Christopher Shaddock believes in the importance of forward motion and has learned not to let obstacles derail him.
A self-described “late, late bloomer,” Shaddock has followed a winding path toward his degree.
He had worked jobs in radio and food service when he decided, at age 28, to enlist in the U.S. Army (he celebrated his 29th birthday in basic training).
“I always like a challenge,” he recalled. “I get bored.”
Shaddock spent eight years in active duty for the Army, including assignments in Kentucky and Germany before his reactivation following the terror attacks of 9/11 led to deployments to Iraq and Kuwait.
Following his discharge, Shaddock continued seeing the world. He lived for 11 years in Iceland, where his then-wife was from, and eventually moved back to the U.S.
I kept going despite wanting to give up, and a few times I almost did.
A tinkerer since his youth, Shaddock began studying automotive technology and applied science at Mount Wachusett Community College, where he graduated in 2020. In the midst of his studies, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.
He endured two surgeries, a year of hormone therapy, and 45 daily sessions of radiation treatment, all at the height of the COVID pandemic.
“I could have stopped, but I knew I had to keep going,” he said. “I kept going despite wanting to give up, and a few times I almost did.”
Shaddock, who is also in recovery from addiction, found himself balancing multiple challenges. Rather than retreat, however, he refocused. He transferred to Fitchburg State, looking for a way to channel his experience and attitude into a meaningful career.
“Ultimately I want to use my cancer experience, and being in recovery, and being a veteran, to help others,” Shaddock said. “I want to have methods other than just prescribing a drug to help people deal with their issues.”
He credits faculty at Fitchburg State for keeping him on his path. “My professors have been supportive throughout this fight,” Shaddock said, expressing gratitude for the grace he was shown when missing classes for cancer treatments. “I still suffer many side effects, and it is a struggle, but I shall continue to accomplish my goals.”
This winter, Shaddock expects to complete his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with a minor in human services and another minor in music performance.
The music program was an unexpected development for Shaddock, who had played piano and guitar as a child. He attended a forum on the university’s music minor in 2022, and was encouraged to join the jazz band, where all levels of ability are encouraged.
“It makes me feel good, the rhythm of strumming a guitar and finding a song and learning how to play it,” he said. “It’s an accomplishment. Learning something that’s really outside my comfort zone, I’m used to that.”
His cancer is in remission, and he looks to his sister as an inspiration for the way she fought her own diagnosis and started a nationally-recognized business - Coils to Locs - that supports women of color navigating medical hair loss.
Shaddock’s own journey is far from over. After he graduates later this year, he plans to enroll in Fitchburg State’s master’s program in clinical mental health counseling.
“I’m just going to keep moving.”