Let me get two things out of the way:
First, I loved Chadwick Boseman. He was a wonderful actor and seemed for all the world a lovely, kind, decent man.
Second, my beloved mother died of colon cancer a couple of years after it had metastasized to her liver. She died young, just 56. So I have a special, immeasurable hatred of colon cancer.
When news broke of Boseman’s death of that horrible, despicable, repugnant disease, I was first stunned and saddened that we lost a truly great human. Then another thought came, and I didn’t like it.
Why on earth would he have chosen to work as hard as he clearly did while undergoing chemotherapy and, most likely, at least one operation to treat his illness? Why would he have continued those horrifically long days filming movies, as well as all of those horrifically long days promoting the films —all the meet-and-greets, the red carpets, the interviews, the flying all over the globe. Why?
He must have been constantly fatigued. He certainly pushed his body to the brink during production, and for an actor that’s commendable. But for a human with a systemic, potentially deadly disease, all of that physical and emotional work must have taken a substantial toll on his overall health and how well his body responded to the chemotherapies. It had to have.
Boseman was a strong, muscular, energetic artist, and his body proved capable of withstanding an enormous amount of stress, but no body can keep up that kind of punishing schedule over the long term.
Now, I obviously don’t know any of the particulars of Boseman’s treatment, his prognoses over the years, or his own reasons for working so much during therapy. Perhaps he knew, somehow, at some level, that he wouldn’t survive and so decided to leave as large a legacy as he could in the time he had left. I don’t know.
What I do know is that each of the many decisions he made over the last few years — signing on to do this movie or that, attending this premiere or that, sitting down for late-night interviews, and myriad other decisions — must have greatly affected his overall health. He would have known that; he was far too intelligent not to have. His doctors probably told him so as well; they would have been negligent if they didn’t. Yet he made those decisions anyway.
Maybe I would have done the same. Maybe if I knew what Chadwick knew, maybe I would have continued to work too, maybe there was no other acceptable choice. I don’t know.
But I wish he hadn’t worked so hard. I wish he had taken it easier. I wish the treatments had worked.
Most of all, though, I wish he was still with us.