Always Forge Ahead with a Purpose
My name is Dan Dry Dock Shockley, retired Navy, Operation Desert Storm; Enduring and Iraqi Freedom veteran and 9 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR.
In 2012, I underwent my first and only colonoscopy at 51 years of age, performed by the Pacific Islands Veterans Healthcare System, Hawai'i. The results revealed 100 polyps embedded throughout my colon, rectum and anus. I was immediately referred to the Certified Genetic Counselor, at Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawai'i, for further evaluation to include germline DNA testing. It was thought I had hereditary colon cancer syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). However, the DNA test results would confirm the outcome.
My genetic counselor and colorectal surgeon discussed the mutation they thought I had, type of surgery and life with an ostomy. The DNA test results would take about three weeks to come back. In the meantime I was provided some resources to better understand my condition. As I initiated my personal research journey divided my efforts into three phases, DNA test results; type of surgery and life as an ostomate. I've found in life we have two choices: we can React or Respond. My
choice is to respond, by gathering information it affords me the opportunity to better prepare myself of making
logical and informed decisions.
My research efforts revealed there is limited information on the mutation. My mindset from the onset is I tend not to think of things I'm unable to control, such as medical conditions. What I can control is my positive attitude and after five decades on God's green earth my positive attitude has brought me this far, why change now.
It was at the six week point when the DNA test results arrived. My genetic counselor and colorectal surgeon scheduled a meeting to discuss the findings. It's important to to note my military experiences equipped me to adapt, improvise and overcome. I've faced personal and professional challenges. Maintaining a positive attitude has afforded me the
opportunity of overcoming adversity.
The DNA test results confirmed the diagnosis of attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP), an autosomal dominant germline mutation. It's estimated that AFAP impacts less than .03% of the global population. Dr. Henry T. Lynch, the founding father of hereditary cancer research, is credited with discovering AFAP. My genetic counselor and colorectal surgeon were colleagues of Dr. Lynch.
Based on these findings it was in the best practice of medicine to undergo total-proctocolectomy w/ileostomy
surgery. Throughout this process my Certified Genetic Counselor and Colorectal surgeon encouraged me to read about the mutation, type of surgery, life as an ostomate and the routine opthomology examinations
and endoscopic procedures of my stomach and small intestine. Since I've researched my condition and discussed it w/my family and medical team, I was mentally prepared for the surgery.
It's important to note, I didn't have any symptoms or family history. Surgery was performed two weeks after receiving the DNA test results and one of the polyps was an 8cm tumor, Stage 0 cancer, which was successfully removed.
As I prepared for my life w/a hereditary colon cancer syndrome and a permanent ostomy, I adopted the following four words to reflect upon:
Attitude = 100. My positive attitude was vital in my ability to overcome adversity.
FAITH = Full Assurance Influenced Through Hope. An acronym I created after my diagnosis.
ADAPT = Attitude Determines the Ability for a Positive Transformation. An acronym I created after my diagnosis.
Purpose = Educate the world about FAP, continuing the legacy of Dr. Henry T. Lynch, on the importance of early detection in hopes of saving lives.
There seems to be a limited amount of information on hereditary colon cancer syndromes. My hopes are by sharing my journey it will benefit the medical
community in the coming years and decades.
Sharing my journey is important to me, being a source of inspiration and encouragement. By sending out positive thoughts, I receive them back tenfold.
I have a metaphor of LIFE and BASEBALL. What do they both have in common? LIFE and BASEBALL do not have a time limit. When a baseball game goes into extra innings, I think of it as free baseball. As a 9 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR, my life is in extra innings and I'm enjoying FREE BASEBALL.
In closing, there's an old cliche we may not be able to change the direction of the wind, what we can do is adjust our sails. After 22 years in the Navy, I'm good at adjusting.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Always Forge Ahead w/a Purpose!
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