NorthShore’s quarterly Connections magazine shares stories of real people in our community who have benefited from the superior clinical care, exceptional patient experiences and innovative research at NorthShore.

Did you know that charitable donations to NorthShore help power all of this, while also assisting our underserved neighbors?

Learn here about how philanthropy has impacted care for the patients you read about in Connections.


Spring/Summer 2021

A Heart Full of Gratitude

Donors who support the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute are helping to differentiate cardiac care for patients at NorthShore. One of those patients, llham Ganiyev was not expecting a miracle turnaround when friends—who feared he was dying—finally convinced him to go to a NorthShore Hospital last March. “I thought maybe I had three or four months left to live,” said Ganiyev, who was suffering from advanced heart failure.

“I was extremely unwell, and my situation was getting worse,” recalled Ganiyev. “I had such severe shortness of breath that even after walking a few feet I would get tired and have to rest. I could barely make it up the stairs in my home.”


Lifesaving Introduction

The 54-year-old Des Plaines resident, originally from Azerbaijan, was in cardiogenic shock. And that day in the hospital, he met Cardiologist Nitasha Sarswat, MD, who undoubtedly saved his life. “Ilham’s heart was simply unable to pump enough oxygenated blood to the rest of his organs,” explained Dr. Sarswat, who leads the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure Program. She first connected with Ganiyev through a Russian language interpreter, gaining his trust and initially putting him on medication to help his failing heart pump more effectively.

In April 2020, Ganiyev underwent the advanced LVAD procedure at Evanston Hospital and literally received a new lease on life.

Thanks to NorthShore, I have a second life. The care I received was absolutely ideal. The doctors thoroughly explained my options and were very involved and engaged in my care. 

Ilham Ganiyev
NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute Patient

Miraculous Turnaround

Dr. Sarswat believes there are many others suffering from heart failure who can be successfully treated with advanced therapies, including LVAD, which can sometimes be a bridge to heart transplants. For patients who are good candidates for transplant, Dr. Sarswat provides care before, during and after their transplant.

Dr. Sarswat is hopeful that as NorthShore’s program continues to grow, the multidisciplinary heart failure team will help more people realize there is hope, help and a chance to return to an active life.

Ilham Ganiyev is living proof. Today he walks more than a mile most days, rides his bike, and enjoys a range of hobbies and activities with his wife and adult son. “I’m very active, and I feel very lucky,” said Ganiyev. “Thanks to NorthShore, I can celebrate this ‘second’ birthday with my LVAD, and it’s such a gift.”


For more information on supporting cardiovascular initiatives and the Cardiovascular Institute at NorthShore, please contact Walt Cody at 224.364.7204. 


Call Me Survivor

With his typical determination and energy, 79-year-old John Zygokostas can usually be found
hard at work at Sunset House—a restaurant he owns in Waukegan. He knows firsthand how philanthropic support from our donors is making a real impact on cancer care right here on the North Shore. 

A loyal NorthShore patient for half a century, Zygokostas has been staying on top of his health in recent years. He quit smoking in 2003 when he underwent successful heart bypass surgery. Later, in 2016, after experiencing persistent sinus pain and pressure, Zygokostas wasted no time making an appointment with his Primary Care Physician John Revis, MD.

“I felt OK, but not great. It was like I had a cold or something,” recalled Zygokostas, who places a lot of trust in Dr. Revis. “I knew he’d get to the bottom of it.”

Serving Up a Definitive Diagnosis

Following a thorough examination, Zygokostas’ sinus issues turned out to be something far more serious: advanced lung cancer. Dr. Revis referred his patient to the experts at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center to develop a targeted treatment plan that would include a combination of surgery and chemotherapy designed to stop the cancer in its tracks.

Thoracic Surgeon Seth Krantz, MD, quickly determined that Zygokostas had a tumor in his lung that was pressing up against a critical artery providing blood to his heart.

“That artery was keeping him alive, and the tumor was almost growing into it,” Dr. Krantz explained. He consulted with Medical Oncologist Nicholas Campbell, MD, and together they recommended Zygokostas undergo chemotherapy before surgery to reduce the tumor’s size and make it easier to remove from a difficult location. Both specialists hold academic appointments at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.

I'm grateful not only for my cancer-free status, but also my NorthShore doctors and nurses.

John Zygokostas
NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center Patient

House Specialty: Excellent Outcomes

In the surgery that followed, Dr. Krantz removed the shrunken tumor and a portion of the lung without any damage to the critical artery.

