A Colon Cancer WARRIOR’s Journey – Forging Ahead With A Purpose

My name is Dan Dry Dock Shockley, retired U.S. Navy, Operation Desert Storm; Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veteran and 9 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR w/a permanent ileostomy.

In May 2012, while I resided in Hawai’i, my first and only colonoscopy at age 51 was performed.

The results revealed 100 polyps embedded throughout my colon, rectum and anus. Based on these findings I visited a Certified Genetic Counselor. Germline DNA sequencing testing was initiated. I had not experienced any symptoms and had no family history. 

A Colon Cancer Warrior's Journey - Forging Ahead With A Purpose

My Certified Genetic Counselor and colorectal surgeon, at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawai’i, encouraged me to read about the gene mutation they suspected I had. This would allow me an opportunity to better familiarize myself with what is considered life-saving surgery as well as a life-changing event. 

The results revealed the diagnosis of attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP), which is an autosomal dominant germline mutation. It is estimated to impact less than 0.03% of the global population. It’s important to note, Dr. Henry T. Lynch, the founding father of hereditary colon cancer research, is credited w/the discovery of AFAP. My Certified Genetic Counselor and colorectal surgeon were colleagues of Dr. Lynch. 

Based on these findings it was in the best practice of medicine to have total-proctocolectomy surgery w/a permanent ileostomy. Surgery was successfully performed at Tripler Army Medical Center in the days following the diagnosis.

My colon cancer warrior mindset was, and continues to be:

I tend not to think about things out of my control, such as medical concerns. What I can control is my attitude. After 5 decades on God’s green earth my positive attitude has brought me this far why change now. 

&Quot;Maintaining A Positive Attitude And Having Strong Faith Made A Significant Impact On My Ability To Overcome Adversity.&Quot;
Dan Dry Dock Shockley with Dr. Henry T. Lynch

During the 9 week recovery process, my focus was to keep my brain busy.  Reaching out to numerous organizations nationally and internationally better prepared me for life as an ostomate w/a rare gene mutation. Sharing my journey as a source of inspiration is important to me.

From the onset, my response was to embrace this condition and adapt to life as an ostomate. Maintaining a positive attitude and having strong faith made a significant impact on my ability to overcome adversity.

As a colon cancer warrior I’ve adopted the below four words to reflect on: 

  1. Attitude = 100%. By maintaining a positive attitude it allows for a better chance of overcoming adversity.
  2. FAITH, I created the following acronym: Full Assurance Influenced Through Hope. Having FAITH is believing in something we’re unable to see. Hence, having hope things turn out good.
  3. ADAPT, here’s my acronym for what it means to me as an ostomate: Attitude Determines the Ability for a Positive Transformation.
  4. Purpose, my Purpose is to educate the world about my hereditary colon cancer syndrome and the importance of early detection in efforts of continuing the legacy of Dr. Henry T. Lynch.

In closing, I recall an old cliche, it’s been said you can lead a horse to water, however, you can’t make it drink. However, I discovered you can influence the horse to drink by feeding it salt along the way.

My hopes are by sharing this story it will serve as a source of salt for those who read it.

Always Forge Ahead w/a Purpose!

Further reading

Sharing My Story Of Colon Cancer

Video: Tips That Can Help With The Emotional Distress Caused By Cancer And Its Therapies

How To Support Someone Going Through Chemo: Easy and Not So Easy Tips

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