This past weekend, fans learned the sad news of the passing of an up and coming talent, Chadwick Boseman, best known for his role as the Marvel Super Hero, Black Panther. He was only 43 years old. His cause of death has left most who knew of him, with so many questions. Boseman died from a cancer most often associated with someone older in age, colon cancer. But as I have said so many times before, cancer does not discriminate by age.
The fact that Boseman hid his fight against cancer, including surgeries and treatments, all while filming, including his role as the Black Panther in his stand alone movie and appearances in the Avengers series, may be shocking to those who have never had cancer, but obviously not to those of us who have experienced cancer.
Hollywood can be especially brutal to actors when they are faced with health crisis, whether they be by their own devices, or in just the misfortunes of ill health. In any case, though it has not been discussed why Boseman hid the news of his cancer, I am sure that there could be concern of losing value in Hollywood, even with the rise of his fame for portraying such icons as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, and of course the Black Panther.
No matter how much star power you have, ill health can take away all of your momentum, as if you were not worried about the outcome of your health was not enough. This is not any different for us common people in the regular world either. Out of fear of the impact on our employment, we often hide the news, or “put on the brave face” and show up for work, no matter what, and never let on, that we might not be having a good day.
The amazing movies that Boseman put out without letting on that he was facing colon cancer for nearly four years, is nothing compared to his connection to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
Again, without letting anyone be aware of what he was dealing with, Boseman made various appearances at St. Jude’s offering so much joy to the many children there. During an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio during promotions for Black Panther, Boseman got choked up as he spoke of his experiences of support to the children at St. Jude’s. Of course, we all have a special place in our hearts for children with cancer, but Boseman had a secret close to home, and I am certain that he felt more than anyone, what these children were going through.
Colon cancer is not necessarily known for being diagnosed in younger people. The American Cancer Society used to recommend early detection screening once you hit fifty years of age. Only recently, as statistics show younger people now facing colon cancer, the ACS adjusted their age limit to 45 years of age. Boseman was diagnosed at 39.
As a long term cancer survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, one of my potential late side effects from my treatments, is developing a secondary cancer. Common among us Hodgkoids, is colon cancer. And so, as part of our follow-up, we actually get screened much younger than the recommended age. Depending on the results of the colonoscopy, determines any frequency of future scopes.
Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel (pictured with Katie Couric whose husband died from colon cancer), made history by having his colonoscopy televised (not in its entirety). The purpose was to bring awareness.
There are a lot of stigmas to having a colonoscopy, some well-deserved, and some just obscenely false. The procedure is done with the patient either in twilight, or as in my case, out cold (a complication of my health history makes it necessary for me to be intubated), so by the time it is over, for the most part, you have no idea anything was even done. You just have to wait for the news. The most unpleasant part for most of us, is the “prep.” A patient needs to completely empty out their bowels for the doctor to be able to get where they need to, and with an unobstructed view. In many cases, multiple laxatives in large quantities (referred to as the prep), leave many with an overly bloated feeling, then only to spend many hours on the toilet. To be honest, I have never heard anyone say it was “no big deal” doing the prep. The quantity is what pushes us to our limits. But other than that, it is a procedure that can save a life.
The one stigma that is unfortunately ignorant and untrue, some will not get a colonoscopy done, because they are afraid they will “wake up gay.” Yes, some actually think, ignorantly, that because the procedure involves the rectum, the scope will somehow create homosexual tendencies. I have run into a couple of people like this. I spent a long time trying to convince my friends this was not the case, and the urgency of getting a colonoscopy. Eventually, I would convince him, and he did confirm that I was telling him the truth, he would not be “altered” due to the procedure, a procedure that may have saved his life.
Why does a colonoscopy make a difference? I mentioned earlier, about the frequency of colonoscopies based on results of the scope. If you have a clean colonoscopy, really no pun intended, you are not likely to be requested to have a follow-up for ten years, possibly more. But, if during the colonoscopy, the doctor discovers anything, in particular, polyps, these polyps can be removed, and of course tested. “Polyps aren’t too big of a deal, right?” Wrong. Polyps have the potential to advance to cancer, colon cancer. So yes, having a colonoscopy, discovering and removing any polyps, can help prevent colon cancer, one of the major cancer killers.
I am one of the unfortunately ones. Not only did I have my first colonoscopy before the age of fifty, I am faced with having them every one to two years. I develop polyps. And fortunately, to this day, that is all I have had to deal with. But my reality is known. Without this preventative measure, I most likely would not have good chances.
There have been many in my life, who have sometimes criticized me for the awareness I have with my health. “Just get over it. Live your life! You beat cancer! Enjoy!” I do not know the circumstances behind Boseman’s diagnosis or battle. But he was diagnosed four years ago, at an age younger before my first colonoscopy. If you know who Boseman is, he looked healthy, just as many who do not have the frequent surveillance that I do. So you tell me who has the better odds… someone not being watched by their doctors because, based on health and age no reason to, or a cancer survivor like me, constantly monitored for what could go wrong next.
Like the actor, I try to go through my life, hiding the many things I face. I don’t want to be a buzzkill worrying everybody, or incurring pity. I have a good life, at least I feel it is, and I accept my limits which I rarely let on. And only if you really pay attention, you can see it. I get through my life without burdening most, and hopefully making a difference in the many worlds that I advocate for, cancer, adoption, and single parenting issues.
Hollywood lost a great actor who had a brilliant future ahead of him. And we as fans can only watch the few outstanding films that he made, but will clearly last forever.
I normally save a post like this for Colon Cancer Screening Month, but with the passing of Chadwick Boseman, I felt this was the perfect time to bring awareness. It can happen to anyone, anytime.
Wakanda forever Black Panther. RIP Chadwick Boseman.