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Greenwood Family Cancer Philanthropic Fund

A personal campaign sponsored by John Greenwood

December 31, 2022

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Kidney cancer survivor honors his medical heroes

January 25th, 2024

By: Jenna Kern-Rugile 

John Greenwood with his care team at R.J Zuckerberg Cancer Hospital

Two days after an annual Las Vegas vacation with friends, Bellmore resident John Greenwood found himself doubled over in pain. 

“At first, I thought it was a gallstone,” John said. But when his wife, Karen, returned home from work and saw John, she insisted they visit his physician. “When my doctor saw me,” John recalled, “he said, ‘What are you doing here? Get to the hospital now.’”  

After tests at North Shore University Hospital, John was stunned to hear that he had stage four metastatic kidney cancer. “My first thought was that I was done for,” he said.  

It isn’t unusual for kidney cancers to spread without causing symptoms, and there are no recommended screenings for those not at increased risk. The silent progression makes treatment more critical when symptoms finally surface.  

Novel treatment improves outcomes

John and Karen went to the R.J. Zuckerberg Cancer Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and met with Louis R. Kavoussi, MD, MBA, chair of Urology for Northwell Health and the Robert S. Waldbaum, MD, and Robert B. Gardner Jr. Professor of Urology at the Zucker School of Medicine. 

“I was going to get a second opinion,” John said, “but after meeting Dr. Kavoussi, there was no need. He’s the best. We stuck with Northwell.”  

One week later, Dr. Kavoussi performed a nephrectomy, removing John’s right kidney and a 14-pound tumor. Led by Xinhua Zhu, MD, Ph.D., John’s dedicated team of clinicians devised a novel immunotherapy protocol, using two rarely combined medications. Seventeen months later, he was deemed cancer-free.   

John and Karen Greenwood with Long Island Jewish Medical Center Executive Director, Michael Gitman, MD and members of the LIJ Medical Center leadership team


Gratitude inspires fundraising

John and Karen are enormously grateful to his care team. “Everyone at Northwell was amazing,” said Karen. “Because of them, John is living life to the fullest.”  

In memory of John’s sister Susan, who passed away from melanoma in 2020, and to honor his own cancer journey, John established a peer-to-peer fundraising page to support the next generation of cancer care professionals through research grants and facility enhancements. Instead of buying the family flowers or gift cards, with the click of a button, John’s loved ones contributed to the lifesaving work of medical professionals who are changing the future of cancer care.   

“During my first hospital stay, friends and family asked how they could support us. I directed them to support the staff at LIJ Medical Center and the Northwell Health Cancer Institute.”  

He added, “The page was incredibly easy to set up, and it enabled my friends and family to make a difference in the lives of others battling cancer, which means the world to me.” His friends hosted poker nights and spread the word throughout their community, raising more than $40,000.  

John and Karen Greenwood with the young physicians they supported through the AWSM Awards

Supporting the future of cancer research

Funds raised from John’s campaign supported grants for three of Northwell’s top female scientists through the AWSM (pronounced “awesome” — the Advancing Women in Science and Medicine) Awards. The grants are being used to study patterns in melanoma diagnoses and biomarkers that can be used to create more precise treatment plans for cancer patients.  

The donations also led to the creation of a Hematology/Oncology Fellows’ Suite, which provides fellows a place to collaborate on patient care and study advancements in the field.  

“John’s efforts helped us create a new space that allows our clinicians to study and design the best care plans for our cancer patients,” said Michael Gitman, MD, executive director of Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “We are so grateful to John for showing appreciation to his team by raising funds to support our mission.”  

“The nurses and doctors at Northwell left me in awe of what they do every day,” he said. “They are the backbone of patient recovery and the unsung heroes. I’m proud to be able to pay it forward and help where it’s needed.”