When Utica College alumnus Lukus Becker was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his femur, a very rare type of bone cancer, the news shook the college community.
Even though his prognosis is positive, the battle against cancer involves several surgeries and chemotherapy.
During Becker’s time at UC, the psychobiology major was heavily involved on campus and was president of organizations such as Student Government Association, Alpha Phi Omega, Active Minds —which he created— and the Gender Sexuality Alliance.
Becker shared the news in early October via Facebook in a post that expressed appreciation for all “thoughts, prayers and love,” adding that the need was mostly funds to allow transportation to the hospital.
The responses and support did not take long to come.
“I have been thankful for many (people) donating to me,” Becker said. “I am so appreciative of this support as a lot has changed. Everyone reaching out has reminded me of the community that Utica College contains.”
The wave of support did not stop there, however. Several organizations on campus such as Alpha Phi Omega, Active Minds and Asa Gray Biological Society organized several fundraising events on campus to help Becker and his battle against cancer.
Senior Kristina Kuil recently had another idea to raise funds for his friend.
The “Loot for Lukus” fundraiser has been announced for several weeks and even got the top position on the daysheet.
“We created this to help him out in a hard time,” Kuill said. “He just moved away from home, in the City, starting out and gets hit with something that really stops him in his tracks.”
Kuil and some other students stopped in almost every office on campus and asked to leave donation jars for Becker and raise awareness about cancer, an initiative that received unanimous support from the campus community.
“Once they heard the Lukus’ story and knew about all the things he did, they were all for it,” she said. “The more exposure it gets, the better. It doesn’t matter what kind of cancer, it affects everyone in some kind of way and every little thing counts.”
According to Kuil, all of those fundraiser events that have been going on over the past month to honor Lukus have been proof that “Utica College is a family environment.”
“He is an alumnus, he doesn’t come to school anymore and the community is coming together to help him,” she said. “This shows that if you move away, your family is not going to forget about you.”
Junior Peter Gaughan even got pied to help his friend Lukus Becker. He said these raffle baskets and donations are designed to help him cover his costs of living “so he can focus on winning.”
Gaughan agreed with Kuil expressing the “family spirit” at UC.
“These fundraisers and the outpouring of support reminds us that no one fights alone, no one is alone,” he said. “Together, we can overcome any adversary.”
Becker was a mentor, a friend, and a person who has impacted Gaughan’s life. Becker’s legacy lies in the fact that he is a “proven leader” who fought for others.
“He is a loving and supportive soul,” he said. “He was someone that you could talk to, learn from, and be comfortable around.”
Students are not the only ones who remember Becker’s time at UC, but faculty and staff remember him to be “someone who embodies UC’s tagline, ‘Never Stand Still,’” President Laura Casamento said.
As a result of his dedication, Becker recently received the Outstanding Senior Award, which Peter Gaughan and alumna Ann Ciancia personally delivered to him at the hospital.
Creating the UC “chapter” of the mental health advocacy group Active Minds was an example of Becker’s leadership, according to Casamento.
“(Becker) knew so many students struggling with mental health, especially during their college transition,” she said.
Active Minds at UC was created in 2017 and has hosted many events and spearheading projects on suicide prevention, gender and sexuality issues and stress management techniques, Casamento stated.
“His generosity has set an example for all of us, which is why it is now time to help one of UC’s own, like he has done unselfishly for so many others,” she said.
Senior Thomas Ciccolella remembers Becker as being “the most involved person you could have ever met.”
As unit secretary and care attendant on the oncology unit at St. Luke’s Hospital, Ciccolella knows well the struggles of cancer patients.
“I see the effect that cancer has on people and it’s not a one-time procedure, you have to keep going back for so many rounds of chemotherapy,” Ciccolella said. “It’s like you are constantly reminded (of it).”
Ciccolella also said cancer patients go through financial constraint because “healthcare in America is very expensive.”
“The payment for chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer but it’s a couple of thousand dollars,” he said. “Depending on your insurance, it adds up very quickly so any amount helps.”
Becker found the uncertainty of this disease the most challenging aspect of it.
“Cancer affects every part of your life,” he said. “You have to take it one step at a time as you navigate the treatment.”
Despite the difficulties, Becker said he is “really overjoyed by the support of friends, family and doctors, so that I don’t have to do this alone.”
As a leader, Becker also took this as an opportunity to raise awareness about cancer and how important it is to go to the doctors and early detection.
“The pain in my leg started in July and I kept putting off the doctors until the end of September,” he said. “I’m glad that I finally got around to it but it could have been better had I gone to the doctor sooner.”
When reflecting about his time at UC, Becker said there is much support and resources within it.
“All I did was invest in people and ideas for four years and I am so thankful that I was given so much more back in my time at UC and currently,” he said. “I think my legacy is held closed by the memories and photos. I know I will be visiting for the rest of my life, for everything that it has done for me.”