I can barely explain to myself why my three-year-old son, Bowie, must undergo weeks of chemotherapy, and so I tell him that every one of us has a White Army inside. The White Army protects our bodies against the bad guys like viruses and parasites. Yet sometimes the soldiers fight so long and so hard that they don’t stop fighting even when the bad guys are all dead. His White Army is like this. Instead of fighting enemies, they fight shadows, and their swords and shields rip holes inside his gut. The holes bleed.

He retches and has diarrhea all day, red on his pillow, red in the toilet. He can’t digest his food and sometimes loses the will to swallow. We hope chemotherapy will reset the haywire immune system causing the ulcers that are spreading from his colon to his esophagus.

“We’re going to put your soldiers to sleep,” I tell Bowie. “We’re going to give them a really good dream, so when they wake up, they’ll stop fighting.”

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