|Isaac in our snowy garden|
The world has turned white. Schools are shut. Children, wild with excitement, sledge down the slopes in Epping Forest. Everyone is out making snowmen, enjoying the white powder.
I imagine the life we should be living. Yasmin, two and a half, cheeks flushed from fresh air and happiness steps carefully through the snow in her Wellington boots before minutes later screeching with joy as her sled picks up speed. Isaac, snug in his snow suit, chuckles to see his sister playing, and he tries to wiggle from my arms, desperate to follow.
But that life halted last summer. Instead, in our alternate universe - full of syringes, needles, drips, kind nurses and the smell of disinfectant - we are unaffected by the passing seasons.
Our daughter, drained from the latest infusion of bright orange chemo, does not have the strength to lift up from the sofa. Her stick legs are wasting away again from the inactivity and the previous week's sickness which stopped her eating for five days.
Her face has thinned, accentuating her blue eyes which appear almost black. Her nose, more prominent against her gaunt cheeks, reminds me somehow of a little mouse. I call her 'my little mouse' as I carry her around the house. I can feel her bones sharp as she presses against my body, holding on tight with the little energy she has. She clings to me all day and calls out whenever she wakes in the night, which can be every hour.
Her face resembles a skull with its bare forehead and hollowed eyes: it is as though chemotherapy must take her to the brink of death in order to restore life.