Published on September 21, 2020
‘Black Panther’ Star was Living with Colon Cancer
One of the most unnerving parts of having cancer is the fact that it comes seemingly out of nowhere and immediately has the ability to drastically change someone’s life. It forces us to face our own mortality in ways we haven’t before. The concept of time changes greatly, going from infinite to potentially finite. Overnight a person’s whole lifestyle can change. However, more important than the fear of death is what you do with the time you have left.
Chadwick Boseman: A Hero in His Own Right
The recent passing of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer made the parallels of superheroes and cancer fighters/survivors stand out stark in my mind. A man seemingly beloved for portraying the main character in one of the first major studio movies starring a Black superhero was simultaneously battling stage IV colon cancer.
Being cast as the main character in a movie like Black Panther meant Boseman had to undergo intensive bodybuilding and exercise regimens in order to portray the character. Boseman, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, was actively battling the disease before, during and after starring in the movie.
However, Mr. Boseman is only one example of the perseverance and exceptional strong will of those experiencing cancer. Life, which continues to go on around a cancer patient, must be balanced between staying present and experiencing the things around them while also undertaking one of the most difficult and exhaustive fights of their lives. And cancer doesn’t take a break.
Not All Superheroes Wear Capes
Yet, the superhero determination that I’ve seen in cancer patients is extraordinary. The fact that they have to make heartbreaking decisions every day that affect them, their family and friends makes this even more apparent. Deciding which drugs to take, or not take, living through the side effects of cancer, and knowing when quality-of-life is more important than sustaining it makes me appreciate what I have.
But, as Chadwick Boseman and others, like Alek Trebek, show us, people touched by cancer continue not only to live but to thrive. Stories highlighted here at Patient Power underscore this point. This includes people who have to overcome even more obstacles to obtaining treatment, such as those in marginalized communities. The sheer willpower these people exhibit is worthy in itself of being called a superpower.
Superheroes don’t have to come with flowing capes and fancy gadgets. Instead, for most of us, the heroes in our lives are more nondescript than that. Sometimes we call them ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’, sometimes we see them in our communities, and sometimes we even see them on the big screen giving us hope for a better tomorrow.
A Legacy to Remember
Boseman, who attended the predominately black Howard University, was also universally acclaimed for his role as Jackie Robinson, another real-life superhero in his own right, in the movie 42. Boseman’s ability to bring important underrepresented voices into the mainstream will keep his name, and his unknown battle with cancer, in peoples’ minds well into the future.
I believe that we all have a superhero in each one of us, it only takes unexpected circumstances to make someone into a figure that we can all look up to. Cancer patients everywhere give us the courage every day to continue to fight for a better tomorrow and seek out the best in every moment.
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AP News. Chadwick Boseman, who embodied Black icons, dies of cancer. August 29, 2020.
CNN. Alex Trebek Health Update. July 16, 2020.
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