Culturally, for weddings and religious holidays, henna is used as a decoration on the hands. Henna is made from the leaves of a tropical shrub and used as a dye to decorate and color your hands, feet etc. Being able to do henna takes a lot of patience, precision, and steady hands, three things that I, fortunately, inherited from my dad. (I also grew up with the urge to pursue medicine and to hopefully become a plastic surgeon for cancer patients. To me, all surgeons are artists. It takes great imagination and precision to make sure every incision you make is the right one.)
Many women struggle with their appearance on a daily basis, particularly cancer patients. Your body isn't the same after ongoing treatments and surgeries. After my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, our world was turned upside down. With the blessings of God and the support from friends and family, my mom recovered fully. Shortly after her recovery, I noticed that my mom started to realize that she didn't look the same as she did before her journey; no woman does after fighting for her life. I would catch her looking at herself in the mirror (particularly at her chest) and watch as she touched her scars. To me, she was, and still is beautiful, but I felt like this was hard for her to recognize. One day I decided to try and to do henna over the scars on her chest. The result came out to be everything I had imagined. I took a picture and showed her, and her face started glowing; she loved it!
I thought about different ways I could do this on other cancer patients to make them feel beautiful and proud of what they looked like. I started doing henna on the heads of patients after their chemo treatments and that was the most rewarding of all. To take something that a patient is ashamed to show and turn it into something beautiful made my heart so happy. With the help of MD Anderson, I then began to spread the word about what I was doing and I am now getting many requests for henna. As Edgar Degas says, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Being able to show others my passion and love for art while putting a smile on their faces is beyond everything I could have dreamed of doing one day. Hearing people’s journeys and seeing how my art can spark a glow is truly rewarding and I can’t wait to see how many more lives I can touch with the art of henna.