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Sunday sessions

Attitude, adapt, faith and purpose; how Dan “Dry Dock” Shockley uses his positive state of mind to adapt to life as an “ostomate”.

Dan is a great friend of our RARE Rev movement and we have enjoyed keeping up to date with his efforts in raising awareness for hereditary colorectal cancer and importance of early detection. We featured Dan in our Summer 2019 RARE Cancer edition and are delighted to welcome him as our first guest blogger for the #SundaySessions series.  Our new guest blog series inviting our community to share their views and reflections on a variety of thought-provoking topics. We are starting with
​“Reflections on faith and spirituality”. 

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 Southern Watch; Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I’m an 8 year hereditary colon cancer WARRIOR w/a permanent ileostomy.

Challenges like my AFAP diagnosis are opportunities, not obstacles that can’t be overcome.

It was during a routine colonoscopy at age 51 in 2012 that they found over 100 polyps embedded throughout my colon, rectum and anus. 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.

 “I also learned early on to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

There is an old cliché: “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” I once heard 
there is a flip side to this saying. You can influence a horse to drink the water by providing it salt on the way. When I think of this expression it serves as a constant reminder to me that as Christians we are the salt of the earth as mentioned in Matthew 5:13. With that said, the Bible is our source of salt. There are many references in the Bible pertaining to salt. In numerous contexts, it is used metaphorically to be a sign of permanence, loyalty, fidelity, value, purification, durability and usefulness. Of these, the contexts of durability and usefulness have had a direct impact in my life. 

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

Moving forward, I have been able to overcome this medical challenge, adapt to my new life style and press on with my life with a business as usual approach. I maintain the same attitude today and share it every opportunity I have. I draw my strength being an example of the salt of the earth” and realize the type of difference I know I can make in my life. I truly believe attitude determines the ability for a positive transition. My daily walk with the Lord is the reason for my durability and usefulness as the salt of the earth. 

​​I have always had a great sense of faith – and feel that everything is for a purpose…this is my purpose. I’ve always had faith in my family, my fellow comrades and my medical team.

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 mentioned earlier, 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 unable to control, such as medical conditions. What I can control is my attitude – which has always been and will remain positive.

My purpose is to educate and share my journey on behalf of those that could not share theirs. My hope is by spreading awareness about hereditary colorectal cancer and importance of early detection will saves lives.

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.

Maintaining a positive attitude is
instrumental in overcoming adversity

Full Assurance Influenced Through Hope
(An acronym I created after my diagnosis.)

​Attitude Determines the Ability for a Positive Transformation
(An acronym I created shortly after my ostomy surgery.)

My purpose is to educate the world about hereditary colon cancer syndromes and importance of early detection continuing the legacy of Dr. Henry T. Lynch.

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

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 organisations that can help.

But above all stay positive, keep the faith and find your purpose.

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

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 colon cancer WARRIOR is in extra innings. Therefore, I’m enjoying free baseball.

​I have come to realize when life throws us a curve, or as I like to call it a cut-fastball, better known as a “cutter” in the baseball world, it is a personal choice on how you handle it.

My focus is on God which directly affects my ability to maintain a
​ positive attitude.

HE is the Great Physician and Great Counsellor and I put all my trust in HIM. My strength comes from HIM. Having a positive outlook allows me to have a better chance of overcoming adversities that I am faced with during my lifetime. 

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.


Heavenly Father, thank you that you have called us the salt of the earth.
Help us to be salty.
Let us bring out the flavours of permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity and usefulness in this world.
Help us to be salt of the earth and light of the world, so that you may be pleased with us.

Prayer focus: Those diagnosed with a genetic mutation. Thought for the Day: “Take it with a grain of salt” – Yogi Berra 

Always Forge Ahead w/a Purpose!

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