My name is Dan Shockley I’m 58 years of age and reside in Spring Branch, Texas. I’m retired Navy, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a 7-year hereditary colon cancer warrior.
I was introduced to the ThriveWell Cancer Foundation by Erin Ercoline, Executive Director, while at the Colon Cancer Coalition Get Your Rear In Gear 5K, in March 2019 at Morgan’s Wonderland. I was a guest speaker at the opening ceremony. After my presentation Erin introduced herself and invited me as a guest to attend the ThriveWell Annual Luncheon at the Witte Museum.
My journey began May 8, 2012 at the Sparks Matsunoga VA Medical Center, Hawaii. I underwent my first and only colonoscopy on that date. The results revealed 100 polyps throughout my colon, rectum and anus. As a result of these findings I underwent gene specific DNA testing, which would lead to the diagnosis of Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP), a subtype of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. The Certified Genetic Counselor at the Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii initiated the DNA testing. I considered myself to be in good health with no symptoms or any family history. Based on these findings it was in the best practice of medicine to undergo total-proctocolectomy, surgery to remove the colon and rectum, with ileostomy surgery (an opening in the abdominal wall that’s made during surgery)as any of the polyps left unattended have a 100% chance of developing into colon cancer.
Throughout this process my Certified Genetic Counselor and colorectal surgeon encouraged me to read about my condition, type of surgery, routine surveillance required as the mutation could manifest in my stomach and small intestine and life as an ostomate (an opening in the body for the discharge of body wastes). The surgery was successfully performed July 2012 at Tripler Army Medical Center.
During my 22-year Navy career I realized that mental and physical strength are important attributes, especially in the face of personal or professional adversity. My military experiences have taught me that being informed, prepared and maintaining a positive attitude while committed to the mission is instrumental in achieving success. When faced with challenges, both professionally 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.
From the onset I embraced the diagnosis and initiated my personal research efforts to better prepare myself for life with a hereditary colon cancer syndrome and an ostomy. It appears there are a limited number of resources for people with all varieties of hereditary cancer. I’ve enrolled in the hereditary colon cancer registries at Creighton University and Johns Hopkins Hospital. My hopes are one day my advocacy efforts for hereditary colon cancer syndromes will add significantly to this deficit of education pertaining to these concerns.
My Certified Genetic Counselor is a colleague of Dr. Henry T. Lynch, the founding father of hereditary colon cancer syndrome research. He is credited with discovering AFAP and co-authored a peer-reviewed publication in 1995 confirming his findings. This mutation is estimated to affect less than .03 percent of the worldwide population. Several months after my surgery Dr. Lynch visited Hawaii, where I was residing. I had the opportunity to meet him and we discussed my case. As a result we have remained in contact through the years.
My latest advocacy efforts are on behalf of the Hereditary Colon Cancer Takes Guts organization. Our goal is to have the 4th week of March designated as Hereditary Colon Cancer Awareness Week locally and nationally. This is the 1st of its kind campaign. On a local level March 2019 I’ve requested and received Hereditary Colon Cancer Awareness Week proclamations from the Comal County Commissioners Courthouse and New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel.
I’ve also reached out to Senator Donna Campbell for sponsorship consideration. Our hopes are to have the Hereditary Colon Cancer Awareness Week initiative added to the next Texas Legislative session agenda. Our long-term goal is to have a Senate Bill established for this measure.
My Vision: To share my journey on the importance of early detection through local, state and national advocacy efforts for hereditary colon cancer awareness, as a source of inspiration and encouragement with the goal of overcoming adversity.
My Purpose: To educate the world about hereditary colon cancer syndromes to promote awareness of these diseases and increase the chances of saving lives.
In closing, here’s my metaphor about LIFE and the game of BASEBALL. What do LIFE and BASEBALL have in common? Neither has a time limit. That said, if the BASEBALL game goes into extra innings it’s considered FREE baseball. I like to consider my life as a hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR as in extra innings, which to me is like FREE BASEBALL!
My mantra is: Always Forge Ahead w/a Purpose!
New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel HCC Awareness proclamation presentation.
Comal County Commissioner’s Courthouse HCC Awareness proclamation presentation.