We could tell Austin’s life story through his hair.
At birth, he, like his brother before him, had a head full of dark bushy hair. (And yes, for what it’s worth, I did have heartburn.)
At about six months he, like his brother before him, exhibited classic signs of male pattern baldness:
It slowly grew back and by the time he was diagnosed, he had these two spectacular sprouts of hair caused by a double cowlick. We called them his horns:
Then of course, he was rendered completely bald during his first rounds of chemo. Innocent bystanders used to comment about how their children had also been bald as babies and I could just never let it go and instead had to say something like, “Oh, he wasn’t bald as a baby. This is because of chemo.” I always said it in a cheerful voice so as not to make them feel too bad, but they rarely knew how to respond after that.
And then, by the spring of 2008, my cancer-free toddler grew new hair. And, whaddya know, that trademark Gallagher black grew in blond!
As time went by, it darkened but the first growth was still lighter than the rest prompting an amazing number of people to ask if I “did his tips.” Really? He wasn’t even two. Who would even think to color a two-year-old’s hair?
By last summer, it was mousy brown and extremely long. Here he is getting his shaggy rock star locks trimmed by Grandma Gallagher:
Then winter arrived and with it that brutal rogue that is cancer. On the verge of losing all his hair again, Austin helped out with shaving Braedan’s and Daddy’s:
Shortly after starting chemo, I was coming away with clumps every time I ran my fingers through his hair. Look closely at the sheets behind him in this pic taken while he was sedated for radiation:
Lintbrushing the sheets just wasn’t enough any more, so a shearing was in order:
Then a very strange thing happened. His hair began to fall out. No, that’s not the strange part, we were expecting that. The strange part is that it began falling out in bits and pieces with these bizarre patches left behind.
Each day, the patch changed slightly as a few more random hairs fell out. It reminded me of a computer generated image of the polar ice caps shrinking over time due to global warming. Day by day getting smaller and smaller until there was simply nothing left.
And then, within a few short weeks, it was gone, with only the eyelashes and eyebrows remaining. Another six weeks of chemo and those too had vanished.
Until one morning last week, when he woke up, felt his head and announced, “I think I have more hair today. I need to look in the mirror.” Which brings us to today (yes, he’s wearing a cape — and why shouldn’t he?):
And somehow, through it all, what remains is that smile.