Allan Goldberg, 40; Athlete Twice Survived Cancer

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Allan Goldberg, 40, a triathlete and two-time cancer survivor who was executive director of a nonprofit organization that introduced young cancer survivors to outdoor adventure sports, died of cancer June 22 at his parents' home in Rockville.

Mr. Goldberg, a native Washingtonian, joined the First Descents cancer foundation two years ago in Vail, Colo. The group takes young adult cancer patients and survivors mountaineering, kayaking and rafting in Colorado and Montana, to help them achieve control of their own lives.

An Ironman triathlons athlete, endurance racer and mountain biker, Mr. Goldberg participated in 30 triathlons and 13 marathons. He previously worked for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Okizu Foundation, which runs summer camps for children and their families who are coping with cancer.

He also founded the Robert Louie Adolescent Cancer Support Group at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, which helped teens and their parents with in-hospital counseling.

"Do you ever watch [the television show] 'Lost'?" said Brent Goldstein, Mr. Goldberg's friend since first grade. "He's John Locke, who's lost his legs, but don't ever tell him what he can't do. . . . He never wanted to hear a prognosis or diagnosis, all he wanted to know was the next step, what can he do."

Mr. Goldberg grew up in Rockville and, at age 12, received a diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissues that attacked his muscles.

"When I was going through it there was not much support, not even anti-nausea medication," he told the Vail Trail newspaper last year. "When I was sick when I was 12, there was a 3 percent survival rate. We were really the first generation to survive. I felt very ashamed. I didn't want to be different from my peers."

He graduated from Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville and from Syracuse University in 1989. Plunging headfirst into nonprofit work, Mr. Goldberg moved to San Francisco. Seeking more skills in fundraising and management, he went back to school and received a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2005.

In 2006, a salivary gland tumor was diagnosed and Mr. Goldberg underwent chemotherapy. A year later, he competed in the 104-mile Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, a grueling, high-elevation test over steep and rocky terrain.

Cancer recurred about a year ago and spread throughout his body, Goldstein said, but Mr. Goldberg refused to discuss it and his doctors were under strict orders not to reveal details of the disease to his family or friends. He recently took a vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with the last of his strength.

Mr. Goldberg was a member of the advisory boards of Planet Cancer and the National Pain Foundation, a committee member of the Young Adult Alliance of the Armstrong Foundation and on the editorial advisory board of Heal magazine. He was also a participant of the University of Minnesota Long-Term Survivor Study, a contributing writer to Cure magazine and a lead panelist at the 2005 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University's Said Business School.

Survivors include his mother and stepfather, Sandy and Louis Dobies of Rockville; his father, Norman Goldberg of Washington; and two sisters, Amy Goldberg Dutko of Rockville and Jenni Dobies Arquette of Boone, N.C.

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