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Chadwick Boseman's death inspires local woman to share battle with colon cancer

Ann Sherman-White found out she had colorectal cancer when she was just 32.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The day was Sept. 20, 1997: It was a day that changed Ann Sherman-White forever.

"I was 24 weeks pregnant with our daughter. My appendix ruptured...I had emergency surgery to have my appendix removed, and then 24 hours later, our daughter was born,” she said.

Additionally, on top of worrying about her premature child, Sherman-White now had another heavy burden to bear.

"The nurses were walking very gently [asking], 'Are you okay?' And I'm thinking, 'Oh yeah, you know they're doing this because I just had a baby at 24 weeks and we didn't know if she was going to live. Lo and behold, when they took out my appendix, that's where they saw the colon cancer," she said.

She was just 32. However, doctors say colon cancer is becoming more common in younger people, and the rates are even higher for African Americans. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer than any other racial group.

"The racial disparities, the racial differences in treatment really go all across the entire spectrum of the survival…” Dr. Daniel Labow told CBS News.

It's part of what makes the untimely death of movie star Chadwick Boseman so hard to fathom.

"So unfortunate, but I'm happy and proud that he was able to accomplish what he did with those four years because he did not allow himself to just die. He lived,” Sherman-White said. "Be kind because you don't know what's going on. You don't know what's behind the smile. 

"You don't know what's behind the strength."

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