Chess helps cancer patients de-stress
BY michele munz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Nov. 05 2009
When her husband was dying with esophageal cancer, Suzanne Corbett dug out an old, nearly forgotten chess board.
“Would you like to play?” she asked him.
They would play in the mornings at their home in South County. The game offered relaxation, diversion and peace. It was a battle Jim Corbett could win.
“When you play chess you have to focus your mind on the game and strategies,” said Suzanne Corbett, 56. “It gave him a relief and a quiet space.”It also helped her as his caretaker, she said.
“Sometimes we feel so helpless on what we can do to make it better, and a simple game like chess is something you can do with an individual without smothering them.”After her husband died last December, she learned the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis was looking for a way to get involved in the community.
She told the members how chess helped husband, and it inspired them to form a partnership with Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.Last month, the chess club donated three chess tables for the waiting room as well as six portable boards with magnetic pieces that can be taken into the treatment area and be used while getting chemotherapy, which can take hours.
“This could make such a difference to so many people, because I know what a difference it made for Jim,” Corbett said.Volunteers are available Tuesday mornings and throughout the day Friday to play with patients and offer instruction. Volunteer coordinator Kylie Latham said she is looking for more volunteers, so the service can be offered daily.
It’s a unique addition to the harpist, puzzles and art supplies that also serve to make the waiting room a happier place. “It’s nice to be able to have that one-on-one interaction,” Latham said. “That personal touch is really what we’re looking to bring to our volunteer services.”
Salvatore Licata, 45, of St. Louis, recently took up a volunteer’s offer to play while a machine pumped chemicals through a tube in his arm. It was the fifth type of chemotherapy he’s tried since being diagnosed three years ago with kidney cancer.
The game was a nice break in what has become routine, he said. “I usually just sit and watch the clock for an hour.”Suzanne Corbett hopes to see chess boards at all cancer treatment centers.
She said, “It’s a fitting tribute to Jim.”