In 2002, Debbie Wagner was diagnosed with two pear-sized brain tumors. Surgery was required, followed by extensive recuperation.

In 2005, she began painting sunrises every morning “to celebrate being alive.”

And she’s still painting.

Wagner will talk about her health challenges and the healing effect of her artwork in a presentation this weekend at the Leavenworth Public Library.

Wagner will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Jahn Room at the library, 417 Spruce St. The presentation is free and open to the public.

The Bennington, Kansas, resident said her story has been told and shared countless times over the years.

“I’ve been the subject of lots of stories all over the world,” Wagner said. “It’s mostly internet news sites. And a lot of websites have picked my story up.”

Wagner said she still suffers the effects of her health challenges.

“I can’t follow the recipes in a cookbook,” she said. “I have trouble with accounting and numbers. I’ve improved but I’m not what I used to be.”

But she turned to painting the sunrise nearly every morning “as thanksgiving for waking up every day.”

“When trauma like this happens, you can redefine who you are,” she said. “You can either accept it and be thankful that you are alive or you can choose to be bitter about it.”

Wagner said she paints the sunrise each morning if the weather is not cloudy. And she has been doing that for the last 13 years.

A growing legion of fans have admired her work and continue to purchase it.

Many people ask to purchase a painting of a certain day that is significant in their lives, such as the birth of a child or the death of a loved one.

Wagner sells the original painting of the sunrise. There are no other prints of the originals anywhere.

Wagner said she sells about 30 paintings each month and has sold more than 1,000 over the years.

She said a woman in Texas recently ordered her 17th sunrise painting from Wagner. The woman has no children, but has purchased 17 pieces to commemorate the births of her great-nieces and great-nephews.

Wagner said she will deliver a message of overcoming obstacles and using God-given gifts during her speech Sunday at the library.

“I feel like I’ve been given a gift, and feel if I don’t use it, it’s like a slap in the face of God,” she said. “The work has touched so many people. I never intended this at all, but it’s very humbling and lovely to me.”

To contact Wagner or for more information about her artwork, send email to

Visit examples of her sunrise artwork at