Her distress, though, is all too apparent.
Let me give you a bit of background.
Last year I spent some time in hospital with my youngest son when he woke up one morning and couldn’t walk. We went into emergency, and after loads of tests he was admitted. He didn’t go home for 10 days.
He wasn’t in pain and the doctors ruled out the terrifying stuff, but he still couldn’t walk. We spent those 10 days at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in the neurological ward and it was there that I met Marilee Mai.
It was early one morning and we both were making ourselves a cup of tea in the ward’s kitchen. I noticed her straight away because she had no hair. You kind of get used to seeing kids with no hair when you spend a lot of time in a children’s hospital, but not the adults.
‘Surely she doesn’t have cancer as well as a sick child,’ I thought to myself before saying hi, as we shared the small space and took turns with the kettle.
Meeting new people when you’re all taking care of sick children is a delicate process. Everyone is careful not to pry, but at the same time, your defences are stripped bare and you are at your most vulnerable. There’s an instant intimacy that goes on in this place, a place that feels like another world from the one that is somehow continuing outside the hospital ward.
So back in the kitchen, we chatted about our kids. Marilee’s five-year-old daughter, Milan, was recovering from an operation to remove a tumour, and she also had a toddler and a baby at home. She was still breastfeeding.