Love and Logic: Cancer

A family member recently succumbed to cancer of the esophagus.  Child had many questions about his life and his death which I answered as best I could.  She seemed to have some very specific concerns: the first being the fact that he was so young when he died, specifically, he was the same age as Child’s father.  Child wanted to be reassured that her father would not get cancer and wanted to know the causes.  Then she wanted to know what happens inside the body when one gets cancer.  This comes partly from a concern about our dog who also has cancer.  Finally, she wanted to know about cures.  Child already understands how the different elements of the immune system react to harmful viruses and bacteria; but the immune system doesn’t respond to cancer because it spreads through cell division.

This game is meant to explain the biological aspects of cancer: how it blocks healthy cells and how chemotherapy kills off both cancerous and healthy cells.  It is not a precise or detailed simulation, but it is enough to give a child the basic idea of what sort of a disease it is.

To play, you will need a pencil, a hundred board (such as the one below), a set of cards numbered 1-100 (shuffled), and “cells” cards such as the ones below.

The game is co-operative, though you may take turns to draw and play.

To play:

Shuffle the “cells” cards and draw one.

  • If it says “healthy cells”: draw two number cards and draw Xs on every number between the two numbers.  For example, if you draw 63 and 71, draw Xs on 63, 64, 65…71.  However, if any of the numbers already contains a cancer cell, you write no Xs, and lose your turn.  If your healñthy cell was laid down before you draw the cancer cell, then only the cell with the number corresponding to the cancer cell is transformed from X to O.
  • If it says “cancer cells”: draw 10 number cards and make Os on the corresponding squares.
  • If it says “chemotherapy”: draw a number card and erase any Xs or Os on all of the numbers from 1 to the number drawn.

Keep playing until the board is complete.  If the healthy cells outnumber the cancer cells, you win.

“Cells” cards:

Healthy cells Cancer cells Healthy cells
Cancer cells Healthy cells Cancer cells
Healthy cells Chemotherapy Healthy cells

Hundred board:

91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In memory of Shane Bailey

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