Three years ago, Brentwood resident Jessica Buscho shared her cancer story with The Press in hopes of turning her “mess into a message,” and since that time, she’s used her whirlwind experience to change lives and serve as a patient advocate.
“I was determined to educate others, challenge funding inequities across types of cancer and advocate for better outcomes for colon cancer patients,” said Buscho, a 37-year-old mother of three who is living with Stage 4 colon cancer.
Since 2017, over a period of numerous rounds of chemotherapy, a double surgery at UCSF to remove a primary tumor and lung scans that indicated her lung metastasis tumors were growing back, Buscho urged her loved ones and anyone who would listen to receive colonoscopies. She called it her 35 before 35 challenge, in that she wanted at least 35 people to get screened before her 35th birthday. Her friends rose to the challenge, as 37 underwent colonoscopies and some even elected to have an early mammogram or prostate cancer screening.
“During this time, five people identified early stage or pre-cancer,” she said. “Four of them had colon polyps removed, thus preventing cancer … Also during this time, I found a calling to show people how life goes on even through cancer. I began a personal awareness campaign around living with cancer. The goal was to show people how cancer is not my entire being.”
With a growing audience behind her, in August 2018, Buscho appeared as a guest at the Strides for Life “Super Bowel,” a Bay Area organization that partners with the NFL alumni association to raise funds and awareness around colorectal cancer. And despite rounds of chemotherapy and dealing with an allergy to certain medicines, her journey of engagement and advocacy endured. Between appearing at the 49ers Crucial Catch Game, posting viral videos on the challenges cancer patients face when dealing with insurance companies, volunteering for Colorectal Cancer Alliance and fundraising at renowned shows such as “Hamilton,” Buscho has had the opportunity to meet with various research companies, doctors and other activists.
This January, she began an experimental treatment.
“The treatment has been highly anticipated in the colorectal cancer community,” she said. “I will receive results soon on how this new treatment is working, but I am optimistic and hopeful as always.”
She will now work with the West Coast volunteers of Colorectal Cancer Alliance to bring Blue Hope Bash — a large gala benefiting colorectal cancer — to the Bay Area. She said another part of her mission is to put a face to early age onset colorectal cancer, because it has previously been viewed as an old person’s disease, when in reality, cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Lauren Huffmaster, another young Brentwood mother facing cancer and founder of Adventure Therapy Foundation, has become acquainted with Buscho and the work she’s been doing in the community.
“Jessica has embraced the science of colon cancer and the medical community’s need for knowledge in treating and finding a cure,” Huffmaster said. “Now, as she receives treatments through clinical trials, she is truly submitting herself to science in the purest form. She is pioneering potential solutions for those who will be impacted by colon cancer for decades to come.”
Continuing to share a message of positivity for herself and those around her, Buscho said she isn’t inclined to call her experience a “battle” with cancer.
“I try not to speak about my disease in war terms,” she said. “Rather, I am on a journey.”