by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


Navigating Life’s Twists and Turns

”Did my doctor diagnose my condition correctly?  Is he scheduling the right treatment for me?  Whose advice should I follow?”  These are questions we asked ourselves when Howie faced major medical treatment for his tumor.  Since no person, no matter how knowledgeable, has all the right answers, we needed to know where to go to find the truth.

Following the diagnosis of Howie’s brain tumor in the fall of 1990, we called on friends and family to pray.  Pastor Peter and the deacons at Bible Baptist anointed him with oil and prayed for healing.  The next week, Howie went in for a needle biopsy at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital which confirmed the existence of a tumor.  Convinced the tumor was malignant and inoperable, the surgeon arranged for Howie and me to meet with a neuro-oncologist at the hospital.  This doctor explained to us that chemotherapy was the preferable treatment and scheduled Howie to begin chemo the following week.
    We had fears and doubts about chemotherapy at this time, so we contacted my father Dr. James F. Coppedge, a research scientist in California, for advice.  While he investigated doctors and medical procedures for us, we prayed for God’s guidance and wisdom.
    On the morning Howie was scheduled to begin chemo, my father called.  He had been up all night doing research and had some information we needed to know.  He found an article in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine which described the chemotherapy Howie was to receive.  This article indicated that recent tests show this chemo often causes lymphoma a few years later.  He encouraged us to cancel the appointment and get a second opinion.  Feeling great relief, we thanked my father and immediately canceled the doctor’s appointment.
    In his research, he also came across a number of articles on brain tumors written by Dr. Posner, neuro-oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.  My father wrote him and shared Howie’s situation.  Dr. Posner responded by inviting us to send the test results to his office for a second opinion.
    We were excited when Dr. Posner and his associates at Sloan Kettering studied the test results from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and determined that the tumor was, in fact, benign rather than malignant!  They did not recommend chemotherapy.  Because the tumor was inoperable, the doctors explained to us that radiation would be the best treatment.  There was no need to rush, however, since Howie was in good condition at this time.  It was up to us to decide whether to have radiation now or later.  We chose to wait.

No matter how skilled or knowledgeable, no person makes the right decision all the time.  Even doctors have been known to diagnose conditions incorrectly.  For our safety and peace of mind, it is essential that we do research and get second opinions.  “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).  The most important “second opinion” we can get is from our Good Shepherd and Great Physician, Jesus Christ.  He is the only One who knows all things, including what is best for us.  When we call out to Him for wisdom and guidance on any decision, He will lead us through the maze of life and show us the best way to go.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6).

For Those Who Hurt

You may be devastated by an unexpected and frightening medical diagnosis, wondering what to do.  Or you may be confused while contemplating a major decision.  Call out to the Lord, who is perfect and all wise, and pray for guidance and wisdom.  Ask Him to help you navigate the twists and turns of life.  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).  And don’t hesitate to seek wise counsel and “second opinions.”  God may even put it on the heart of a loved one to stay up all night and do research to help you find the right path.



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Chapter 6: Standing or Falling? Table of Contents Chapter 8: God’s Prescription Plan for Victory