In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s death, people have been remarking on how amazing and inspiring he is for continuing to work through his cancer. And indeed, it is very courageous. He didn’t let that disease stop him from doing what he loved.
I also think that it is important to note, this isn’t a new thing. Many people continue to work through cancer and other terrible diseases. I am in no way belittling Boseman, but I feel like it is worth acknowledging that this is something that many people with cancers and serious illnesses do. It’s equally inspiring on all levels.
I continued to go to work as often as I could during my chemo rounds for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma. We played my schedule by ear. I would text my boss if I was feeling too bad that day or my oncology team would let my other boss (a physician himself) know that I wouldn’t be able to come in. Other than that, I tried to make it business as usual for me. I would usually take the day after chemo off since I would feel pretty bad and that would be when my Onpro device injected my Neulasta.
There are some people who weren’t as lucky as me. They either felt too awful to continue working or their platelet/white blood cell counts were too low. Some even have to quit their jobs. I for one know that if I still worked at my old retail job when I got sick, I would’ve had to quit (if I was even still alive by the time my cancer was discovered).
Now, most people don’t do action-oriented stunts and have muscles for days like Boseman. But it is important to acknowledge that there were days where he had to have felt like pure crap. Absolute shit. People made comments about what type of expression he had at a premier or how tired or irritated he looked. Some criticized him for that. And towards the end, he had lost quite a bit of weight, something people made fun of him for. I really hope the people who took part in the criticism feel like shit for it honestly. But Chadwick isn’t the first to work through cancer and he won’t be the last (not until all cancers are cured anyways).
Lots of people have to work through their treatments for various reasons. Some, for example, can’t afford to not work. Some insurances aren’t as pleasant as others and do not cover the treatments for different reasons (sometimes it’s a clinical trial, other times the company is just an asshole). Grants do help with some of the costs, but they don’t cover everything. Some people prefer to work to stay busy and keep that sense of normalcy. I was so grateful when my company agreed to allow me to work from home. I was going stir crazy just laying on my sofa. At least that way, I could still work on something and feel like I’m participating.
There are many people like Chadwick Boseman. People who refuse to let cancer or any other serious illness stand in the way of their life or dreams. It’s admirable for sure. People who are unable to continue working or doing what they love are admirable too. They are fighting something that is often unseen. Let me mention here that there are companies who have fired their employee after finding out about their diagnosis. Illegal yes, but they figure out a reason to justify it.
Many people didn’t know Boseman was sick, and there are people you pass every day that don’t look sick either. But, like him, they are fighting some sort of disease (be it cancer or depression). When I was working through my treatments, people didn’t know I was sick until they asked. I had decided to wear hijabs through my hair loss (the reason behind this is discussed in another blog post) and many thought I was a Islam convert or that I had always been Muslim and was observing something (this came with it’s own bout of racism I was completely not expecting from people in my town).
I feel that Chadwick Boseman’s high profile career played a role in how people reacted when news of his death (and cause of death) came to light. People can’t help but be impressed by him doing multiple films (including 4 Marvel films) in between surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. Hell, I’m impressed by that. I couldn’t imagine doing that. But there are people who do things as equally impressive, such as getting up for work at 6am and working until 5pm or later the day after chemotherapy. Or maybe they keep a positive attitude and do their best to make others laugh. Maybe they help someone else through a hard time and never disclose their own struggles. The next time you find out that someone is working through their cancer diagnosis and treatments, I hope you treat it with the same level of awe and respect as you have with Chadwick Boseman.