Posted by: Jack | June 15, 2007

First Time Experience: Self-Surgery

Many years ago I had a mole on my back removed just to have it checked out. Whatever tests the doctor performed came back negative as expected. The removal consisted of icing the surrounding area for a few minutes just to take the edge off of the tiny needle which was then used to apply a bit of local anesthetic. Then the doctor just used a slightly curved version of a scalpel and skimmed the mole right off leaving a small, flush scar which has since faded.

Like many people, I have a number of moles scattered over my body and thankfully, they all appear “normal”. However, there are a couple that I wouldn’t mind getting rid of just because they stick out a bit more than others and are therefore relatively noticeable. Given their protruding nature, I’ve always just kind of hoped that during one of my many activities which results in occasional tumbles, I would sustain a good scrape that might just shear one or more of these right off. Granted, this would probably hurt to a fair degree but I’m willing to endure a little short-term pain.

Unfortunately (maybe), such a fall has not yet happened. However, this seemingly strange desire got me thinking about the reasonability of taking a more direct approach and just swiping one off with a sharp blade. Provided with sterile tools and a good bandage, the result couldn’t really be worse than an accidental removal sustained during a spill.

And this is how I came to be sitting in the bathroom tonight with a bag of ice held against the right side of my chest, swabbing at the knife on my Leatherman with an alcohol soaked towelette. I would have liked to have taken pictures of the process but my hands were understandably occupied elsewhere. While planning this endeavor I wasn’t really worried about the pain as much as the will power it might take to actually cut into my own flesh. I really didn’t want to get half way and find that I couldn’t continue. But, when it came down to the time for action, I found that I was suffering from a number of physical symptoms of anxiety. I felt the blood draining from my face, the sweat beading on my forehead and a hint of shakiness in my hands (especially not good).

Despite these potential inhibitors, I decided I was going to go through with this. I grabbed the skin around the mole between my left thumb and pinky, pinching it up so as to give me a good cutting angle. Then, (this was tricky) with my index and middle finger of the same hand, manipulated a tweezers, lightly pinching and pulling the mole to offer resistance against the blade. Finally I slowly pushed the blade to my skin and tried to slice. Thankfully the numbed skin didn’t feel much of anything but I found that my Leatherman’s knife isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be. Hesitantly pushing harder I eventually managed to draw a bit of blood but it seemed like the dull blade might do a lot of unnecessary damage. Happily backing out, I took a break to re-think my plan of attack.

After re-icing, I made my second attempt, this time armed with a box-cutter possessing a far sharper edge. While this blade proved far more successful, the numbing of the ice apparently failed to penetrate below the surface and about half way through I found myself in quite a bit of pain. Figuring that I had reached the point of no return, I persisted and made it all the way through. It’s probably best that I didn’t have anyone taking pictures at this point because as unsightly as a mole can be while on the body, it certainly looks worse pinched between a tweezers, not connected to anything.

I quickly cleaned up the small wound and applied a bandage which seemed to fit the spirit of the operation:

Don’t worry, there is a sterile pad and probably too much antibiotic ointment underneath.

While the pain was substantial, the anticipation was a far greater deterrent. I don’t foresee myself repeating this operation without greater reason than the sheer curiosity which brought me to it tonight.

In a few days I’ll follow up with a photo to depict the healing (hopefully).



  1. Never a dull moment in this blog, Jackson! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but here’s some advice from a rusty nurse. Keep an eye on your “surgical site” for signs of inflammation. I’d also remove your “bandage” to avoid irritating the surrounding skin. As long as I’m giving advice, I’ll ask you to let a doctor do this in the future. Take care, hon!


  2. Bravo! Bravo! Your mom is being the mom she should be but I would say, keep doing it yourself until you actually get infection. Then go to a doctor. A simple antibiotic will do the rest.

    You’ve inspired me to try this on myself. As dangerous as it may seem to some, it is quite safe in comparison to the last time I removed my own mole. Back then, I simply bit it off.

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