3: Radiation

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Autumn goes pale.

"No! Stop!" her mother cries, reaching her arm around Autumn as if to protect her from whoever may pop out of the shadows with a scalpel to attack her daughter. "Autumn, let's talk through this. Please!"

"Don't worry, Mrs. Paisley," reassures the doctor. "She will survive if we go through with it. Just eight hours of her life that will mean fifty, maybe more, years for her to live cancer-free,"

She is not swayed. "Please, don't make her," she pleads, her voice now barely a whisper.

The doctor says it isn't mandatory, but highly, highly recommended. He gives the two women some privacy to discuss, letting them know he needs an answer as soon as possible. 

"Autumn, I don't want to scare you, but I also don't want to lie to you." she takes a shaky breath. "You could easily die during surgery."

"Mom," Autumn says, her voice soft but decisive. "They're experts. They know what they're doing; they've been trained for years. It's what they do. Don't be afraid,"

Her mother gives a weak smile. "You are so brave, darling, but I won't let a man with a knife anywhere near you."

Autumn knows she could have her life back if she simply endured a few unconscious hours. She knows it's what needs to happen, no matter what her mother suggests. However, she secretly doesn't trust these doctors either. Not that they don't know how to do it correctly or that it won't be successful, just that she is afraid they might accidentally make a mistake. She didn't tell her mother this. 

Autumn instead acts like she believes there's no point in arguing. She sighs and agrees not to have surgery done. The doctor returns and they tell him their answer. He asks if they are positive maybe a hundred times, and they insist. 

He recommends other treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, which will be less chance but just as effective at destroying the cancerous cells. 

Avoiding the needles and not wanting to be bald (I'm already ugly enough with my hair, she thought), Autumn agrees to try radiation with her mother's permission. 

The doctor informs the two that it is done every day for three weeks. Each week, they will check to make sure the radiation is killing the cancer cells and not the normal ones.

Autumn is led into a room where she told to take off all clothing with metal on it. She is left feeling exposed in her undergarments. 

The nurse tells her to lie on a table with a huge metal contraption hanging above it. She is told that it gives out the radiation. The table is hard and cold against Autumn's bare skin. The nurse tries many different positions for her to lie in, moving her arms and legs around a slight amount every few seconds.  

After about ten minutes, Autumn is told to lie completely still until told she is permitted to. The nurse leaves the room as to not be affected by the radiation herself.

The metal arm makes loud whirring noises as it swoops slowly over her entire body, like it is stuck in invisible jello. Autumn watches it with her hazel eyes, closing them when it gets to her face. 

She expects to feel intense heat, or at least like something is pushing into her body, but she hardly feels anything. It is completely painless. 

After a few minutes, the machine turns off, and Autumn is told to go back to the room where her mother waited. 

"How was it?" her mother asks the moment she walks in. 

"Fine. I didn't feel anything," Autumn says honestly. As she says it, she realizes how relieved she is that it's true. 

Her mother smiles. "Good."

The same procedure is repeated the next day, and the day after that, until it has been done every day for a week. Tests are run; Autumn tolerates them. 

She prays the radiation is working, and that she'll be cancer-free by the time school starts again, so it's just a "funny thing I did over spring break" story. A memory. 

The results will be in the next day, the day before she goes back to school. 

She just has to wait. 

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