Being Authentic: A Memoir by Morhaf Al Achkar
⚠ Our existence is fragile. I learned that in many intricate ways, so I do not take today for granted. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do not even know if tomorrow will come. ⚠
◆ On the eve of Thanksgiving 2016, I received the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer. Next to dying, I fear the spread of cancer to my brain and losing my ability to think, speak, or write. This loss would be devastating to me. ◆
The fragility of our life made me want to be authentic. Therefore, I am writing this memoir to be authentic—we become our true selves when we author who we are.
I am afraid of being forgotten. Death does frighten me. But more than dying, I am scared of having no one remember me or, even worse, of being recognized differently from who I was. At the same time, I have never thought that I was entitled to ask others not to forget me. But, not to be forgotten is precisely what I yearn for. ★
While I am writing for the other, I am simultaneously writing for myself. I am one of the readers and will test the subject as it gets written. My criteria are stricter. I want to say, “This is my narrative.”
♥ I need to be able to say, “This is my narrative.” ♥
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My name is Morhaf Al Achkar. I was born in Aleppo-Syria in 1983. I migrated to the United States in 2006 after finishing medical school. I also obtained a Ph.D. in Education from Indiana University. Currently, I am a practicing family physician and associate professor at the University of Washington.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Since then, my research has focused on the experience of patients living with cancers. My first book is based on interviews I did with 39 patients who live, like me, with advanced illness. I explored how these patients find meaning, cope, and build resilience
Writing my memoir was my attempt to reconstruct my narrative. I did not want to be defined as a cancer patient nor as someone living with resilience despite cancer. I wanted to be me again: A Syrian Immigrant.