‘Courage and determination’: Former UC Berkeley student Beccs Lee dies of brain cancer at 20

Dayoung Lee/Courtesy

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Former UC Berkeley student Rebecca Lee, known as Beccs by her friends and family, died Oct. 27 at the age of 20 after battling glioblastoma, a brain cancer, for 13 months.

After her diagnosis in August 2017, she left Berkeley to receive treatment in Los Angeles and spend time with her family and new dog Kevin, who was nicknamed Beany because Lee used to call people “human beans,” according to her older sister, Sharyn. Lee, a former photographer for The Daily Californian, took ceramics classes and transferred to UCLA so she could continue her education. At the time of her death, she was surrounded by her family and friends. Sharyn Lee confirmed that her funeral will be held Nov. 12 at 10:30 a.m. because “she loved the daytime.”

Sharyn Lee said Beccs Lee always had a very strong moral compass and a great sense of humor. According to Sharyn, her faith bled into how she cared for her friends and the people around her.

Lee was a natural leader who was able to bring people together, according to friend and campus junior Nidhi Chalgeri. Other friends, including Kenny Park, Sabrina An and Kai Zhao, talked about her constant positivity, warmth and independence, as well as the care she showed toward other people.

The intimate moments she shared with others had lasting impacts on their memories. An reflected on the spring break they shared exploring San Francisco and Berkeley and said being with someone she “loved and felt close to” finally made the Bay Area feel like home. Park remembered one weekend when they spent one night at a Chance the Rapper concert and the next at a Kanye West concert.

“If there was one way to sum up her personality, it would be ‘fearless,’ ” Zhao said. “(She had) a kind of courage and determination I had never seen before.”

Before college, she spent a lot of time on mission trips in Tijuana, and some of the photographs she took during that time went on national tours, Sharyn Lee said. Her friends remembered that she exuded creativity and a passion for learning. They also said she loved visiting art museums and talking about art and art history as well as listening to NPR podcasts and watching Marvel movies.

Sharyn Lee said Beccs was exceptionally talented at photography and had hoped to become an arts curator or a museum curator.

“She showcased what UC Berkeley was and put a very positive and real perspective on what it was like to be a student here,” Park, who considered Beccs to be his first friend at UC Berkeley, said of her vlogging YouTube channel.

She also loved plants, baking brownies and cooking for her friends and going to craft fairs. An, her childhood friend, said that once Beccs Lee became ill, she would use her pill bottles as plant holders for her many succulents.

Sharyn Lee added that Beccs was a great sister, and as a Stanford University alumna,  game days between UC Berkeley and Stanford were “really fun.”

“She listened to me whenever I was going through something difficult and she always tried to relate the best she could,” Sharyn Lee said.

Beccs Lee is survived by her sister, Sharyn, her mother, Kay, and her father, Kevin.

Contact Boyce Buchanan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @BuchananBoyce.