Embracing life as an ostomate

Positive attitude helped me embrace life as an ostomate

My name is Dan "Dry Dock" Shockley, retired Navy, served on 7 ships, 3 of which were deployed to the Persian Gulf. I was deployed to the Middle East numerous times in direct support of Operation Desert Storm Southern Watch; Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I'm an 8 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR w/a permanent ileostomy.

It was during a routine colonoscopy at age 51 in 2012 that they found over 100 polyps. After gene sequencing DNA testing I was diagnosed with Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP), a subtype of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. This rare genetic condition is an autosomal dominant germline mutation. It was discovered by Dr. Henry T. Lynch and estimated to  affect less than .03 percent of the worldwide population. Dr. Lynch is the founding father of hereditary cancer research.

Being intrigued by this diagnosis I took things in stages. First, by reading all I could about the mutation to better understand this disease, then I had the surgery to remove my colon, rectum and anus and create a permanent ileostomy. Second, embracing life as an ostomate. Thirdly, understanding this rare mutation and the impact it will have on my life.

During my 22-year Navy career I learned that mental and physical strength are important attributes, especially in the face of personal or professional adversity. My training has taught me that being informed, prepared and maintaining a positive attitude while committed to the mission is instrumental in achieving success. This is now my purpose.

When faced with challenges, both professionally, personally and physically, I maintain a positive attitude and utilize numerous resources that allow me to better understand the situation. Challenges like my AFAP diagnosis are opportunities, not obstacles that can’t be overcome.

I feel blessed to have been able to live a life with purpose. Worrying did not cause my condition and worrying will not make it go away. As I said, I look at having AFAP as a challenge rather than an obstacle. My mindset has been and continues to be not to think about the things I can’t control. Medical issues I can’t control. What I can control is my attitude – which has always been and will remain positive.

I have always had a great sense of faith – and feel that everything is for a purpose…this is my purpose. To educate and share my journey on behalf of those that could not share theirs. It is my purpose to spread awareness about hereditary colorectal cancer and importance of early detection.

I'm honored for the opportunity to collaborate with organizations both in the U.S. and abroad to share my story as a way to inspire and encourage others. My out reach efforts include numerous colon cancer; ostomy and rare disease organizations. They include, and are not limited to, the U.S. based Colon Cancer Prevention Project; Colon Cancer Coalition; United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA); National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD); the UK based Find A Cure organization and Rare Revolution Magazine; Ostomy Association of Ireland and Ostomy Canada Society.

My positive attitude had a direct impact on my faith, adapting to life as an ostomate and my purpose in life. That said, I've adopted four words I reflect on daily: Attitude; FAITH; ADAPT and Purpose.

Attitude = 100. Maintaining a positive attitude is instrumental in overcoming adversity.

FAITH = Full Assurance Influenced Through Hope

(An acronym I created after my diagnosis.)

Faith is believing in what we're unable to see. Example: We can see the tree branches swaying in the breeze. However, we're unable to see the breeze, just the effect of it.

ADAPT = Attitude Determines the Ability for a Positive Transformation

(An acronym I created shortly after my ostomy surgery.) 

My positive attitude and strong faith had a direct impact on my ability to adapt to life as an ostomate with a rare disease.

Purpose = My purpose is to educate the world about my hereditary colon cancer syndrome and importance of early detection continuing the legacy of Dr. Henry T. Lynch (See attached photo).

I always remember that AFAP, to me, stands for Always Forge Ahead with a Purpose. Remember to always maintain the ability to reach out and ask questions…do your research and find organizations that can help. But above all stay positive and find your purpose.

In closing, here's my analogy of LIFE and BASEBALL. What do they both have in common? Neither has a time limit. If the baseball game goes into extra innings, I think of it as free baseball. My life as a hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR is in extra innings. Therefore, I'm enjoying free baseball.

My Vision is to share my journey locally, nationally and internationally as a source of inspiration and encouragement on overcoming adversity.

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.

Always Forge Ahead w/a Purpose!