Cancer-Free and Ready for What's Next: Lukus Becker '19

Lukus Becker

After a harrowing battle with cancer during the pandemic, Lukus Becker ’19 is healthy, happy, and excited for the future.

All college graduates expect to face challenges when they enter the “real world.” For Lukus Becker ‘19, those challenges included a life-altering cancer diagnosis and treatment during a pandemic.

After graduating in May 2019, Becker, who founded UC's Chapter of Active Minds and served as president of the Student Government Association in 2018-19, moved to Brooklyn, New York, to start a position as an elementary teacher at Success Academy Charter School.

But in September 2019, the mild pain he’d been experiencing in his right knee had intensified. A series of doctor visits and tests had revealed a malignant osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, along with five cancerous nodules in his lungs.

Becker quickly began chemotherapy and underwent several surgeries to remove the nodules and the tumor, and insert a device to help regenerate the bone.

Meanwhile, after learning of his diagnosis, the Utica College community rallied around the former student-leader. Since last fall, Becker has been the beneficiary of fundraisers held by Alpha Phi Omega, Active Minds, and the Asa Gray Biological Society. The "Loot for Lukus" project, organized by Kristina Kuil '20, collected cash donations in various locations on campus. More than 700 dollars in proceeds from UC’s annual Holiday Dinner went toward supporting Becker, helping ease the burden of travel and medical costs—and demonstrating to Becker just how beloved a member of the UC community he is.

“It has brought me to tears, honestly,” he says. “What I now know is that Utica has my back."

But in March 2020, Becker's treatment and recovery process hit a speed bump when COVID-19 began to ravage his home city of New York. 

For Becker, the pandemic meant taking extra precautions, such as transitioning to telehealth appointments, working with only one caregiver at a time, and being meticulous about mask-wearing. “I was and still am pretty terrified of COVID, as I have gone through three lung surgeries and eight leg surgeries during my treatment, most happening during the pandemic,” says Becker. “I’m still rebuilding an immune system, so it’s a constant thought of safety.”

But on September 15, 2020, Becker and his wife, Katie, finally had something to celebrate: His scans and blood tests showed he was cancer-free. “I remember that night so well,” Becker says. “I spent a good two hours calling everyone I knew and, funny enough, all of my family members were busy at the time, so my first person to answer was my UC friendHawa Sanogo ’19, who was a huge support during my treatment.”

Becker continues to work on rehabilitating his right leg in physical therapy, but he’s eager to return to work at Success Academy—and to everything else. “I still have monthly scans to make sure the disease doesn't come back,” he says. “But I'm excited to start returning to parts of my life that had to be put on hold due to cancer.”  

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