Alexander Böhmer was only in his early 20s when he was diagnosed with a tumor in his knee. Soon after, his leg had to be amputated. Today he is still working as a flight attendant again. About a young man who was at the bottom and is now happy to be back on top.
Alexander Böhmer, a young man with steel blue eyes and a properly fitting uniform, brought a number with him: 1518. He knows it very well, because it is not just a number, but a whole story – about a fall into what seems like a bottomless pit, about fear, about a fight and finally about a return to where he likes it best: in the air.
1518 days lay between the last flight that Alexander Böhmer could make with two legs – and the first one that he took part in with a prosthesis. He calculated it. “Aviation was what drove me to get through it,” he says. “Because I knew: I want to go back there.”
The 24-year-old lives near Cologne, works as a flight attendant for Lufthansa in Frankfurt and has experienced more at a young age than many others in their entire lives. Because of a tumor – commonly known as bone cancer – his leg had to be amputated and replaced with a prosthesis. But Böhmer really wanted to get back to his job – and he did it. He has been flying again since October. His story is one that can be heartening after the bleak 2022.
On a cold December morning at Frankfurt Airport, Alex, as friends call him, is in a good mood, even if it’s not an easy topic to talk about. Two days earlier he had a follow-up examination – and the results look quite good. The disease has not come back, the specialists will later confirm. Nothing stands in the way of his further assignments in the dressing room. At the end of December we are going to Buenos Aires.
It all started in 2018 with knee pain, he says. At first he didn’t take it seriously. Böhmer thought he had bruised himself somewhere, nothing more. “We laughed at home. Because we thought: How stupid is it to hit the inside of your knee,” he says. You have to be extremely clumsy. He certainly wasn’t expecting anything bad. In the worst case, maybe meniscus damage. Like a soccer player.
But the pain kept getting worse – and a good doctor wasn’t that easy to find. Böhmer believes that the doctors at the time sometimes accused him of not wanting to work. Which is absurd – he loves his job. “I probably said to my mother when I was seven: I want to work as a flight attendant for Lufthansa,” he says.
The devastating diagnosis finally followed in August 2018: There was a tumor in Böhmer’s knee that was causing the pain. “When the diagnosis came, my first thought was: I won’t survive this. I have to die now,” says the 24-year-old. “My worst thought was that my parents would have to bury me.”
Several surgeries and chemotherapy followed. However, an artificial knee joint that was inserted but did not heal properly became a problem. Inflammation levels were too high to continue chemo. Finally, the question arose: should the whole leg be removed in order to be able to continue fighting the cancer? Böhmer still remembers what his mother said back then: “It’s better to be three quarters alive than completely underground.” So amputation. During all this time, a model of a passenger plane sat on his hospital bedside table.
In August 2019 he was finally released as tumor-free. But the way back to his job was just beginning. Anyone who has ever tried to walk through an airplane aisle in even the slightest turbulence knows how much you have to trust your legs to do so. “In the beginning I couldn’t even stand up, let alone take a step,” says Alexander Böhmer.
Many people followed him on Instagram. Böhmer started with social media in the hospital. Also to find people who had gone through something similar. “I needed someone to encourage me,” he says. Before the amputation, he first searched for the hashtag “
In addition, he received a lot of encouragement. “If you post that you can’t do it anymore and want to give up – then 100 people post below: Yes, you can do it, keep going,” he says. That motivates. And he could use some motivation. “My friends moved out during this time, started their studies or have already finished them. And I asked myself: Will I ever be able to cook on my own in my life?” With a lot of training, diligence and physiotherapy tailored to his job, he then made immense progress. Until it was actually said: He can fly again.
Today Alexander Böhmer is followed by around 100,000 people on Instagram. He’s kind of an influencer now. “Cancersurvivor” is written under his profile: cancer survivor. When he was in New York recently, he was even recognized eating a burger right in Times Square. The media have taken notice. RTL invited him to the annual review.
Although he doesn’t post as much as he used to. “I’m already noticing that it’s going to be a little less,” he says. “I’m back to work now.” And that’s good news