Three weeks after Geoff’s son was born, the first-time dad received the most crushing news imaginable: he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. The diagnosis was incomprehensible to this athletic 34-year-old. But Geoff found hope grounded in the love of family—including his newborn son, Emery—and the determination of the oncologist committed to his treatment.
“His caring nature and spirit of adventure never diminished,” shared Julie, Geoff’s wife. “He had a special gift—always the life of the party, Geoff also made you feel like you were the only person in the room.”
Geoff’s sister Kristin–a nurse anesthetist who had cared for pancreatic cancer patients–knew the road ahead would be tough. “My brother put on a brave face and he was always fighting for more time with his family,” Kristin said. “He was the best big brother in the world.”
Geoff’s late diagnosis ruled out surgery—and the disease had already spread to his liver. Geoff’s zest for living and devotion to family kept him going despite the bad news. When chemotherapy failed, Geoff joined a clinical trial testing an oral immunotherapy. Geoff and Julie had five good months together until the treatment stopped working and Geoff tried another chemotherapy. But then Geoff suffered a devastating setback—a stroke. He lost the ability to speak and move his right side. In another remarkable show of determination, he fought back again to regain the ability to talk and walk.
And when Geoff passed away 14 months after his diagnosis and just six weeks before his 36th birthday, Julie, Kristin and all of his family took solace in the time they had together—eight more precious months than predicted, thanks to significant research advancements. To honor Geoff’s life and remember his spirit, Geoff’s family created Fight Cancer Stay Positive, a foundation that—in its inaugural “Dunking for a Cure” fundraising event—raised $100,000 for the Lustgarten Foundation, despite moving to a virtual format in April 2020.
“In going through this experience, I learned to be strong and stay positive because that’s what Geoff always did,” Julie said with a full heart. “Trivial things don’t matter anymore...you quickly figure out who and what truly matters in your life.”
And one of the things that matters most to Julie and Geoff’s family now is helping other families on their own pancreatic cancer journeys. “Fight Cancer Stay Positive” was Geoff’s mantra—it was the unbreakable spirit he brought to all he went through, and the belief that enabled Geoff and Julie to plan for their future despite his diagnosis. So, it’s the fitting name they’ve given to their work to honor and remember him.
Despite her tremendous loss, Julie feels lucky Geoff received the best possible care. For her, Geoff lives on in their son, in their story and in the research the Lustgarten Foundation supports thanks to you.