NorthShore Heart Surgeon Hyde Russell, MD, Owen L. Coon Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery, assisted in the operating room due to the tumor’s proximity to the major artery. The results were far better than even the care team expected.

“The pathology report showed that the chemo had gotten rid of all of John’s cancer,” said
Dr. Krantz. “Fewer than one out of 10 people experience that kind of outcome.”

“John had such a complete response to chemotherapy that he didn’t even need post surgery radiation,” added Dr. Campbell. “And at his most recent follow-up, he was still cancer-free.”

Grateful for his current cancer-free status, Zygokostas appreciates not only his NorthShore doctors and nurses, but his family care team, too, including his wife, two daughters, two sons-in-law and three granddaughters.

“Yes,” he said, laughing. “I’ve got a lot of nurses watching out for me at home!”


For more information on supporting the NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center, please contact Kevin Gray at 224.364.7230. 



Guiding Your Care with Genetics

When Sacha Gordon learned that she carried the BRCA1 genetic mutation, she remembers feeling empowered.

Pregnant with her first child and living in London at the time, the DNA test result was not a total surprise based on Gordon’s family history. Her mother carries the same BRCA1 mutation and has survived two bouts of breast cancer and a serious battle with ovarian cancer.

“Knowing that I was becoming a mother, I felt I needed to be proactive about my health for the sake of my family,” recalled Gordon.

Taking Action

When Gordon and her husband moved back to the United States and settled in Glencoe near where she grew up, she quickly scheduled appointments with the exact same experts who were on her mom’s Kellogg Cancer Center care team: Surgical Oncologist David Winchester, MD, Board of Directors/David P. Winchester, MD, Chair of Surgical Oncology; and Gynecologic Oncologist Gustavo Rodriguez, MD, Matthews Family Chair of Gynecologic Oncology Research.

Gordon talked with each physician about her preemptive options, including stepped-up breast screening surveillance. Following the birth of her third child—a son—Gordon then made up her mind to take proactive steps to keep her heightened cancer risk in check: a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in 2018, followed by hysterectomy and oophorectomy, or removal of her ovaries, in January 2020.

In making her decision to have these preemptive surgeries, Gordon reflected on watching her mother go through chemotherapy and literally fight for her life through ovarian cancer. “I didn’t want to sit around and wait for a cancer diagnosis,” she explained. “I’ve been liberated! The control and power feel awesome.”

Thanks to the blessing of knowing what I was up against and the great team of physicians at NorthShore, I no longer have to fear my future. I feel very fortunate and grateful.

Sacha Gordon
Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine Patient

Understanding Previvorship

Gordon counts herself among a growing group of “previvors,” individuals who have a predisposition to cancer but who have not yet had the disease. This includes people with an inherited genetic mutation or a family history of cancer that defines them as high risk.

Gordon wanted to share her story in the hope of encouraging other women with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer or suspected genetic mutations to consider getting genetic testing through NorthShore’s Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine. “By understanding your unique genetic risk, you can change the course of your life,” she emphasized.

Through the Neaman Center, and NorthShore’s unique Advanced Primary Care approach, patients like Gordon have access to the latest, most comprehensive genetic testing panels along with a team of specialists and genetic counselors.

Personalized Options, Evolving Therapies

“This is a life-changing opportunity for people,” said Dr. Winchester. “You have to personalize care for each patient by making sure they have a clear picture of their options, and outlining what to expect in terms of lifetime risk.”

“So much progress has been made in recent years,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “We continue to open doors to new exciting therapies, which are providing dramatically better results in terms of cancer survival.”

“Thanks to the blessing of knowing what I was up against and the great team of physicians at NorthShore, I no longer have to fear my future. I feel very fortunate and grateful,” added Gordon.

Previvor Power

The Myra Rubenstein Weis Living In the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program is the first community cancer survivorship program in Chicagoland. LIFE works to ensure the long-term health and quality of life for cancer survivors and previvors. Click here to learn about supporting this program.


For more information on supporting the Mark R. Neaman Center for Personalized Medicine, contact Danielle Maihofer at 224.364.7218. 


Read Past Issues


Quick Links    |    Make A Gift    |    Save the Date    |     Join Us    |    Contact Us    

Join the conversation       

Policies and Procedures | © 2021 NorthShore University HealthSystem. All Rights Reserved.

1033 University Place, Suite 450
Evanston, IL 60201