To chemo or not to 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. 




To chemo or not to chemo?

To chemo or not to chemo?

To chemo or not to chemo?

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, I was adamantly against
chemotherapy and resolved to heal myself with the help of an alternative doctor/clinic/protocol. I’d spent the last decade eating like a nutritionist (“let food be thy medicine!”), ridding my home of chemicals, and working with fantastic naturopaths. I knew firsthand the benefits of addressing disease systemically—not just covering up symptoms with meds.

Surprisingly, it was my integrative doctor who convinced me that my unique diagnosis demanded chemo. She referred me to a top-notch oncology clinic AND a Chinese medicine oncologist. I’m convinced that I survived the rigors of chemo—and that it was so effectual—because I was so well supported by my integrative team!

With my terminal diagnosis two years ago (what a miracle to write that! two years!!), I DREADED (and that’s an understatement) enduring chemo again—not just for 12 rounds this time, but indefinitely. So I resolved to find an alternative cancer clinic instead of spending my final days on the chemo torture rack.

I ended up at a world-class clinic in St. George (10/10 recommend!), but the cancer was spreading like wildfire, and, once again, it was a naturopathic oncologist who convinced me that combining chemo with a rigorous naturopathic protocol would be the most effective means to battle my aggressive cancer.

I’m grateful for both Western and alternative medicine. Alongside chemo, I’ve done everything from Viscum shots to colon hydrotherapy. I’ve had the best doctors in both worlds.

But I’m even more grateful for the work God has done in my heart. I’m no longer “for” or “against” any approach to cancer treatment. I understand why some people swear by chemo and others refuse it. Some people are healed at alternative cancer clinics—others are not. And while I work hard at my health, my ultimate goal is not self-preservation but rather, making the most of the days God has entrusted to me, living and loving fully, whether that’s at an alternative clinic or in a chair in the chemo ward. And when I die, it won’t be because my treatment plan failed—but because my work here is done and Jesus wants me Home!