“I hate to be the bearer of bad news….” Dr. Schuster says. “The bone marrow sample is consistent with lymphoma. You need to make some decisions.”
Diaphragm freeze sets in, you sigh. “So what are our options?”
“A surgeon could remove the recurrent shoulder mass and the spleen but with only one functioning kidney and an enlarged heart, there is increased risk of death.”
“There are two other chemotherapy drug choices that might cause a remission.”
“You could do nothing.”
“Let’s schedule the chemo, if I change my mind after speaking with my family, I will cancel.”
A week goes by.
Chemotherapy requires a blood check.
You can tell by the expression on Dr. Shuster’s face that the news is not good.
“The white blood cell count is half what it was. This changes things.”
“The risk of death from chemo this week is probably 70%. The risk of surgery is higher.”
“Should I just go home?”
Over 12 million people worldwide each year are diagnosed with cancer.1 No choice feels good. These are hard decisions. Confidently make your best choice with these three tips.
- Think and decide. Most decisions are made out of habit. Decisions made out of habit reflect one’s paradigms, groups of habits that shape one’s world-view. As an eight year old you avoided eating vegetables by hiding them under the table edge. It was deceptive and it worked! You never got in trouble! Now you are thirty years old and know that your boss will yell if she finds out you haven’t fully researched a few details. The report is due tomorrow. You fudge it even though it is deceptive, just like the peas. Is that your best decision?
Actively think before you choose with these questions:
- Does this choice further my purpose? Be clear on who you are and what you stand for. Weigh the choice for congruence.
- Am I sure this choice will not harm someone else or me?
- Is this choice illegal, immoral or unethical?
If the answer is “no,” then reject that choice.
- Consult the right experts and ask the right question. A consulting surgeon offers surgery as an answer to a medical problem since that is the service a surgeon offers. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix your broken doorbell, would you? Get input from a variety of experts who approach the problem from different perspectives. In my story, a surgeon, an oncologist, and other family members were consulted. If the malady is rare, experts may not live in your community. Step forward without fear and investigate experts who succeed with new approaches no matter where they practice. Call them, email them or visit them. Prepare a written list of questions before your appointment. Wait until the end of the interview to ask the one question that overrides the natural tendency of experts to render an opinion based strictly upon logic and expertise. The following question screams past Broca into the right brain nether world:
“If this was your __________, what would you do?”
(Fill in the blank with the most appropriate noun for the situation.) If they are married, it might be “wife”. If they have children, use “child”. If your pet is the centerpiece of the decision, use “dog” or “cat”. Apply this to any situation where you want the expert to answer from their heart and not just their head.
- Go with your gut feeling. Your intuition is your natural ability to tune in to Universal Truth. In childhood it works great, although most adults shrug off the potency of this mental muscle. Out of touch with your intuition? Take a class or a home study program to reintegrate intuition into your daily life. With difficult decisions, trust the expert answers you receive in step #2 to supply enough background for you to follow through with a question to your own heart. Frame it as a simple “yes or no” question like,
“Does this choice best serve me at this moment?”
Quietly listen or observe the answer that first comes, and intuitive instead of intellectual information will race to your conscious mind. Do not rationalize the intuitive answer away! Accept the answer as your right brain’s opinion and weight it along with the other expert information you have gathered.
After you decide, keep moving forward. Syndicated columnist Jim Edwards grins when he mimics his grandfather’s advice first shard with young Jim on the family farm in Iowa,
“Son, as long as the tractor is moving, you can turn it around, but if it ain’t moving you can’t turn it.”
The same goes for decisions, keep moving! If you are going the wrong way someone will let you know. Your momentum allows quick precise adjustments to your direction. I decided not to go home that day. Good results followed a round of chemotherapy.
Lori L. Barr, M. D., F. A. C. R.
Dr. Barr is a practicing radiologist in Austin, Texas and a facilitator with MindTamers. She teaches No Bull Branding at Wizard Academy May 25, 2010. More of her writing can be found at http://www.loribarr.com
1. Source World Health Organization.