Hope & CopeSpring 2015

Sheila Kussner honoured for helping
countless cancer patients

Praised for “persistence, creativity, empathy”
in founding Hope & Cope

Sheila Kussner acknowledges the applause and appreciation of her colleagues and friends.

Sheila Kussner acknowledges the applause and appreciation of her colleagues and friends.

More than 30 years after cancer patients and survivors began benefiting from the desperately needed comfort, advice and support of Hope & Cope, Sheila Kussner, O.C., O.Q., was formally honoured for founding the internationally renowned organization and for instilling it with her seemingly inexhaustible determination and vitality.

Although Mrs. Kussner stepped down as Hope & Cope’s Chair in 2012, she remains active as a key fund-raiser and as the organization’s guiding spirit. “The cause is so compelling that it will always have a special place in my life and in my heart,” she told dozens of colleagues, friends and dignitaries last September at the JGH Hope & Cope Wellness Centre (Lou’s House). “I promise you this: When cancer retires, I, too, will gladly hang up my hat.”

Sheila Kussner and Allen F. Rubin watch a recorded video greeting from the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.

Sheila Kussner and Allen F. Rubin watch a recorded video greeting from the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.

In a recorded video message, David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, praised Mrs. Kussner for “truly understanding the power of collaboration and the role it plays in building a smarter, more caring community.”

Mrs. Kussner founded Hope & Cope in 1981, overcoming initial skepticism that cancer patients and their families could be helped by specially trained volunteers who themselves had survived cancer. At the time, patients received clinical treatment and care from healthcare professionals, but hardly any psychosocial support was available, nor did programs exist for individuals in particular age groups or with specific needs.

Since then, Hope & Cope has become a model for cancer support in Canada and around the world. Its innovative programs are designed to meet the complex emotional and practical needs of cancer patients, their families and their caregivers at every stage—from diagnosis through treatment, wellness, recovery, recurrence, and when necessary, palliative care and bereavement.

Additional comments
about Sheila Kussner
at the Hope & Cope event
in her honour

Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, JGH Executive Director: “Sheila Kussner embodies everything we strive for when we talk about creating an exceptional patient experience. She recognized an urgent need and then did her utmost to provide cancer patients—and those recovering from cancer—with practical information about the disease, as well as the psychosocial support to cope with the effects of illness and recovery.”

JGH President Allen Rubin: “The word ‘Sheila’ has become synonymous with service, devotion, sharing, persistence, creativity, empathy, warmth, caring, helping, charity, compassion and, above all else, love.”

Myer Bick, President and CEO of the JGH Foundation: “Sheila is a veritable dealer in hope. She has been, and continues to be, the model for leadership, which is not only to inspire those around her, but also to have the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Suzanne O’Brien, Executive Director of Hope & Cope: “You are our founder, our mentor and our constant source of inspiration. After a lifetime of caring for others, you have certainly earned the right to put yourself first for a change.”

In recognition of her achievements, Mrs. Kussner has received many honours, including being named an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the Order of Quebec, and Governor Emerita of McGill University, which also awarded her an LL.D. degree (honora causa). She has also received an honourary doctorate from the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Montreal.

Mrs. Kussner said she was accepting the commemorative plaque with pride and humility—“pride in what we have accomplished together, and humility, because this honour belongs not to me alone, but to the many individuals who walked beside me on this extraordinary journey—a journey, I might add, that is far from complete.”


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