Who Am I?

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×

It’s the age-old question. At least I think it is. Who am I? It’s the self-awareness that separates us from any other species. The nagging question we all want to know the answer to. Who am I?

Well, it’s certainly been nagging me. How does the big C word change who I am? I haven’t even gotten used to identifying myself as a “cancer patient” and soon I’ll be fortunate enough to identify myself as a “cancer survivor”. The words don’t roll of the tongue, that much is for sure. Actually, they make me nauseous. There is a struggle within. Part of me wants to embrace this new identity – knowing that it has made me a stronger person. Sure, it was never quite a near-death experience. But it could have been. Hell, I can beat anything now.

And yet, part of me wants nothing to do with this new identity. Part of me says “fuck cancer, I’m done.” I’m sick of the nausea. Sick of the anxiety. Sick of being sick. I want to run as far away from this as possible.

But I can’t and I won’t. This experience will forever change me – there is no getting around that. For starters I will be reminded with routine scans at Dana Farber for the next 7 years. Or how about the next time I tell a friend I have more balls than he does (and then pause). Actually it’s pretty funny/ironic. I mean, I’ve lost a testicle, but grown more “balls”. Hmmm…ok, I’ll stop with that metaphor.

Who am I? I don’t have a simple answer. And I don’t think “cancer survivor” will really capture how this latest chapter in my life has affected my identity. I suppose our experiences continue to shed light on the answer, but there will always be some dark areas. Maybe more than dark areas; sometimes it feels like we’re totally in the dark (with nothing more than a small flash light). Uh-oh, here I go again with another metaphor.

I’m okay without a direct answer. What’s important is that I keep checking in with myself, asking the question, and shedding more light on the matter. This blog has truly given me that opportunity. You have given me that opportunity.

So allow me to provide another answer to this big question and end another entry with my favorite word. Ubuntu; I am because we are.



Author: John Abdulla

Share This Post On


  1. Hi John,

    I am listening to Richard Rohr's set of talks on paradox: Holding the tension. You are welcome to borrow them.

    Today I listened to his understanding of sophia ~ wisdom ~ as the darkness that enlightens…the dying to know life…being poor to become rich…the I am because we are..Wisdom holds the tension of opposites together in the man-God or the God become man or even the Virgin Mother.

    None of it is logical. So, the word becomes flesh ~ God becomes human and allows us to crucify him. Like Rohr and other Franciscans, I just don't believe Jesus had to suffer torture to save us. I think the Annunciation/Incarnation did all of that and more. But, he did suffer and forgive us in the very midst of his pain. Jesus accepted what showed up and shaped it according to his loving way of being.

    Perhaps this is what you are kind of saying here? That the big C sucks. But, it showed up. You are accepting it with openness and trust and willingness to take the richness it can offer me. Like Jesus, you are shaping this experience with your commitment to transparency and Ubuntu and life. You are not letting it shape you even as you experience its effects.

    I met a woman, Yanga, from Mongolia last week. She became blind gradually. She traveled from Mongolia to CT alone with her seeing eye dog, Gladys. She did everything in the program. At one point she explained that she is disabled by the blindness but not handicapped. She does not see herself as less able. When people feel sorry for her or dismiss her or try to limit her, she simply does not live into their story for her. She does not let their attitudes or actions shape her beliefs about herself or her choices.

    Your blog and willingness to share in this way has been a true gift for us and for you. Acceptance and sharing our burdens brings us through them.

    Prayers for Friday's C-scan coming your way!


  2. Awww, I love these great metaphors. You are an extraordinary gentleman whose bravery and optimism is truly oustanding! You are full of love and generosity and have the utmost empathy and consideration for others than any other person I know! You are my hero in so many ways and are to so many others. I'm so proud of you and you are and will do amazing in everything you set out to do!
    Love you!
    Love always,

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×