By Sonia Hazan

Today, we will meet Sandy Lipkus, an accomplished 21-year Hope & Cope veteran who is in charge of our team of volunteers in the Radio-oncology Department at the Jewish General Hospital.

Before Sandy joined Hope & Cope in 2000, she was already a trailblazer.  At the McGill Centre for Loss and Bereavement, she was instrumental in setting up support groups for youth, women and men.  This was, in fact, the theme of her Master’s thesis.  Sandy is also the founder of Sharegrief.com, a website featuring trained grief specialists who volunteer their time to reach out and compassionately help the bereaved across the world.

Back at Hope & Cope, Sandy’s caring and empathy served her well in the Palliative Care Unit at the Jewish General Hospital and later at the Hope & Cope Wellness Centre, when the Centre first opened to the public. Offering a handful of psycho-social programs and an exercise program in a fully equipped gym, the Centre quickly blossomed to include Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, cooking, art and so much more.

The next move for Sandy was Radio-oncology – a vital department in the lives of many cancer patients. The range of activities Sandy covers would take up an entire article in and of itself, but when asked what she likes best about Hope & Cope, Sandy replied without hesitation, “I am proud of what we do, proud of our community and proud of our team that offers services that meet the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs of our patients and their families.”

Students enjoy their training in Radio-oncology, including those who have come from as far as Germany. “By sharing their own personal experiences – from the young ones with their uplifting outlook on life to the more experienced ones with their thoughtful presence – volunteers of all ages make a greater connection with patients,” explains Sandy.

Another one of Sandy’s important contributions is a series of comprehensive illustrated booklets she developed for children of all ages (from toddlers to teenagers) that addresses the difficult topics of cancer, loss and end of life.  Health care professionals from across Canada have purchased these books, offered free of charge in most cases.

Sandy also manages Hope & Cope’s En Famille Program which offers children’s workshops, home-cooked meals via Kerry’s Kitchen, a library with age-appropriate books and other resources to children under the age of 18 in families dealing with a parent’s cancer.

A proud and very much loved grandmother of 15, in her spare time, Sandy plays the ukulele – an instrument she discovered and fell in love with 15 years ago in Hawaii!