Turning Pain Into Beautiful Art

Photo by Mohamed Fawzy

Hanna Shahbar’s Journey.

Hanaa Shahbar was focused on her goals and career, holding a prominent position at an architectural engineering firm, when her life changed so abruptly in 2016 upon discovering that she had Stage 3 breast cancer. She spiraled into grief and pain, and even as her family showered her with love, she was acutely aware of being treated by everyone around her as a “sick person.”

She eventually began painting, expressing what she was going through – all the emotions that reflected her state of mind as she adjusted and tried living with her cancer. When she started attending art events and collaborating with other artists, she found that it helped her overcome the initial depression and sadness that came with having cancer.


“I turn these feelings into visible works of art, highlighting the importance of finding happiness from within, despite what I go through,” Hanaa says.

“The first piece of work I finished, Silence of the Frightened, left me upset and confused. It expressed a combination of fear, anticipation, and a longing for silence. I ended up destroying the artwork.” Hanaa tried again soon afterwards, confronting herself and her fears, and sharing Confrontation with her family. “This time, it was all about acceptance – it’s okay to wear a wig and faux lashes, it’s okay to live for yourself. We need to love ourselves, before expecting others to,” she adds.


After a spate of treatments, Hanaa battled her cancer successfully. In celebration, she created Success to reflect laughter, happiness, and her gratitude. “I’m currently under treatment still, but I always remember to be grateful to God.”


She shares, “We all have difficulties in our lives. Cancer patients who have a positive perspective, like Shaima Eidi and Hana Iskandar, are sources of inspiration for all of us.”

She aspires to be one such person, too; she learned motion graphics to produce her full story on video and share it with others, and she created a page dedicated to supporting other survivors.

Instagram:  hanno_2018 / hanno_art_

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