Home » Lung Cancer » Moves in the Cancer Endgame

Moves in the Cancer Endgame

My dad taught me to play chess when I was small. I learned the game fast, and could soon beat other kids older than me. However, when I faced an opponent who was much more skilled than I, my attention eventually wandered. I lost the endgame because I’d lost patience.

A chess game transitions to the endgame when few pieces are left on the board. Whatever strategy positioned pieces prior to the endgame becomes irrelevant. The pawns, which initially were the least powerful pieces, become important.

Recently I was playing a much more highly-rated player online (thank you, Nancy Kress) and realized something in my attitude had changed: I had developed patience for the endgame. Even though I had been outmaneuvered and did not possess enough pieces to win, I kept looking for my next move. I wanted to keep the game going as long as possible.

Metastatic lung cancer is a tough opponent, and the odds favor it winning. Several powerful treatments didn’t finish it off. I haven’t many therapy pieces left. But I keep searching for my next move, even if it can’t give me victory. Clinical trials are now my best pieces in the cancer endgame. I want to keep playing — and living — as long as I can.

Cancer taught me patience for the endgame. Maybe someone else will learn from how I played.

8 thoughts on “Moves in the Cancer Endgame

  1. Earlier this year, a dear friend died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. She played the hand she was dealt on her own terms and lived every day to its fullest. I think there’s an excruciating balancing act between holding on to hope and doing the difficult emotional work of finishing a life. I have no idea how that’s accomplished, only that my friend did it with grace and boundless love for everyone she knew.


    • Sounds like your friend played her game with dignity and grace. I believe every patient with a life-threatening disease has the right to decide when and how they want to concede. Hopefully each has been informed of all their options before they decide.


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