By Ellyn Mantell
The untimely, shocking and terribly sad death of Chadwick Boseman added to the pall in the air last Saturday morning. I looked at my CNN feed on my desktop with my mouth agape. How could it be that such a beautiful and talented man could die so young? And what evil transgressor claimed his life? Like so many, I admired his work for the past few years. He broke my heart portraying the challenging life of one of my husband Bruce’s baseball icons, Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. He played him with bravery, grit and quiet determination and I immediately fell in love with him! As the expression goes, “he had me with his smile,” when he was treated fairly. Sadly, Jackie Robinson was mistreated by the very society that valued him as a ball player. Chadwick Boseman got that, and made us all get it! And in the movie Get on Up, he portrayed James Brown, showing his incredible versatility, as well.
Black Panther, although I assumed would not be my jam, as the kids would say, turned out to be fantastic, and once again, Chadwick carried the film. He was such a likable actor, and his warmth and dignity always came through. And I felt the same warmth and dignity from him in Da 5 Bloods, as he captivated and commandeered the screen.
In real life, where there were no cameras, Chadwick Boseman was a true, real-life hero. Apparently, eschewing publicity and accolades, he visited sick children and became someone in whom they could trust. Little did any of them, or us, know what was happening in his own life.
Suffering for 4 years with colon cancer, he handled every series of meds, chemotherapy and surgeries privately and quietly. Bulking up or slimming down for a role in a movie, he did it with little fanfare, and certainly, no hint of what his body was enduring over the grueling months and months of treatment. His is truly not a story of how he died, but of how he lived.
However, in his death, there is a message for all of us. Chadwick was 43 years young when he succumbed to this horrible disease. We think of colon cancer as an older person’s disease, but clearly, it is not, and there are many younger with it. The statistics also say that black and brown young people are more vulnerable. Let this be a warning for all…get tested! A colonoscopy isn’t fun, but it is imperative. It isn’t the first thing people want to do during the pandemic, but it is not to be ignored. A test widely available, and not to be missed, could not only save your life, but save the demanding treatments that our poor hero endured. I have read he had a temporary ostomy, which was reversed, and we will probably never know if that is true. It doesn’t matter…in his usual way, our hero drew attention to the deadly disease that needs to be identified and treated early for best chance of survival.
Deanna Brown-Thomas, daughter of the late James Brown said Chadwick visited before filming Get on Up, and that he was “the epitome of Black Elegance.” May I take that comment one step further? I would like to point out that Chadwick Boseman was the epitome of Human Elegance, a man in full, to be appreciated, to be admired, to be emulated, and a leader for us all.
Ellyn Mantell is a UOAA advocate and Affiliated Support Group leader from New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at morethanmyostomy