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Staying inside to survive


For Michelle James, keeping busy, staying connected and frequently washing her hands are the key to getting through isolation.

While most of us have been social distancing for a few weeks, it has been the norm for Mrs James ever since she started a cancer trial last July.

The 58-year-old is taking part in the trial because she has Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

This type of breast cancer does not have any of the three receptors commonly found on breast cancer cells – the oestrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors.

The Chariot Trial, facilitated through Newcastle organisation Breast Cancer Trials, uses immunotherapy drugs to help her immune system find and fight the cancer.

“Breast Cancer Trials can save lives,” she says.

“Even if current trials cannot benefit me, I want to participate so that my daughter and granddaughter never hear the words, ‘you have breast cancer’, or if they do, they are unconcerned knowing that treatment is available to cure it.”

It is important for her to self-isolate to protect her health as a common cold could turn into a life-threatening situation.

She adds that others who are more immune-compromised than her have to be even more careful.

“I know definitely that those getting chemo and radiation are very worried,” she says.

“They are highly immune compromised, and any virus or infection could be deadly.

“I read their comments in our Facebook support groups, and they are very frightened.

“I really do feel for them, as they have no choice but to go out to hospitals to get their treatment, and hospitals are a likely source of COVID-19 as we see in the news.”

For Mrs James, the hardest part of isolating is not being able to see her family.

“We very much miss visits from the grandkids,” she says.

Mrs James and her husband also had plans to honour their 30th wedding anniversary overseas but her treatment and the pandemic mean the pair will celebrate with a take away dinner at home.

She encourages everyone to do their part in flattening the curve and has several tips to help people get through isolating at home.

“Keep busy,” she says.

“Plan to do little jobs each day [and] stay in touch with friends, family and neighbours by phone, video chat or even notes in your window.

“It’s important we still feel connected even when ensuring we are keeping isolated and, wash your hands often.”

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