In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s passing, I just want to share a personal story about it. I don’t want to center myself—if anything, this is to THANK Boseman for one last indirect act of heroism.
You see, Friday night when I saw the announcement, I had been in significant anal/rectal pain for around a month and a half. At first, back in July, my GI diagnosed an internal hemorrhoid, which I thought was fair enough. I’ve had a fraught relationship with my intestines for most of my life, and it’s only got tougher over the last decade.
I was diagnosed finally with IBS, I aim for a low FODMAP intake, and recently I’ve been having a good deal of trouble avoiding straining to eliminate. So hemorrhoids seemed like an embarrassing, self-inflicted condition that “might as well happen.” Even though I’m not yet 40, let along 50, we also scheduled a colonoscopy for September 10, just to see if there’s some underlying issue and to get to the bottom of my IBS stuff, see if I have Crohn’s, etc. Why the delay? Well, I’m doing some traveling to accommodate a bathroom reconstruction, and having a working toilet seems like a good thing for all this.
The thing is, even after the course of treatment, even after I drove the 12.5 hours down to California, they didn’t go away. Or, more accurately, the PAIN didn’t go away, and I (foolishly) thought “hey, it’s probably just the hemorrhoids—I can make it to my colonoscopy on September 10.”
Wow, was I wrong.
But hey, I was tough. Resilient. Stoic. I’m a guy, I can deal with my shit (no pun intended, but welcome). I try not to be toxic in my masculinity, but every guy out there will be able to relate: you want to maintain some control over your own body and your own choices. And I figured, “I got this.”
The pain, however, had other plans. It just got worse and worse, especially this last week. On Friday, I was in really bad shape, and that’s when I saw the news about Chadwick Boseman.
Our King had been fighting an all but hopeless battle against Stage IV colon cancer for four agonizing years. And during that time, he produced such art of such beauty and power as to place him among the rising, shining stars of our era. He wasn’t that much older than me, and I was proud to have a role model like him. And colon cancer ultimately claimed him, long before his time. He should have had so many more years to develop his talent and climb to new heights. He has left a bright mark on history even as it is—imagine what might have been without that dragon, cancer.
Chadwick Boseman, role model of non-toxic masculinity. Absolute legend.
Anyway, the announcement did something particular to me. Made me sad and angry, yes, but it also reminded me of something. Something I had realized twenty years ago, but had apparently forgotten: sometimes, there are challenges in life we simply cannot defeat, and if we can defeat them, sometimes we can’t do it alone, no matter how tough or willful we think we are. We need to be able to ask for help.
And so on Saturday, when I woke up in more pain than ever, when I could barely stand or walk or sit, when I had to lean on things and my legs shook and I soaked in sweat from the pain, I did it. I asked for help. I asked my parents to take me to the hospital.
Where they discovered, though digital assessment and a cat scan, both good news and bad news: my hemorrhoids (assuming they were ever really there) had gone away, but I also had a perirectal abscess that would need surgery to resolve. No amount of warm baths and willpower would have fixed that. Also, if I’d waited just another day or two, that abscess could have burst—it was apparently already starting to open up when they got me in the stirrups at the surgery yesterday (Sunday).
(Hey, uh, maybe this is obvious, but don’t try to tough things out. Get checked and sorted early. It’s always the better call.)
Anyway, I’m on the mend. I have a new hole in my butt—well, a temporary one—stuffed with gauze that needs to be changed every day, and it’s gonna be painful and embarrassing to deal with. But I am alive, I am healing, and I can finally let go of all that pain.
So thank you, Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for your art, that inspired me and so many others. Thank you for your strength, to do what you loved despite impending doom. Thank you for being a light for so many in a world that seems to get darker by the day.
And thank you for saving my ass.
You’ll always be a hero to me.