The 2020 death of actor Chadwick Boseman came as a shock to most of his fans and to much of Hollywood. Boseman died of colon cancer at the age of 43 on August 28, 2020. It had progressed from stage three to four.
He had been diagnosed with the illness four years earlier and never disclosed or made his condition known to the public. His quiet battle was a stunning revelation to many because during his initial diagnosis and treatment, Boseman took on some of the biggest roles of his career.
One of those was Marvel’s “Black Panther,” the high-grossing blockbuster film that earned the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first Oscar, per Entertainment Weekly. He also filmed his final movie, Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which earned him a posthumous Oscar nomination.
Despite a family statement confirming his cause of death and the length of time that he endured his sickness, there were conflicting reports that followed in the wake of his death. In September 2020, a claim from a now non-existent website called Toronto Today said that Boseman was poisoned and that his death was going to be investigated as a homicide, via IBTimes.
A disturbing claim after Chadwick Boseman’s death
The disturbing claim was unfounded, reported Reuters. Many of Boseman’s fans had long speculated that he may have been battling an illness after a video of him last year showed him with a significant drop in weight. But after the public learned what led to his death, people knew that weight loss was just one of the many symptoms.
To date, no official autopsy report highlighting Boseman’s cause of death has ever been released or made public online (via Politifact). And there is also uncertainty if an autopsy was actually performed. What is true is that based on all reports, Boseman was diagnosed with stage-3 colon cancer in 2016, and at the time of his death, it had progressed to stage four, per The New York Times. According to WebMD, that particular stage is one of the final two levels of colon cancer and has a survival rate of only around 14% — a challenge even for a man who was a superhero.
What The Last 12 Months Of Chadwick Boseman’s Life Were Like
Chadwick Boseman, a highly regarded actor who had evidenced a remarkable range through the various roles in his body of work, died August 28 at home, surrounded by family, according to CNN. He was 43 years old. The cause of death was colon cancer.
A South Carolina native, Boseman was a graduate of Howard University, reported CBS News, and also had attended the British American Drama Academy at Oxford. After initial acting jobs in television, Boseman found national acclaim for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42. He went on to star in such projects as Get on Up in 2014, 21 Bridges in 2019, and this year’s Stormin’ Norman. And while his performances are already hailed as iconic, particularly his turn as Robinson, he perhaps reached his widest audience portraying T’Challa, the Black Panther, in several Marvel Comics movies. The character first appeared in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and went on to his own feature two years later.
The cancer diagnosis came in 2016 — it was already at Stage 3, reports People Magazine. He continued to work, even as he underwent treatments for his condition throughout much of his career, says Variety.
Portraying The Black Panther was ‘an honor’
The Mirror, based in the UK, states that Boseman “spent the last four years undergoing chemotherapy and surgery to treat the illness.” Through the course of his treatments, he would visit hospitalized children who were also receiving chemotherapy. He never spoke publicly about his own health challenges. Yet despite the exhaustion of cancer treatment, he managed one last performance, for Netflix’s production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which wrapped last summer.
He referred to his “Black Panther” role as an “honor.” When the film won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Boseman addressed the assembled actors and entertainers. According to the Associated Press report, Boseman told the crowd, “We know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. … We know what’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day. We knew that we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something to give.”
In a statement regarding his death, his family said, “Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much.” And he did persevere — through the treatments, through the pain — until the very end.
Smiling through struggle
Though Boseman’s struggle wasn’t made public, his commitment to working through the exhausting reality of chemotherapy can serve as a final message of inspiration for fans. The American Cancer Society cites a laundry list of common side effects of cancer treatment, including fatigue, digestive trouble, mood swings, trouble focusing, weight loss, nausea and a weakened immune system, among many more. For many undergoing chemo, getting out of bed is hard enough, but Boseman managed to film multiple blockbuster films, many of which required intense physical fitness, and participated in the ensuing media storm that comes with being a household name. Through it all, Boseman continued to hold the torch for those he represented without letting on what he was going through.
Still, fans became concerned for the star’s health after an April 2020 Instagram post commemorating Jackie Robinson Day. In the video, a noticeably gaunt Boseman announced a collaboration between former Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull and surgical scrubs manufacturer FIGS, dubbed “Operation 42,” in honor of Robinson, which included a $4.2 million donation of medical gear to Black communities heavily affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Speculation ranged from theories that Boseman had lost weight for an upcoming role to the conclusion that he was just naturally skinny, ultimately causing Boseman to archive the video. Due to the pandemic, Jackie Robinson Day was moved to August 28 — the same day Boseman’s death became public knowledge.
‘What an incredible mark he’s left for us’
In an emotional tribute, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler revealed that “wasn’t privy to the details of actor’s illness,” adding “…I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.”
When faced with death, Chadwick Boseman doubled down on life, through sickness and discomfort. His life ended tragically early, as always seems to be the case for those who truly inspire, but he shone as bright as any star could.