Veronica Lucio overcomes brain cancer, graduates with associates

Texas Southmost College (TSC) graduate Veronica Lucio started her journey at TSC in 2016 when she enrolled to fulfill her life goal of earning a college degree one day. When she began as a non-traditional student, she already had a full-life worth of experience—including working as a missionary in some of the hemisphere’s most poverty-stricken areas. And although she enjoyed the work she was involved with, she had that unfilled dream that kept gnawing at her. She wanted a college degree.  

“I chose to attend Texas Southmost College because of pride,” Lucio said. “I’m from Brownsville, and TSC is an important part of the community.”   

Becoming a Scorpion made Lucio proud, and her life experience led her to focus her studies on social work. And as she enjoyed her new adventure at TSC, she got struck with a new challenge.   

Challenging Times 

The severe headaches and other debilitating symptoms had returned. She had some of these symptoms before, but not to the point of fainting or zoning out. She knew then she had to reach out to her neurologist.  Her neurologist in Austin told her there was a mass found in her brain, but surgery was the only way to know if it was benign or malignant. She spoke to four surgeons’ before going under the knife at Houston Methodist Hospital under the care of renowned surgeon Dr. David Baskin.  

After the operation, her fears were confirmed by a tumor board that reviewed what they saw.  

“I was diagnosed with extremely rare brain cancer,” said Lucio. “My life stopped in its tracks.”  

After surgery, medical professionals tending to Lucio realized the mass removed was cancerous. Her medical team moved quickly to save her life.   

“I didn’t think I would live because of how rare and advanced my cancer was,” Lucio said. “The brain tumor was attached to my cerebellum and budding my brain stem. They had to remove the mass to study it.”   

Lucio spent much time in the Houston area undergoing surgery, followed by aggressive radiation to eliminate the cancer. Later, back in the RGV, she underwent chemotherapy  

Things looked grim, and getting an education was the last thing on her mind, but it still gnawed at her.   

Walking the stage 

Her oncologist, Dr. Todd Shenkenberg, told her to ‘find something positive to do’ to help her recover. She showed up at Good Neighbor Settlement House in Brownsville, hoping to find a way to help and use her time helping others. The program’s director, Jack White, had a great idea of how he could help. He knew what to do. He drove her to TSC.   

Soon after, she was in her classes again like nothing had happened. Except a lot did happen.   

Lucio was living as a traumatic experience survivor. For months she was baffled by the possibility of dying. She didn’t know if she would live or die. She walked with assistance and was visibly a cancer survivor with no hair. She worried about going back to school. What will people say about how I look? Soon after being in class again, she realized she had nothing to worry about. Her Scorpion family was there to support her and help her complete her journey at TSC.   

“After attending my first class, students noticed me and my condition,” Lucio said. “By my second class, some students waited for me at the parking lot to help me carry my books and get to class.   

“They say kids and the younger generation can be mean or rude, but I just don’t see it,” Lucio said.   

Lucio was teary-eyed as she told her story. She was also emotional about Texas Southmost College’s role in helping her recover and thrive in her post-cancer life.   

She considered not walking at commencement but remembered the challenging journey she had endured to get to where she was going.   

“I survived this horrible disease that has an even more horrible treatment, and this college has done everything to make sure that I can finish,” She said. “So, there’s no way I’ll miss the opportunity to walk this stage. My father paid for part of my school; he’s now with the lord, and it was so important to him that I finished. My mother has been by my side. They both wanted me to finish my education. I’m walking for them, I’m walking for me, and I’m walking to thank Texas Southmost College for making it possible.”