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Stay safe, and socially-distanced, for Joan’s sake

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Jacqui Thomson wants anyone who is complacent about COVID-19 to think of her mum, Joan.

Joan Crook has spent more than two decades volunteering for various important causes—including the Cancer Council Wig service, Canberra Regional Cancer Centre, the Canberra Hospital Kiosk, Floriade and The Canberra Show.

She crochets for babies and makes trauma dolls for children, and is President of Friends of Calvary John James Hospital, Friends of Old Parliament House Rose Gardens, and Third Canberra Garden Club.

But Joan is also now fighting cancer herself, and at 77, she is in one of the highest risk categories for COVID-19.

People most at risk of complications from COVID-19 are people aged 70 years and over; people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions; people with compromised immune systems; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 with one or more chronic medical conditions.

It’s been a tough year for Joan, who was diagnosed in February with Leukemia. This is her second cancer, as she also been receiving treatment for neuroendocrine cancer growing in her pancreas for the past two years. Last September, Joan suffered a stroke and has lost the sight in one eye. She also has diabetes.

“I’ll be honest, I think I have had enough health issues to deal with—the last thing I want is to get this wretched virus,” she says with a laugh.

Because, even though it’s been a tough few years health-wise, Joan refuses to let herself get down about much.

“It is not in my nature to wallow—I try and always look on the bright side.”

But Joan does admit she is worried.

She has stayed in isolation for the past two months and is not even having physical contact with Jacqui or her grandkids.

They visit but stay in the backyard while Joan chats from the veranda. Her hospital visits are conducted with the strictest health protocols in place, and any non-essential medical consultations are done over the phone.

“Oh yes, I do want to give my grandchildren and daughters the biggest hugs, but I know that right now I can’t.”

Joan Crook outside her home.

Jacqui wants the rest of Canberra to think of her mum next time they think they can let their guard down in terms of maintaining social distancing and keeping up hand-washing.

“This thing could blow up again. You only need to read any of the international news to see how completely out of control it is,” says Jacqui. “If community transmission were to get a grip here in Australia it could be very, very bad for my mum.”

Jacqui said in recent days she had been disappointed to see people flouting the social distancing rules in the supermarket.

“I am worried that we think this is all over now. It is not over. It is going to be around for a long, long time, so we can’t drop our guard.”

Clinical expert at Canberra Health Services, Professor Imogen Mitchell, said the recent COVID-19 clusters at abattoirs and fast-food restaurants were reasons all Canberrans needed to stay ultra-cautious as we venture out more in coming weeks and kids return to school.

“It only takes one single case for us to have a problem, and we cannot afford to be complacent just because we haven’t had a case here for nine days. It is likely to still be lurking somewhere.”

“I think part of the problem is that people don’t see it in Australia. We think we have avoided it. But we need to stay alert, otherwise, we could end up another New York or Milan.”

Jacqui just wants her mum around for a lot longer.

“I do worry about her a lot. And she hasn’t come this far beating all her other serious health issues to then have to battle coronavirus. She has already been through enough.”

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