When Gavin Lucas was just about to start kindergarten, his family got a shock, as he was diagnosed with cancer (Ewing’s sarcoma) at age 5.
This spring, he completed his K-12 school journey with joy, being named one of Northmont High School’s valedictorians.
Now he wants to come full circle, targeting college and medical school in hopes of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
“I just I don’t really look back in grief on it at all. I just see it as a blessing, everything that’s happened to me and all the help that I’ve gotten,” Lucas said. “I always think about my doctors, especially Dr. (Emmett) Broxson — he really has helped me and inspired me, and I just want to be like him.”
Lucas will major in biochemistry at Ohio State University in the fall. He said until a few years ago, he wanted to be an engineer, but that changed after he volunteered as an ambassador for Dayton Children’s Hospital.
“I started speaking at high schools and colleges for some charity events and speaking on the radio,” he said. “I think just doing all of that kind of pushed me towards medicine, and trying to continue to help. … I definitely want to get into pediatrics, and oncology makes so much sense to me because it’s personal.”
Lucas credits Northmont teacher Bill Patrizio with “lighting the spark” in him toward the biochemistry and medical fields, during two years of regular and Advanced Placement chemistry classes.
But Lucas is more than just a science student. His junior year English teacher, Nicole Ehler, said she was amazed at all that he balanced, from hard classes, to varsity soccer and other extracurriculars, a job at Scene 75 and volunteering for Dayton Children’s. He was also the student aide in her yearbook class this year.
“I always saw Gavin as a leader, and I know that is a trait that will stay with him after high school because he has shown more and more leadership skills with each year I have gotten to know him,” Ehler said.
Ehler said there has “never been a dull moment with Gavin,” adding he always had something funny to say. Lucas said those jokes occasionally got him in trouble at school for talking when he shouldn’t, as he called himself “sarcastic to a fault” at times.
He said he had some of the normal teenager adjustment in high school, going from wanting to “do perfect on everything” as a freshman, to facing a little senioritis this year as his procrastination on some art assignments put his grade in jeopardy.
But he said part of that high school adjustment was learning how to manage when things didn’t go perfectly and he got behind (yes, those drawing assignments got turned in).
“I’ve always had a view on school where I thought to myself, it’s not going to be as hard as working in the real world, so I shouldn’t complain about it … and just, do good, basically,” he said.
Lucas was “doing good” last fall for the Northmont soccer team, which posted an 11-5-2 record, its best in several years. He said head coach Bob Brown, who started at Northmont in Lucas’ freshman year, set a good example.
“He put us to work really hard and we trained harder than ever before,” Lucas said. “And it just showed me how working hard pays off, because we kept doing better.”
Unfortunately, Lucas’ season ended with a trip back to the hospital. At practice just before the postseason tournament, he leaped for a headball, flipped over a teammate and landed all wrong, suffering a compound fracture of the bones in his left forearm. Asked how he reacted, he said it was horrible, but like a competitor, he seemed more upset about Northmont’s tournament defeat a week later.
Lucas said one of the most important parts of his high school experience was finding a great friend group that started one weekend freshman year and, unlike most such groups in high school, stuck together all four years.
That made the coronavirus shutdown more painful, as they had looked forward to prom, graduation and and spending the final days of school together. His parting Northmont advice to the freshmen who will take his place in the halls this fall?
“Find a group that’s like a family and stick with them.”
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