The book tells the stories of 39 patients with incurable lung cancer. It aims to help patients, families, and healthcare providers understand the experience of living with cancer. It also invites reflections on the essential questions of meaning, resilience, and coping with adversity in life. The author is a family doctor, teacher, and researcher who is also a stage 4 lung cancer patient himself. He is patient #40.
Facing one’s mortality, patients with cancer develop an urgency to find meaning in life. They struggle with the illness, its emotional impact, and the consequences of treatments. However, with time, reflection, and support from others, they develop resilience. Cancer patients often are not passive. Instead, they choose different strategies to maintain and restore their health. They also leverage a variety of approaches to cope better with their struggle.
The book is for cancer patients who are tarrying at the limits of time. It is also for those who live around patients with cancer: caregivers, families and friends, and health care providers. People who struggle with other illnesses will also find aspects of their story reflected here. Also, the ones who have experienced a crisis of identity will discover elements of their story here as well. By sharing the experiences of the forty authentic individuals, the book opens the space for them to teach others. This book is about the essence of the human experience at its limits. It is for every reader.
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Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, Ph.D. (1983-) was born in Aleppo-Syria and migrated to the United States in 2006 after finishing medical school. He also obtained a Ph.D. in Education from Indiana University. Currently, he is a practicing family physician and a faculty member at the University of Washington.
In 2016, Morhaf was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Since then, his research has focused on the experience of patients living with lung cancer. His writing is based on interviews he did with 39 patients who live, like him, with incurable cancers. He explores how these patients find meaning, cope, and build resilience.