Graduating with cancer

An alumni special looking back at Danny Goldsmith, Class of 1988.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Danny Goldsmith

Danny Goldsmith poses for a senior high school photo, class of 1988 at Glen Rock High School.

Danny Goldsmith. Just a normal kid trying to make his way through high school. His senior year, running track and playing basketball. He had a girlfriend and a bunch of close friends. What could possibly go wrong…

As a kid Danny never had any real health problems, besides when he was 5 and had his spleen taken out. It had ruptured so it needed to be removed. This caused Danny to get a lot of colds when he was young because he couldn’t fight infections as well as somebody with a spleen, but he never had anything serious until he was 18.

It was January of 1988. Danny was in the middle of senior year. On Martin Luther King Day, Danny was on his way out to see his friends. He felt a lump on his neck, and kept on touching it.

“It was strange that I had this big lump on my neck,” he recalls. Not thinking anything of it, Danny started to head out. His mom stopped him, when she saw the lump on his neck and insisted he go to the doctor. They ran various tests including a biopsy, the taking of samples of the lump on his neck.

It was a couple weeks later. Danny was sitting in class when he saw something unexpected.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Danny Goldsmith
Pictured are Danny Goldsmith (left), Chris Quinn, and Matt Noble. They pose for a picture taken at the Glen Rock Duck Pond in 1987, before Danny’s chemotherapy.

“I suddenly saw my dad’s face in the doorway,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, that can’t be good. Why is my dad showing up in the middle of the day?’”

They drove to the doctor. Danny sat in the chair; books lined the room. He stared, but didn’t think to look at the books. They sat and waited, when the doctor came, he explained that Danny had non-hodgkin’s disease (a type of cancer that occurs when one’s body produces too many white blood cells called lymphocytes).

Danny didn’t think anything of it: he didn’t know what it was. He again glanced around the room, and stared at the books lining the room, then he saw the pattern. Every single book was about cancer.

Danny finally realized the simple fact: he had cancer.

Danny was told he had the “good” kind of cancer. This meaning that although his case was at a pretty advanced stage, having a pretty large tumor in his chest, it was still treatable. The doctor was careful of what he said, he didn’t just say that Danny was 100% guaranteed to survive, but he did say that the odds of him surviving were large.


Living with the news

Telling people was tough. Danny was very social, which helped his situation a lot, but it also meant that he had more friends to tell than the average boy.

He was lucky to have great friends, a very supportive family, and a caring girlfriend.

Although he and his girlfriend, Angela, were on rocky terms when he first got diagnosed — they were going through typical teenage drama — they soon patched things up.

One would think that cancer would affect someone’s school and social life, but Danny tried to not let it get the best of him. He still attended school and kept up with his social life, and he was still very close with all his friends. Yes, there were obviously days he would miss, tests he would skip, or hangouts with friends that he could not attend, but overall Danny really tried to live his Senior year like any other teenager.

Pictured to the here are Matt Noble (to the left), Danny Goldsmith, Chris Quinn, and David Griff in high school.

His friends would come to his house and knock on the door to see if they could spend time with Danny. Sometimes they could and sometimes they couldn’t, whether it was because it was not a good day, or he was really sick, they always found a way to talk to him. They would have Danny come to his bedroom window, which faced the front of the house, and just have a conversation.

Trying to be a normal teen, he would work at summer camp as a counselor. His mother feared that he would get sick during camp, or something bad would happen to him during the day. Danny was determined, though, to not let cancer get in the way of his life.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Danny Goldsmith
Pictured are Rick Gashler, Matt Noble, and Danny Goldsmith (right). Taken at the Glen Rock High School field on Field Day in 1988.

To help with his pain and nausea, Danny says that he would smoke marijuana, which he says helped people going through chemo to not have nausea. Danny would come home after a session of chemo and throw up for 12 hours straight, his mother sitting right next to him for all 12 hours holding the bucket, not leaving his side.

“That’s something you never forget,” Danny said.As far as discomfort goes, he did have a few surgeries, but he wasn’t in much physical pain. Instead, his body was getting weaker and weaker from chemo and throwing-up non-stop. Danny began to lose weight and hair. His eyebrows, he remembers, were pretty much gone.



Angela Gorini, Danny’s girlfriend at the time, met him in school. They were actually seated behind each other in school because of their last names.Danny Goldsmith was placed behind Angela Gorini. Danny and Angela dated for four years, starting at 16 years old.

