Ichikawa confirmed that they found out about Mao's condition one year and eight months ago when they went for a body checkup together. Since then, Mao has been under treatment but the progression of the illness was much faster than expected. She is in the midst of chemotherapy which doesn't seem to be working effectively so there is a likelihood that she has to go for surgery. Mao was apparently hospitalised for a while and was only allowed to go home recently. Ichikawa said that surgery was not an option initially since it was difficult to reach the affected spot so chemotherapy was selected as the first treatment method.
Ichikawa recounted that when he first heard of Mao's diagnosis, he was at his wits' end and didn't know what to say. However, he thinks that she is having it worse than him because Mao is battling to get well and feels sorry for not being around to be with her children. His sister-in-law Kobayashi Maya who has also recently announced a break from work due to health issues, also helped in keeping Mao's situation under wraps and has been supportive of their family during this period.
The first sign of Mao's condition came through a blog entry by Ichikawa on 2 May after he appeared on SMAPxSMAP with his son Kangen. In his blog, he commented that Mao was very happy about the TV appearance and that she was unwell then. Although his daughter Reika and Kangen are both important to him, Mao is still his No.1.
Ichikawa also revealed that during Kangen's kabuki debut in November 2015, Mao decided to show up in public and go to the Kabukiza during the 25-day performance period despite her illness. The couple had talked about this extensively before she decided to go ahead and help Kangen on this special occasion. He admitted that he was quite worried especially since the performance run was so long but decided to respect her wishes. When the children asked him why their mother was not coming home during her hospitalisation, Ichikawa explained to them that she was stung by a bug so had to be in the hospital to recuperate before she could return home to play with them.
Ichikawa and Mao got to know each other through an interview she conducted while working as a newscaster for NTV's "NEWS ZERO" in 2006 and they got married in March 2010. Reika was born in July 2011 while Kangen was born in March 2013.
Source: Sponichi Annex / Daily Sports / Sanspo