Three months of chemo

Colleen Elisabeth Chao is an editor and author. She enjoys dark-dark chocolate, side-splitting laughter, and half-read books piled bedside. She makes her home near Boise, Idaho, with her husband Eddie, their son Jeremy, and Willow the dog. 




Three months of chemo

Three months of chemo

Three months of chemo

Well, tomorrow is Round 12, my final chemo infusion. It was three months ago today that I went in for my first infusion, with a head full of hair and a cancerous tumor bigger than a golf ball. It was nine months ago that I first discovered that tumor—when it was only the size of a pea.

That well-worn parenting adage feels so apropos right now: these are long days but short years.

And what God has done in nine months’ time is nothing short of miraculous. I know you’ll be shocked when I quote Spurgeon here (ha!), but truly he’s able to express my heart so well:

I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable. . . . Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.

Again and again, it’s been the deepest and darkest legs of my life’s journey that have brought beauty and blessing in Costco-sized portions.

This present journey has made me reflect on past sorrows: What if I’d been spared long singleness? Never known depression and anxiety? Been healthy through my thirties? Not watched my son suffer physically? What if crushing private sorrows had passed me by?

And what if I’d never heard the words, “It’s cancer”?

I’m convinced I would have only a penny-of-grace to my name now. But God has entrusted me with a fortune. His love refuses to leave me poor and destitute, so He wields suffering to make me filthy rich in Him.

There are definitely moments, sometimes days at a time, when I don’t want this kind of wealth. This past weekend I would have settled for that pitiful penny, just for a bit of relief. (Chemo is awful.) But here’s the amazing bit about God’s love: He gives me riches and then guards them for me. He won’t let me bankrupt myself. So even on the darkest days, when His gifts look cruel instead of loving, and I’d like to opt out—He is there, holding everything together (Colossians 1:17).

Someday soon we’re going to step into Forever and see the enormity of our riches (“an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” according to Paul), and we’re going to thank Jesus with all of our hearts for not granting us our wishes for ease and comfort and a tidy little life.

~ ~ ~

I’ll leave you with a word that has deeply encouraged me, an excerpt from a letter Samuel Rutherford wrote in 1628:

The weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lieth upon your strong Savior. For Isaiah says that in all your afflictions he is afflicted [63:9]. … Glad may your soul be, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with one like the Son of man, who is also the Son of God. Courage up your heart; when you tire, he will bear both you and your burden [Psalm 55:22].

“Courage up your heart,” sweet friends. He is turning our sufferings into a fortune! He is making us wealthy with the stuff that’s going to last into eternity. We should be the happiest people on earth because we know what’s coming—and it’s breathtakingly good.




P.S. – This was an email update I sent out to friends on Friday night. I’m not blogging much during my cancer journey, but if you’d like to receive my personal updates, you can email me at