Thursday, December 3, 2009


Among women who have had breast cancer, there are quite a few, me included, who find all the pinkness surrounding breast cancer awareness rather annoying and cloying. After all, breast cancer is not pretty and pink. Some women complain that after they've been diagnosed, friends give them pink gifts—tee shirts, tote bags, scarves. They appreciate the thought, but not the pink. On the other hand, I recognize that the pink ribbon campaign has raised millions of dollars for breast cancer, undoubtedly contributing to the development of new treatments to fight the disease.

The other day I received a message about a youtube video from a woman who shares my pink ambivalence—"Even though it's about pink," she wrote, "it's worth seeing." So I clicked on the link and watched. It was catchy and fun. I enjoyed it enormously. By now, the video has gone viral, but if you haven't seen it, check it out.

Breast cancer aside, what I love about this video is the sense that the people who work at St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon enjoy being there. They like the people they work with, they're proud of what they do, they feel part of a worthwhile endeavor. That may seem hard to extrapolate from a dance video, but it really came through. If I were sick, I'd like to go to that hospital.

I recently heard that since the economic downturn, architects in Portland have been sharing employees, so that if one firm has extra work, that firm borrows another firm's architect. This has helped prevent layoffs. Maybe there's something in the Portland air—architects cooperating to save jobs, hospital employees collaborating to create a dance video to raise breast cancer awareness.

It may rain a lot in Portland, but the employees of St. Vincent have shown it can be a very happy place, with a generous spirit. Let's hope that spirit is infectious.


  1. Hmm, I disagree about that being a place I'd want to be treated. It feels a little TOO happy for my tastes. Breast-cancer treatment is a grim business, and I think I need a little more sobriety in my treatment team. I also feel that there's a lot of pressure to have a "positive attitude" in the breast-cancer world. Call me a curmudgeon, but I feel resistant to that pressure (damn it!). Several people sent me that video thinking I would enjoy it. And I did, but ...

  2. I spent a week there in 1959 (or so) when a horse fell on my foot. No pink then. Just white. I remember my roommate had a broken arm and poison ivy all over his body. And my mom bought me magic books (how to do tricks). I would have never remembered the name of the hospital if it wasn't for your story. Pink is an interesting color — about as far from "death" as you can be.

  3. Thank you Barbara I literally was laughing and crying at the same time. How moving, and yes I agree with all the points you make about the video. So if I ever become ill enough (out here in the boondocks) that I need to be transported to the city, I think I'll choose Portland.


  4. Was amused by the video and enlightened by your insights.

  5. since my breast cancer diagnosis 4 yrs ago, well-meaning friends have given me some truly lovely pink ribbon pins, jewelry, etc., and I have never worn any of them. I, too, have pink-ribbon ambivalence...(a black skull & crossbones, perhaps?) but, I love the spirit of this video, I find it joyously life-affirming. cancer is grim enough, it is good to smile whenever you can.