Allen and Joan Rush have suffered through every parent’s worst nightmare: their beautiful daughter died at the age of 23 from a surprisingly common, but mostly unknown cancer syndrome. Jacqueline Rush would have turned 30 this August. She tragically passed away at the age of 23, and Joan says her death could have been prevented, if only they had more information. That is why the family has made it their mission to spread awareness about Lynch Syndrome. “Jacqueline is our only child and she spent her entire life in Blackhawk. She passed away in 2014 from colorectal cancer caused by Lynch Syndrome (an inherited genetic mutation passed down through families that increases your risks of developing certain cancers). She graduated with a double major in Marketing and Spanish from the University of San Diego in 2013. She was fluent in Spanish and spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Growing up she enjoyed playing soccer, she was a talented piano player, and loved west coast swing dancing. She and I were members of the National Charity League,” shares Joan.
After Jacqueline passed away in 2014, Allen and Joan founded the Jacqueline Rush Foundation, in Jacqueline’s honor, to raise awareness of Lynch Syndrome, to raise funds for Lynch Syndrome research, and to try to prevent Jacqueline’s story from continuing to repeat itself. The Rush family wanted to share their daughter’s story with the Blackhawk community:
“Jacqueline had symptoms of abdominal pain, constipation, and some intermittent bleeding when she was 16. We took her to her pediatrician and told her pediatrician that Jacqueline’s paternal grandfather passed away from colorectal cancer in his fifties. The pediatrician said it couldn’t be colorectal cancer because Jacqueline was too young to have that diagnosis. We accepted that as true. That was a huge mistake. As Jacqueline’s symptoms worsened it took four years before she was properly diagnosed at the age of 20. When a colonoscopy was finally done, she was diagnosed with Stage-3 colorectal cancer. It was devastating, and tragically she passed away at the age of 23. Had she been diagnosed when she first was having symptoms, she would most likely still be alive. During the course of her treatment, her oncologist suspected she might have Lynch Syndrome. She was tested and the results came back positive for Lynch Syndrome. It was determined that she inherited it from Allen. Jacqueline lost her life because of the perfect storm: We were not aware that Lynch Syndrome was in our family’s genes, her pediatrician had never heard of Lynch Syndrome, and the general belief in the medical community that young people couldn’t get colorectal cancer. If any one of those things had been different, Jacqueline’s story would’ve had a happy ending.”
Lynch Syndrome is an inherited genetic mutation that significantly increases your risk of developing colorectal, endometrial and other cancers in your lifetime. If one of your parents has Lynch Syndrome, you have a 50% chance of inheriting it. One in 279 people living in the United States has Lynch Syndrome, but astonishingly 95% of those who have inherited Lynch Syndrome don’t know they have it. Current research suggests it may be even more common. Lynch Syndrome is significantly more common in the population than the BRCA genes that cause increased risks for breast/ ovarian cancer. Knowing if you have Lynch Syndrome is powerful and lifesaving, not just for you but for your family’s generations to come. There are many things you can do to prevent Lynch-Syndrome caused cancer and that is just one of the reasons it’s so important to know if you have it.
The Rush family moved to Blackhawk more than 30 years ago and still live in the original home they purchased near the East Gate. Allen and Joan celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary this year. They met in 1979 while working at the Rolm Corporation in Santa Clara.
Joan was born in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA and grew up there until she moved to Cupertino, CA in 1977. Allen was born in Syracuse, NY then moved as a child to Denver, CO then to York, PA where he spent most of his childhood. Allen moved to San Jose, CA in 1974 when he was recruited by Intel Corporation out of college. He received a Master’s of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Santa Clara University and is pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the same school. Allen is currently Chief Scientist for machine learning at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in Santa Clara. Before Joan left the workforce to raise Jacqueline, she worked at Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto providing technical support and software class instruction and is currently the President of the Jacqueline Rush Foundation.
Allen and Joan are active members of the community and keep busy with a variety of hobbies. Allen says he has always enjoyed sailing, “Joan and I actually had our first date sailing on my boat in the San Francisco Bay. In 1983, I sailed a 44-foot sailboat from Boston to the British Virgin Islands with 2 friends. There was no GPS in those days, so we had to navigate using the stars.” Allen is in the Mount Diablo Astronomy Club and enjoys woodworking, photography and piano. Joan is in a book club with members from Blackhawk and Danville and started a Neighborhood Watch program in their neighborhood. Joan also enjoys gardening, floral arranging and playing the piano.
Joan says sharing Jacqueline’s story has become their mission, “When Jacqueline was a freshman in college, we gave her a book titled Where Will You Be Five Years From Today? In this book she wrote her personal mission statement which was: ‘To love living my life and have a positive impact on the lives of those I know and cherish but also to those who I simply encounter. To believe that mistakes are made to learn and to embrace all knowledge.’ Jacqueline truly lived by those words, and we are carrying on her personal mission by using the knowledge that we’ve learned about Lynch Syndrome to positively impact the lives of others.”
The Jacqueline Rush Foundation is currently finishing a documentary titled “Better Rush, Live in your Genes” to raise awareness through telling Jacqueline’s story with Lynch Syndrome. You can watch a trailer of the documentary on the foundation website. We always welcome those who want to get involved.
For more information about Lynch Syndrome, visit our website: https://www.jrushfoundation.org
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By Megan Scott, Resident since 2010