Another thing to check off the list, another accomplishment made, another fear overcome.

Austin had his last radiation treatment today and, just like that, one big thing’s done. Radiation had seemed so scary to me; I’d imagined his skin burning or, at the very least, itching in the spot where it was zapped. This is a kid who gets red and patchy from bathing too long, after all. But no, he had no side effects, nothing at all. Aside from those two Mondays of throwing up, it was as if all they did to him each morning was sedate him and then wheel him through the maze of hallways and elevators from the fourth floor to the basement and back again. Certainly nothing as scary as radiation could have happened to this child who has been running happy circles around me all day.

We did have a long day at the hospital (in between — and mostly before — that happy circle running). He needed another nuclear scan which, rest assured, involves nothing nuclear. It’s just a dye that’s injected into his blood stream that is then filtered through the kidney, offering a good assessment of kidney function by drawing blood on a set schedule over five hours.  We did this test again so soon to determine whether his recent chemo and radiation have had any immediate effects on the kidney and also whether we need to adjust the dose of the next chemo, which includes a new drug (also dialyzed by the kidney, of course — couldn’t some of these things be filtered through the darn liver already?).

But he was a champ and when Mark came home and asked Austin what he’d done all day, he cocked his head to the side and said, “Oh, jumping. Just jumping,” which was a pretty accurate account.

The other thing he did, however, was start to lose his hair. When I woke him early this morning (for the last time!), you could see it was thinner right at the spot where he’d been lying on the pillow. Then, as we arrived in sedation and I pulled off his Spiderman hat, it was obvious — this boy’s hair was falling out. I could run my fingers through it and pull out handfuls at a time. All day, it was all over both of us, covering our clothes, getting stuck in our mouths, everywhere.  I commented to my mom this afternoon that I wish he’d let us buzz it short and she said, “Oh no, but won’t that make you sad?”

Well, yeah, of course it’ll make me sad, but it’s going to happen. This child will be bald, whether we like it or not.  Better we trim it now than spend the next five days with hair falling in his eyes and getting stuck on his snotty nose. So tonight, Mark took my wild-haired boy up for a bath and brought down another bald child. Almost bald at least, with lots of random patches because he wouldn’t sit still (shocking). Looks sort of funny now, but it’ll even out soon enough.

That smile hasn’t gone anywhere though.

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