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Patient Story: Dan

My name is Dan Dry Dock Shockley, 60 years of age, retired U.S. Navy, Operation Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veteran and 9 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR.

Dr. Henry T. Lynch (right) during his academic lecture tour in Hawai’i shortly after my diagnosis and successful surgery.

In May 2012 my first and only colonoscopy, at the age of 51, results revealed 100 polyps throughout my colon, rectum and anus. I underwent germline DNA testing which would lead to the diagnosis of Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (AFAP), a subtype of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. I considered myself to be in good health w/no symptoms or family history.

Based on these findings it was in the best practice of medicine to undergo total-proctocolectomy with permanent ileostomy 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. 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 equipped 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; Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Michigan. 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 Hawai’i, 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 and he considered me a colleague.

My latest advocacy efforts are to have the 4th week of March designated as Hereditary Colon Cancer Awareness Week. I’ve received sponsorship from Texas Senator Donna Campbell, M.D., of my request. It’s been added to the Texas 87th Legislature session agenda. Once the Texas House and Senate floor approve my concurrent resolution Texas Governor Abbott will sign and be in effect for 10 years in the State of Texas. This is the first of its kind resolution.

Recently I was selected by University of Michigan Genetic Hereditary Testing (MiGHT) Advisory Board. We’ll focus on innovative approaches to expand cancer genetics screening & testing for patients & families in a statewide oncology network through community, state, & payer partnerships.

My Vision: To share my journey on the importance of early detection through national and international advocacy efforts for hereditary colon cancer awareness, as a source of inspiration and encouragement with the goal of overcoming adversity.

My Purpose is to educate the world about my hereditary colon cancer syndrome continuing the legacy of Dr. Henry T. Lynch. I was a colleague of his.

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!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

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