Eight-year-old Kenji hands his mother a tissue, which she uses to dry her eyes beneath thick-rimmed spectacles, her free hand giving her son's closely cropped jet-black hair a gentle stroke. Michiko Ikeda has cried before, deeply, achingly, she admits, during a darker time when she faced the very real prospect of having to raise Kenji and his two siblings alone.
Then, Masaru, her husband of 15 years, had been diagnosed with leukemia following stints working at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the neighboring Fukushima No. 2 facility, starting in the fall of 2011.
"Even when he first said it was leukemia I thought it must be a mistake," Michiko says as the afternoon sun streams through the window of the front room of her home in western Japan. "When the hospital confirmed it, my mind went blank. I couldn't stop crying, wherever I went. The only image I had in my head was that my husband was going to die."