Why the Black Panther Is a True Superhero to Me

Tom Rifai, MD, FACP
Newspaper with headline,

When actor Chadwick Boseman passed away from colon cancer at the young age of 43, it shook the world and woke us up to the fact that colon cancer is not an “old person’s” disease. It woke us up to the fact that we need to listen to our bodies and get medical help if we notice odd symptoms, even if we’re younger than 50.

My first colonoscopy was at 40 (I’m 52 now). It was completely clear, thankfully. I was supposed to follow up by 50. But having changed career paths in the last couple of years from conventional clinical to entrepreneurial digital therapeutics and then to my current role as Chief Medical Officer for Wellway Health, my screening was delayed by “too busy syndrome” to 51. Ok, no biggie. Right? But then came the proverbial head-on bus, barreling through…the pandemic. And, you guessed it, I was one of many whose cancer screening colonoscopies was “COVID cancelled.”  Then I got “severely re-infected” by “too busy syndrome” with “no time” to reschedule (quotations galore because there’s a notable contribution from human rationalization in there, I’m sure, even if I “really feel” like I was “honestly, too busy”).

Having Symptoms? Family History? Time to Get Checked for Colon Cancer

My maternal grandmother survived stage 3 colon cancer, and my father’s life was likely saved by a colonoscopy (it found an aggressive “sessile“ colon polyp, which was removed during the procedure), so enough (rationalizing) is enough. It is time to make that call to my GI doc. The truth is his scheduler, and even my GI doc himself, have tried diligently to reach out to me. Dr. B even called me personally. So I own this delay — I dropped the ball. It’s time to pick it up and get back into the prevention game. I’ve got too many WHY’s on the court of life – especially two little munchkins called Liliana and Antonio. I’m sending that email to Denise, the scheduler for Dr. B, immediately (and I mean it! feel free to keep me accountable at Facebook.com/DrTomMD).

And to think, again, that my GI doc actually called me personally to get my butt in gear (no pun). And to think I rationalized to him with “but my lifestyle is so different from my grandma and dad’s”…blah, blah, blah. While that is true, it is rationalization in action. No more BS (again, no pun). It’s colonoscopy time. I’m so sorry Mr. Boseman did not make it. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends. He was far too young to pass. But, Mr. Panther, you truly are a superhero to me. It is you that just may have saved this dad’s life. You did not leave us in vain. May God rest your soul in peace, and thank you. Truly, thank you.

Is it time for you to “un-cancel COVID”? If so, please, don’t wait. Do it for the Black Panther. Do it for your kids. But most of all, do it for YOU.

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