Being remembered. Chadwick Boseman‘s cause of death was a wake-up call for many young adults about the risk of colon cancer. Boseman—who has starred in movies like Black Panther, 21 Bridges and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (for which he was nominated for a posthumous Oscar)—died on August 28, 2020 after a four-year-long battle with colon cancer. He was 43.
His family confirmed his death on Instagram at the time. “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” the post read. “Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV. A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”
The statement continued, “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
At the 2021 Golden Globes, Boseman’s widow, Simone Ledward, delivered an emotional speech as she accepted the award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama on his behalf. “He would thank God,” she said. “He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices. He would say something beautiful. Something inspiring. Something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you were meant to be doing.”
TMZ reported in September 2020 that Boseman’s death led to a massive increase in donations to colon cancer awareness and research. The disease is the third leading form of cancer in both women and men in the United States. Anjee Davis, President of Fight Colorectal Cancer, told TMZ at the time that her organization received a boost in social media followers and donations of more than $10,000 within days of Boseman’s death. She told TMZ that the funds will go toward research for better treatment options and a cure for colon caner. She also hoped that Boseman’s death increased awareness around the disease and pushed people to look into their family history of colon cancer and undergo early screenings if they’ve seen signs or symptoms.
Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, also told told TMZ that Boseman’s death brought “the most monumental change” to how people viewed colon cancer. Cindy Borassi, Interim President for the Colon Cancer Foundation, also said that Boseman’s “larger-than-life personality” helped boost outreach, awareness and support for colon cancer research during a time when screenings went down. She told TMZ at the time that donations to her organization increased by at least 300 percent within days of Boseman’s death.
Gus Rodriguez, a man from Atlantis, Florida, told CBS 12 in March 2021 about how Boseman’s cause of death led to him getting screened for colon cancer after years of ignoring the signs. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘I got a confession to make,'” he said. “She said, ‘You gotta get it checked out’ and I said, ‘You’re right.'”
“Chadwick Boseman was a hero on and off the screen and he was young,” Dr. Heidi Bahna, a colorectal surgeon at JFK Hospital in Atlantis, told CBS 12, which reported that Rodriguez found out via a colonoscopy that his cancer was in the early stages. Dr. Bahna performed the surgery before it could spread.
“We were able to do a robotic, minimally invasive surgery, and he was cured of his cancer and will get chemotherapy to make sure this cancer doesn’t come back,” he said. “Early colon cancers are often treated with surgery alone, and have a very good survival, about 90 percent for stage one and two,” added Dr. Juliet Ray, a colorectal surgeon at JFK.