on Monday. The doctor cut it off and told me to simply rub vaseline on the stitches a few times a day to help with the scarring. The doctor had closed my cut with a combination of staples, stitches, and dissolvable stitches. The stitches and staples wouldn’t come out until a week after surgery.  

The doctor took a photo of the cut that he stitched up, which he let me have – it’s a bit gory but shows how big the hole was. 

This covers my experience with the reconstruction surgery. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, all about recovery! 

 

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