Parents honor son’s legacy of love through advocacy and action

In the last months of Corey Goodman’s life, his parents, Dennis Goodman and Debbie Bobetsky, witnessed an outpouring of love and support that inspired them to carry on his legacy.

“Corey lived so amazingly,” Dennis says of his son, who passed away of colorectal cancer last fall at age 26. “He was always genuinely present. He redefined grace, he redefined dignity, and left us such a powerful legacy of love.”

Left: Debbie, Dennis, Corey, and Zach at the orphanage in Ukraine. Right: Corey with his mother, Debbie (right), and nurse, Heidi Furr.

Dennis and Debbie adopted Corey from Ukraine when he was two years old, along with his adoptive brother, Zach. According to Dennis and Debbie, he was so excited for his new life in southern New Hampshire that he slept at the orphanage with a book of photos they had made for him. He grew to become a wonderful son, brother, and friend who loved sports, video games, and creating friendly rivalries by rooting for the Yankees, Colts, and Broncos.

In 2021, Corey began complaining of severe stomach pain. Doctors initially wrote it off as constipation, but finally, at Debbie’s insistence, Corey saw a gastroenterologist. Upon hearing his symptoms, the gastroenterologist immediately sent them to the ER. There, the doctor explained that Corey had colorectal cancer that had already spread to his lungs, liver, and lymph nodes.

“We rode home in silence, absolute disbelief,” Debbie says. Debbie and Dennis took Corey to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s satellite location in Londonderry, N.H., to undergo chemotherapy and palliative care under the care of Meredith Selleck, MD.

Debbie and Dennis shared that while Corey hated chemotherapy, he loved Dana-Farber, especially his nurse, Heidi Furr, BSN, RN, OCN. “The folks at Dana-Farber are amazing—they loved him, they embraced him,” Dennis recalls. “They knew the outcome, but they did everything they could to make a very unpleasant experience a pleasant one.”

“Initially, Corey had a hard time understanding what was happening. He was so sick and in so much pain, he didn’t really comprehend that this was his fate, that he wasn’t going to survive this,” Debbie says. “When it finally sunk in, he said ‘you know what, I’m just going to live.’”

True to his nature, Corey remained positive despite his prognosis. He spent his time with friends and family, rarely complaining outwardly about his pain.

Left: Corey (center) with friends at Fenway Park. Right: Corey and his father, Dennis (left), at a Denver Broncos game.

“A lot of his friends didn’t know how sick he was—he would go out with such a good attitude, then come home in tears because of the pain,” Debbie says. “But he wanted that time with his friends; he wanted to have fun and he didn’t want them to worry.”

After more than a year on and off treatment, Corey’s cancer stopped responding to chemo in early 2023. By September, his liver enzymes had climbed substantially, and his parents describe this time as “the beginning of the end.” He died on November 21, 2023.

“We had no idea how loved Corey was in our community until friends started coming in from all over to visit in that last month,” Dennis says. “That’s when we became motivated to figure out how to channel this love to help other people.”

In early conversations with his doctors, Dennis, Debbie, and Corey learned that his disease, caused by a genetic condition called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), is detectable through screenings in children with genetic risk. Because Corey was adopted, they were not aware of the presence of FAP in his biological family—his birth mother and sister had both passed away from the condition, they later learned. If detected early, FAP can be monitored and treated to delay or possibly prevent cancer altogether.

Despite this, Debbie and Dennis do not look back in regret. “Had we known early on about genetic testing to uncover health risks, we may have opted to have it done,” Debbie says. “But it can’t be known how we as a family would have responded, given the treatments and procedures he would have needed to endure for a lifetime. Ultimately, it would have been Corey’s decision.”

To honor Corey, the Goodmans want to make sure other adoptive families know their options when it comes to genetic testing, and plan to work with adoption agencies to share their story. Above all, Dennis and Debbie want to help advocate and raise money to support FAP research at Dana-Farber, led by Sapna Syngal, MD, MPH, which is a rare, understudied, and underfunded condition. They plan to rally Corey’s community for the cause by establishing a memorial fund and hosting a local golf tournament in his honor.

“Maybe Dana-Farber researchers will find a new treatment for FAP with these funds,” says Dennis. “This is our way to honor him and his legacy of love.”

Help support families like the Goodmans by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.