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2020, a Pandemic, and the Black Panther

We all know what a crazy year it has been.

Distance learning. Cancelled vacations. Virtual events.

Delayed screenings.

Back in March, aka Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, as we were hitting our awareness-raising groove, the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt. Unprecedented in our lifetime. We lost a lot during the early months of the Coronavirus pandemic.

During this time it is estimated that 1.7 million colonoscopies were missed.

Over 18,800 colorectal cancer diagnoses were delayed.

And 4,500 unnecessary deaths may be the cost for these delays over the next several years.

Chadwick Boseman Credit: Sam Jones

This weekend, 2020 threw us another curve ball. The shocking death of Chadwick Boseman. The picture of health. An actual superhero. He succumbed to this very disease at just 43-years-old.

It is a story the colorectal cancer community knows all too well. And we at Colon Cancer Coalition continue to mourn the loss of another superhero. A fierce advocate and mother. Sarah DeBord. Also 43.

By all accounts, Chadwick filmed many movies while going through numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, with little signs of slowing down. Diagnosed at 39, his four-year journey was private; but his death can serve as an opportunity to sound the alarm about the increase in early age onset colorectal cancer and the impacts of colon cancer in communities of color. Plus illuminate that black men and women have a significantly increased risk of dying from colorectal cancer than white men and women.

Sarah, too, was diagnosed young; she used her journey as a platform for bringing awareness to colorectal cancer, specifically young onset. She connected with many newly diagnosed patients, bringing them hope in the process. Sarah’s fight was public until the very end, when she knew the cancer was finally going to end her life.

Sarah DeBord Credit: Kimm Ehlen

So, how do we find purpose in the death of these two people and the countless others?

We recommit to our mission of spreading that word that colorectal cancer does not discriminate on age, race, sex or color.

We double down on the important messages of knowing the symptoms, advocating for your own health, and getting screened.

The Colon Cancer Coalition has been planning a two-week “Pandemic Effects” awareness campaign. Bringing back messages that got sidelined in March. And renewing calls for Americans to pick up the phone and talk to their doctor about screening for colorectal cancer.

We take on this effort with renewed urgency and purpose.

Please help us share these important messages. We need to reach out of the colorectal cancer community. We need your help to reach more and more people whose eyes are now open to the possibility of a young person dying from colorectal cancer.

Don’t assume that care is unavailable. Now is the time to pick up the phone and schedule your missed doctor’s appointments.