By Suzanne Asselin

There are many different ways to face cancer diagnosis and treatment. Among its wide variety of activities that offer respite to cancer patients, Hope & Cope’s Wellness Centre offers jewellery-making workshops twice per month.

As soon as they step into the Art Room for the workshop, participants are greeted warmly by artist and facilitator Eliane Telio, who conceived of this idea several years ago.  Eliane supervises a beehive of several women who are deep in concentration as they create bracelets and necklaces, choosing from among thousands of pearls and multi-coloured stones of various shapes and sizes – all of which were generously donated.  Because the delicate pearls often slip between their fingers and onto the floor, Eliane jokingly named the group the Rolling Stones Club. “We all laughed and it became an inside joke,” she recalls.

Snippets of conversation can be heard here and there, while the eyes are dazzled by the riot of colours, shapes and textures of these beautiful jewels. The camaraderie that unites these women as they create their pieces contributes to their sense of well-being and helps explain the workshop’s popularity.

Eliane Telio was a volunteer at the Jewish General Hospital for 10 years, working in the clinics, where she listened to patients who were waiting to see the oncologist, the radiologist and other specialists. “So many people go through treatment alone. They need someone to listen, to reassure them and to give them a bit of hope,” she explains.

As an artist, Eliane hit upon the idea of offering a jewelry-making workshop for people with cancer. She sees the workshop as a refuge, where, for a few hours, patients can forget about the stress of tests, treatments, side effects and the many inconveniences caused by this disease.

Participants in the workshop help each other. Hernick, an experienced participant, took newcomer Tegualda under her wing. Watching as they carefully thread these colourful stones through the metal corkscrew provided by Eliane, it is easy to see how much they appreciate this workshop. A blonde woman named Maria confides that she was overwhelmed during the initial stages of her illness. “I was alone, I had to stop working and I had no idea how I was going to cope. I started coming to the Wellness Centre four times a week and that was a lifesaver.” Here, Maria was able to change her mindset, elevate her mood, make friends, develop her creativity and decompress.

The Rolling Stones do not keep all of their creations. In fact, they happily donate their jewelry to the Wellness Centre and the main office at the hospital, where these items are sold and the proceeds directed back to Hope & Cope, or raffled off as gifts at special events held throughout the year.

Eliane’s passion and enthusiasm for this creative workshop is boundless, and shared by her colleague, Sophie, a caregiver who helps lead the activity. And that enthusiasm is definitely shared by the grateful participants who continue to flock to this jewellery-making workshop.