Morhaf al Achkar - Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer

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.
Patients with cancer often have 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.

"This book offers insights for all of us, healthy or not, who seek to better understand ourselves." -The Book Review Directory

My name is Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, Ph.D. I am a family doctor and a researcher working as a professor at the University of Washington. I am also a stage 4 lung cancer patient.

When I developed cancer in 2016, I thought I might not live more than a few months or maybe a couple of years, if I am fortunate. So, it became particularly important to find my authentic voice and to spend my time here doing what is meaningful for me and others. As a physician and a researcher, I decided to use my gift to lend a voice to those often unheard--patients with incurable cancers who often live on the margins. I also thought I could help develop a language that allows people to understand their struggle and to be understood. That is why I wrote this book. Now that I wrote the book, I have an urgency to send the message across.

As patients who have not smoked but developed lung cancer, our stories will call attention to this disease and to the stigma with which patients with lung cancer struggle. In this book, I have leveraged my narrative to tell those of others. I hoped that patients, caregivers, and doctors would find in this book what can help understand and better support patients with cancer.
I wrote this book to the ever-day person and not only to those suffering from cancer or dealing with the suffering. I am asking the eternal questions about finding meaning in life and building resilience in the face of adversity. I trust that every reader will find in this book what is meaningful to them.

I also elaborated on health actions. These are the choices and preferences people make to live healthily or become healthy. I invited a reflection and dialogue on how we make our health choices.

Humanity can learn a lot from patients with cancer. Let's open the space for them to tell their stories.