Brown Sugar Rehab founder Shannon Sylvain is fighting for her life and yours.
At 31, Sylvain received a call from her doctor that would forever change her life. She had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, better known as colon cancer. “My doctor asked if I was sitting down,” recalled Sylvain to Essence. “After telling her yes, I remember her voice cracking when she explained that they saw evidence of colon cancer during the procedure.”
“I was in disbelief,” she said of the initial shock. “All I could think was how badly I wanted to stay in this moment with my husband, in our home, singing Stevie Wonder songs and laughing,” she continued.
After confirming that the periodic “blood in my stool” wasn’t internal hemorrhoids, Sylvain underwent a colonoscopy. “[It] is something that everyone should get at least once … colon cancer is considered the silent killer because there aren’t really huge symptoms,” she continued.
While testing was covered by her insurance company, Sylvain paid $3,000 out of pocket for the colonoscopy because she did not meet the age requirement — 50-years and older for most companies. In addition, she hadn’t yet met her in-network insurance deductible.
Sylvain went on to recall her doctor telling her that colon cancer was preventable, yet affects minorities specifically Blacks, disproportionately, for two reasons: “Access to financial resources and good doctors.”
“That information was very startling to me since colon cancer is preventable, and you don’t have to die from it even if diagnosed,” she added.
Considering the out-of-pocket cost, it made sense that the procedure may not be the first option for everyone. Per the CDC, the most recent data indicates that Black men have the highest rate of colon cancer diagnosis, followed by Whites and Hispanics.
Last spring, Sylvain underwent her first surgery for stage IV colorectal cancer followed by two months of daily radiation. After enduring six months of chemotherapy she was told at the end of last year that she was cancer-free. Unfortunately, at the end of March, she received some disheartening news — the colon cancer is now showing up in her liver.
“It was difficult for my family, but we are believers and will continue to pray through this … I know God wouldn’t put more on me than I can bear,” she said. In spite of it all, Sylvain used her diagnosis as an opportunity to help others. In fact, she launched Brown Sugar Rehab, a nonprofit organization that builds awareness and provides financial assistance for screenings.
“My biggest thing is prevention. If we can be having a conversation and be properly educated about colon cancer, then it can be a conversation that’s easy to have with your family, your friends and amongst other people,” Sylvain said.