Brain tumour survivor paints the sunrise every day – for seven years

Nadine Bells
Good NewsFebruary 7, 2012

Debbie Wagner has been painting the sunrise every day for seven years.

After having two pear-sized tumours removed from her brain, the Kansas mother of three decided to celebrate life in what quickly became a daily ritual.

"When I look at a sunrise, it represents a new beginning. I'm just so happy to be here another day and see my kids do different things and go to dinner with my husband. I suppose that's the addiction of it — it puts me in a state of mind focused on gratitude," Wagner said.

"As a brain-tumour survivor, I lost so many of the loves I had, like reading and writing and mathematics," Wagner, 56, told MSNBC. "My visual journal became essential to my attitude for the day."

Wagner didn't pick up a paintbrush until the surgeries robbed her of her ability to "multitask, follow recipes or novel plots, balance a checkbook, or even sleep soundly through the night." While she lost many of the things she loved, she gained "an increased visual awareness" that drew her to painting.

To date, she has completed over 2,200 paintings, each 5-by-14 inches. A painting takes Wagner up to 45 minutes to complete.

Because Wagner now has far too many sunrise paintings than she could ever display, she sells them "to people who want to mark a special day," celebrating weddings, births, and returns from war with her art.

One man, Cody Cox, purchased the sunrise painted on the day his nephew died, "his last sunrise here with us," he wrote to Wagner.

"I think people are drawn to the honesty of what I'm doing, and the pureness of it. It's not calculated and it's not planned, and it was never meant to be commercial. It's my journal and it's very personal," Wagner said of her work.