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A Double Victory for a UC Senior: Overcoming Cancer and Getting to Commencement

Craig Buschle graduates this June after cancer twice forced him to drop out of college. For the third year in a row, he’ll walk the Survivor’s Lap at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life at UC on April 29.

Date: 4/20/2011
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
When Craig Buschle Jr. of Cheviot discovered a lump in 2007, he didn’t think it was any big deal. After all, he was only 19. He wasn’t feeling bad. It could have been anything. It was going to go away. But when it didn’t, and after some strong advising from friends to “be on the safe side and get checked out,” Craig entered into a battle that twice caused him to drop out of college. In December of 2007, he was diagnosed with stage two testicular cancer.
Craig Buschle
Craig Buschle

Often called “the young man’s cancer,” the American Cancer Society estimates there were about 8,480 new cases of testicular cancer in 2010. It was an issue that captured the attention of the nation in 1997, when Olympic skating champion Scott Hamilton was diagnosed with the disease.

However, it is also one of the most curable cancers. The National Cancer Institute reports the five-year survival rate is 95 percent.

The diagnosis for Craig was surgery and chemotherapy – three, three-week cycles that lasted for nine weeks. “I had my head shaved for my 20th birthday and some family members did the same to show their support. I thought I was prepared for the hair loss,” he says. “But then, the hair loss really hit me when I met some friends at MarketPointe for lunch and wiped my face, and my beard stubble was coming off,” he says.

He dropped out winter quarter of his sophomore year at UC to focus on his recovery, and finished chemo in March 2008. He returned to UC in spring 2008. “Everything was fine, and then in September 2009, my doctor noticed masses growing in some lymph nodes in my stomach,” he says. Craig says this time, the initial testicular cancer had brought on a non-malignant teratoma tumor – a tumor that can grow very rapidly and cannot be treated with chemotherapy. Craig dropped out of UC again in winter quarter 2010 so that he could undergo surgery.

He returned to UC last fall to complete his bachelor’s degree in geography from the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. He plans to march at UC’s Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m., Saturday, June 11, in Fifth Third Arena.

But beforehand, he’s taking part in another spring tradition at UC – the largest student-organized community service event on campus. Craig will walk in the Survivor’s Lap at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life at UC on April 29. He and fellow cancer survivors will lead the first lap of the relay beginning at 6 p.m. on McMicken Commons.

Relay For Life at UC is an 18-hour event that kicks off at 5:45 p.m. on April 29 and runs through noon, Saturday, April 30. UC Relay For Life event chair Michelle Prinzo, a UC early childhood education and communication senior from Akron, Ohio, says student organizers are expecting more than 1,000 people to join UC’s ninth-annual Relay For Life to support the American Cancer Society. Prinzo says organizers are aiming to recruit 200 teams to raise $155,000 from the event that covers McMicken Commons every spring.

Over the past eight years, Relay For Life at UC has donated more than a half million dollars to the American Cancer Society for education, advocacy and research programs – including American Cancer Society-funded research at UC.

Craig Buschle

Craig says doctors have declared him cancer free. He continues to have regular X-rays and cat scans, which will become less frequent as he continues to be cleared of any setbacks.

He adds that the UC Department of Geography was very supportive of him during his cancer battle. “Assistant Professor Colleen McTague has been a personal mentor to me,” he says. “After my initial diagnosis, she was instrumental in helping me keep my scholarships and grants to return to school.”

He says he also serves as a mentor to other people who have been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He communicates to people around the world through a special listserv. “I’ve been in touch with people from London and New York. I’ve never met them in person, but we share a similar story. It’s a bond with people I will likely never meet.”

He adds that at his lowest lows in dealing with the cancer and chemo, the support of his family and friends helped him push past the treatments to get to where he is today. “I don’t sweat the little things anymore,” he says. “There are things that are a lot worse than getting a bad grade or getting cut off in traffic.”

Craig is now looking ahead to Commencement and possibly graduate school at UC. He has been preparing for the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) this spring.

UC students will continue fundraising for Relay For Life through Aug. 31. UC faculty, staff, students and members of the Cincinnati USA community can support UC Relay For Life by making a donation. Donation information can be found on the UC Relay For Life website.