My name is Dan “Dry Dock” Shockley — I’m a retired Navy, Operation Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom veteran, and an eight-year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR with a permanent ileostomy. I had just retired from the Navy and was living in Hawaii when I was diagnosed with a rare gene mutation.
I was diagnosed with Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP) in June of 2012 at the age of 51. My certified genetic counselor and colorectal surgeon at Tripler Army Medical Center played a significant role in my ability to, as they say in the Marines, adapt, overcome, and improvise. He encouraged me to read about AFAP (which is an autosomal dominant germline mutation), and to familiarize myself with the lifesaving surgery required known as total-proctocolectomy with an ileostomy. This surgery removed my colon, rectum, and anus, and I quickly embraced my condition and adapted to life as an ostomate.
Maintaining a positive attitude and having strong faith made a significant impact on my ability to overcome adversity. It’s been said that we cannot direct the wind, but we can learn to adjust our sails. After spending 22 years in the Navy, I’m good at adjusting my sails. I also recall hearing that a broken crayon can still color. We all are a little broken, but I’m still coloring!
From the onset of my diagnosis, I chose to not think about things I am unable to control. While I can’t control my medical conditions, I can control my attitude. After five decades on God’s green earth my positive attitude has brought me far!
My vision is to share my journey on the importance of early detection through local, state, national, and international advocacy efforts for rare disease and hereditary colon cancer awareness. I hope to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to others. To that end, I have been featured in a variety of podcasts and publications, and it was my honor to speak at the Get Your Rear in Gear- San Antonio event in 2019.
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, who identified the specific colorectal cancer strain that I have. They say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You can, however, influence the horse to drink by feeding it salt along the way.
I hope that by sharing my story, I can be the salt that influences others to get screened.
To learn more of Dan’s story and his work in colon cancer advocacy, please visit:
- The Go Anywhere Do Anything Podcast
- Stealth Belt Podcast Episode
- Tripler Army Medical Center Feature Article
- American Sports History Podcast
- Who’s Raising Awareness?