When Danny was diagnosed the two were going through rocky times, normal teenage drama. Then, Danny pulled Angela aside one day and asked if they could meet after class. He told her the situation. Really caring about him, Angela thought that she could be the support that he needed, they had a very strong comfort level, friends in common, and always had a great time together.

The first thing Angela did after finding out Danny had cancer was make her way to the Glen Rock Public Library, she came with a piece of paper that said Non- Hodgkin’s disease. She was handed a stack of books. She photocopied every page: studying, reading, learning, doing everything she could possibly do to gain the knowledge she needed to be a supportive girlfriend.

Angela helped him take his mind off of his mental and physical stress. She tried making him laugh, and she would suggest things trips like the movies or a walk.

“I tried to give him spirit of adventure. So that if things went downhill we would always have great memories,” she stated.

As senior year progressed, his classmates prepared to go to college. Danny could not attend his first semester of college because of his treatment. This was tough for Danny, as his friends would leave and he would still be stuck in Glen Rock.

Angela went to Manhattan College in RiverDale, NY. By car it was only about 45 minutes away, so she would drive up often. She selected this college to be close to Danny, so that if an emergency did ever happen, she wouldn’t be 3 hours away with no way back.

Danny was finally able to go to college, but he was a semester late. He attended the University of Maryland. He and Angela were now over 4 hours apart, which made it harder for them to see each other often. They would see each other on weekends or during holiday breaks.

As time went on, they both started going in their own directions. They never formally broke things off, it went from being exclusive, to seeing each other, to just talking on the phone.

Today, Danny and Angela are friends on Facebook, and every once in awhile, they chat.


Watching from the outside

Danny always had a big fanclub on his side rooting for him to get past this. Whether it was friends, family, or his girlfriend, there was always someone by his side pushing him to the finish line.

One of his close friends, Priya Shahani, lived down the street from him, her bedroom window faced his house. She would often see him playing basketball outside. As he got sicker, though, he stopped being outside, and she didn’t see him as much.

“That was a real bummer that he was so sick that he couldn’t do any of his normal stuff,” Priya explained.

Another best friend of his was Paul Fremder. They met at Coleman school and became very close in third grade and are still close today.

They were close throughout high school, but when Danny was diagnosed, their friendship had been going through a rough patch. So at the beginning Paul wasn’t really there for Danny, but he soon became the friend he needed to be.

“Danny was a really funny guy and he always had a very high spirit, very positive, always smiling,” Paul stated. This made it very “bizarre” to watch Danny go through such a thing because he was always happy regardless of his circumstances.

Speaking of happy, Danny spoke at his high school graduation and the theme of his speech was “smile.”

Danny looked healthy despite having cancer. It was warm out when he was going through chemo, so his skin was very tan.

“The only way you knew Danny had cancer was because he lost his hair,” Paul said. “He didn’t look like himself, but I’ve seen other people and they have looked a heck of a lot worse.”

One of his biggest supporters by far, was his mother, Arlene Goldsmith. She was always there for Danny when he really needed it, from holding the bucket for Danny while he was throwing-up or offering a shoulder to lean on: she was always there.

“As a mother, you will do anything for your children,” she says.

Danny’s brother Mark was in college and his father would go to work everyday, so his mother was the one who handled the whole situation. She made sure he got to every appointment on time, dealt with the doctors, and was there 24/7 for Danny.

When people heard about Danny, they didn’t know what to say or how to act around them. Which made it quite hard at times.

“People didn’t know what to say to me. Adults didn’t know what to say to me, how to handle me, because they were uncomfortable with it. I was comforting them as much as some people were comforting me. I was comforting other people because they couldn’t deal with it,” Arlene explains.


The Finish Line

Finally nine months had gone by, and Danny’s tumor was gone. Danny went into remission, which is a five year period of time during which the patient isn’t yet considered to be cured, because there is still a chance the cancer could come back.

Danny finished his treatments in 1988, and the cancer has never come back.

Danny attended the University of Maryland where he met a good friend, who also overcame cancer during his senior year of high school.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Danny Goldsmith
Pictured are Danny Goldsmith (left), Paul Fremder, Matt Noble, and Andre Avergan at their high school graduation, class of 1988.

Although what Danny went through was difficult, it shaped who he is today. He learned to focus on the important in life and not to fog out small details.

“I learned a lot about myself, friendships, and relationships,” he says.

Today Danny is happily married with two twin girls, Ava and Lila who are both 12. He is a lawyer.