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Encounter with Happy Birds

By Linda Lee, Cancer Center Administrator

I love going to outdoor art festivals. I am so amazed by the artistic creations and the overall unspoken invitation to explore, experience and find joy in the visual plane.

This year, I attended the annual Fairhope Art Festival in Fairhope, Alabama. It was a full-day outing! I was strolling along one of the streets, and the art that was hanging outside one of the hundreds of booths caught my eye. I stopped, turned around, and proceeded to “study” this artwork. It was a large piece. Initially I thought it was a painting, and from a distance it looked like a large tree with beautifully colored birds on its limbs. There was a word painted in the bottom left corner: “vida,” translated from Spanish, means “life.” Upon closer inspection, I could tell the media used on the tree and birds was definitely not paint. It was polymer. Pieces of polymer that were rolled out, baked, cut, and glued to make these beautiful images. I stared at this work of art for a long time.

The tree was white with bright speckled colors. The birds were amazing! They were so colorful and happy looking and each bird had beads around its neck! I scurried in the booth to talk to the artist. I introduced myself to Debo Groover, from Tallahassee, Florida. She was so welcoming and friendly and had the coolest round rim glasses and festive hat. I spoke with her for a while, hearing about the meticulous process that she and her spouse utilize in creating each piece of art.

In short, I had to have the tree with happy beaded birds. As I was purchasing the piece, we began to talk. I told her I was from Baton Rouge and that I worked at a Cancer Center. I was not prepared for what happened next. She said, “oh wow” and began to rapidly pull up her long sleeved shirt on her right arm. To my shock and delight, she had eight perfectly tattooed pink ink-filled stick figure women going up her forearm. They were all simply pink, except for one. One was outlined like the rest, but this tattoo was filled in with orange ink. Debo pointed to the orange stick figure and said, “this is me!” She went on to say she was a breast cancer survivor and decided to get the tattoo as her small way of being thankful and also to do her part in educating others about the risk of breast cancer.

“One in eight women get breast cancer, and that orange one is me.”

I was so touched. Moved by her art, her heart and her generous spirit. What a wonderful chance encounter with such a special human being.

Linda Lee is the Administrator of Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. She has overseen the daily operations of the Cancer Center since 2011, including the facility’s more than $24 million renovation and expansion in 2015. Linda was named one of eight Louisianians of the Year by myNewOrleans.com and Renaissance Publishing in 2016 and is a graduate of Louisiana State University.

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