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What’s Stopping You from Trying Something New

Feb 05, 2024

Mr. B was referred to see me because he was found to have some enlarged lymph nodes on a CT scan of his abdomen. What prompted his primary care physician to order the scan on this 60-year-old man was his complaint of intermittent abdominal discomfort for the past few months. Before his arrival, I discussed with the interventional radiologist and was told that a CT-guided lymph node biopsy could be done.

As I was talking to Mr. B, I sensed that he was hesitant to do part of the evaluation. He expressed that he wanted to know what exactly was going on, and at the same time, he did not want to go through with the biopsy.

Even though I believe in not forcing patients to do things, it was my responsibility to explain the medical situation as best as I could to ensure he was making an informed decision out of his own free will. There was no obvious medical condition that would make him a high-risk patient for a needle biopsy that involved only local anesthesia.

I asked him why he did not want to get a biopsy. He was not very clear on his answer. Eventually, he blurted something out, explaining it was something he had not faced before and he was afraid.

Fear is the biggest obstacle to trying something new. There is the fear of the unknown. For Mr. B, not knowing what the procedure would be like was scary. I did my best to explain to him and reassured that it was a straightforward and routine procedure for the special radiologists.

There is also the fear of pain. It is easy to imagine that you may experience pain when a needle is penetrating into your abdomen. It does not help to have a friend or a relative who shared with you in the past that they had a painful experience in going through a similar procedure. Just like when I explain to patients about the bone marrow biopsy procedure. Some patients say no right after I say those three words (bone marrow biopsy). Then they usually add that they heard it is a painful procedure. Curious, I usually ask where they heard it from that the biopsy is painful. Most of the patients say they heard it second hand. I explain to them that they will feel pressure and not sharp pain. If they do feel sharp pain or any intolerable sensation, inform me right away and either I will give more anesthesia or sometimes by simply moving slightly next to the biopsy site, it becomes more tolerable.

Pain usually does not kill us. We fear it because it is not comfortable. We do not like to do uncomfortable things. We do our best to avoid suffering. That is the immediate choice. What if your goal is a longer term one and going through some discomfort or pain is a natural step?

For Mr. B, doing the lymph node biopsy also means he will find out what is causing him to have intermittent abdominal pain. The fear of the unknown, the potential diagnosis of some kind of cancer is frightening enough that it was stopping him from going to the next step (getting the biopsy).

It is important to remember why you are doing what you are doing, especially when it involves some kind of discomfort. It is alright not to try all things new that are presented to you. If those things are not serving your purpose, then it is okay not to try them at the time. Your situation may change in the future and you may go back to try those new things at a later time.

When trying something new, it is helpful to be curious and open-minded. After all, it is something you have not experienced firsthand. Set your mind to be ready to explore. Sometimes, things may lead you to an expected direction.

It is always helpful to prepare. If you are like Mr. B, preparing to undergo a needle biopsy, it is important to talk to the doctor in advance so that you know what to expect during and after the procedure. The internet sometimes may not be the best source of information, as there are many sites with unhelpful or false information about medical knowledge or procedures.

Trying and doing something new is often the necessary step to progress and to get to the next level. We learn and grow constantly. Sometimes it is scary to try something new because you do not know what to expect, or you are afraid of feeling pain, or you are afraid of failure. If this new thing is something you plan to do to get closer to your goal, do not let fear stop your path. Be curious and openminded. Allow yourself to experience the discomfort and do it anyway. When you look back, you will see that discomfort was only a small part of your life, and that you have accomplished much because you are willing to face your fear.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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