How To Think Big: Taught By A Small Chinese Lady

Seize the Day.jpg

A couple of months ago, this short 70-year-old Chinese lady with a 6cm lump on the corner of her left jaw sat across from me and the attending. Sue was here for follow-up after completing her radiation treatment. Sue has a rare cancer of her salivary glands. The cancer invaded her jaw, so we couldn’t simply take out the cancer. Therefore, we had to treat her with radiation to decrease the size of the tumor so she can go to surgery.

Sue looked ridiculously thin. She was thin to begin with, but over the course of 6 weeks, she lost 10 more pounds to her already frail 5 foot body.

In the office, my attending and I discussed with Sue about her weight loss. We thought that she might not do well in the surgery. Since the cancer invaded Sue’s jaw, the surgeon will have to take Sue’s lower jaw out along with the tumor. Then, he will take part of Sue’s fibula (leg bone) and reconstruct the fibula to be the jaw. He will then place that jaw back into Sue’s mouth. The surgery is really fancy. And it’s also really long (>12 hours).

Despite all this, Sue was spunky. Although she didn’t say much, she had this confident aura about her. The cancer gave her a crooked smile, but you could tell the smile was genuine.

When we asked her if she was in pain, she said no. When we asked her if she found it hard to eat, she said she wasn’t hungry. When we asked her if she can eat more, she said sure, but the food didn’t taste good. We told her about the surgery. We explained that in her state right now, she might not be able to survive. Even if she does, the road to recovery is up a steep hill.

She replied, “So what?”

That caught me off guard. She had this huge cancerous mass on her jaw that was preventing her from eating. She had this long, scary surgery in front of her. She was in the last third of her life. She would have a financial burden due to the surgery. She had all this and more going on in her life.

“So what?”

She wasn’t in denial. Rather, she was confident. She was excited. She was motivated. She gleamed with a bright potential. She wanted to live her life. Her husband just retired in Florida, and she wants to make it out there to be with him. Her new granddaughter was just born and she wants to be around to watch her first steps.

Sue thought big and got big results.

Sue had the surgery and did well. She just started physical therapy to strengthen her jaw muscles, and my attending told me she even gained some weight back. Sue’s on her way.

Don't Let Small Minds Convince You That Your Dreams Are Too Big.jpg

Do you ever make bucket lists? Things that you plan to check off during your life. Things like traveling the world, writing a novel, asking that girl/guy out on a date, joining the peace corps, protesting for a righteous cause, applying to medical/law/grad school, or even starting a business. Well, now is the time to do it. Not because it’s cheap, convenient, or popular. Now is the time because if you don’t do it now, when will you?

I’ve always wanted to backpack around Asia. But I had to go to college. Then I had to study for the admission test for medical school. And then I had to study for medical school exams. And then I had residency with a 80+ hour workweek. And then I felt too tired to go anywhere for my 3 weeks of vacation. And then I thought I could go after residency. And then I’d probably go after I settle down somewhere for my career. And then I’d put it off because I have to start raising my future kids. And then I had to save for their future education instead. And then. And then. And then.

When was I going to go?

I started my three-week vacation this past Monday. Initially, my plan was to go back home in San Francisco for one week. I’d go visit Kari’s family in Dallas for the second week. For my last week, I’d return to Palm Springs to hangout before work starts again. That was the plan last Friday.

Kari and I bought our tickets to Thailand at 4am on Monday morning. We flew out Tuesday at 11:00am with a backpack and one carry-on. As I’m finishing this post in my hotel room in downtown Bangkok, I hear the hustle and bustle of the Asian market on the street. I can’t help but smile and remember Sue. “So what?”


Kari and I at SFO, checking in for our flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

Think Big for Big Results!

  1. Eliminate impossible from your vocabularySaying “I can’t” is already setting yourself for failure. As the saying goes, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” Steve Jobs was famous for pushing himself and his company with a two-week deadline for the iPhone. Well, we all know now what came afterwards. Eliminate the impossible, and all that’s left is the possible.
  2. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? Make a list. Narrow it down to something that really resonates with your soul. Something that’s visceral to you and you alone.
  3. Believe you can do it. Believe you can do that one thing. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
  4. List reasons of why YOU CAN do it. This step requires the most work. Thomas Edison was one of America’s greatest inventors who influenced the photograph, motion picture, and lightbulb. He once said “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Big things require big thinking and an even bigger work ethic.


Think Big. Change the World. Share your story below!


31 thoughts on “How To Think Big: Taught By A Small Chinese Lady

  1. cmarquis91 says:

    This is exactly what I talk about in a lot of my post! I’ve always wanted to join the peace corps since I was a sophomore in high school. I just recently got accepted and am finishing my clearances before leaving in September. If you want something you have to go for it and sometimes work hard to get it! Love the post it really speaks to me! Thanks for no medical jargon..I know the feeling because people tell me to stop using special education jargon all the time 🙂 If you would like to check out my blog it’s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lfourcrowshensleymerritt says:

    The thing is, even when there is a great deal of risk involved, and you might not survive a particularly challenging obstacle in your life, avoiding living won’t reduce the risk, and won’t result in an optimal outcome. You have to approach the situation as though you WILL NOT fail. Even if you don’t end up with the outcome you wanted, you did set yourself wide open for the best possible outcome. The sun might not come out today. It might be cloudy. But if you keep your curtains closed, it definitely will not shine in through your window. Leave them open, and if the sun is to shine, it will shine in for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • doctormikesblog says:

      Great comment! It’s all about giving life your all. “Failure” is just one of the signs of progression and I think is a good thing. As long we aren’t stagnant and continue to be dynamic in our lives, eventually we will get to where we are going to – if we haven’t got there already.

      Liked by 1 person

    • doctormikesblog says:

      Unlike what most people think, I believe that money is a great tool. It’s also a great marker of how successful we are, so we shouldn’t dismiss it. Of course there are other goals in life, so we shouldn’t forget those as well. Life is too short, so why not live it!


  3. Sparkyjen says:

    Dr. Mike…Don’t you just love it when readers love your posts? It resonates the way you combine medicine and inspiration. I also love the way you appear to take your own advice. I hope you enjoyed your holiday. The picture of you and the mother of your future kids sent me over the moon. I’m happy you have someone in your life who I hope inspires you. She certainly appears to have the right stuff.

    The little lady saying “So what” resonates me too. I don’t let life happening stop me in my tracks either. It does help to have a reason for being here, and the little lady certainly has. What a blessing she came through the operation. Get out of her way life. She has miles to go before she sleeps!!!

    Thanks Dr. Mike for another SUPER FANTASTIC post. Oh…was that too loud?!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thoughtsnlifeblog says:

    Great Post, I am following you but it didn’t come in my inbox – I have noticed that with several person I am following. Anyway, the point is this a great post, love it – so what. One of my earliest post is a quote I think from Audrey Hepburn Impossible The word itself say i’m possible !! As for Mr Edison I read some where recently, that he was apparently scared of the dark – see what he created to eliminate his fear. Great piece, really enjoyed and feeling fully inspired. thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  5. MedicalStudentOrStudentDoctor says:

    Hi. I am loving your blog! Its such an interesting read and you have a great writing style. I am really liking the way you incorperate images into your blog as well.
    I am a medical student also writing a blog. I’d really appreciate it if you gave my blog a read and let me know what you think 🙂



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