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> illness as life changer

Face to face with fate

There are times in life, when everything changes in an instant. Philipp Hanf experienced such a time seven years ago, aged 47, when he was diagnosed as suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Shocking – for him, for his wife, for his family.

Yet the diagnosis suddenly set many things in motion. Philipp Hanf stopped working, and all at once, his life began fleeting past his eyes, as if in a time lapse. Since conventional medicine had few solutions to offer, he started exploring new and candid avenues; meeting with spiritual healers and shamans, getting to the bottom of the seemingly miraculous abilities of Shaolin monks, facing his inner child, and practicing ancient, long-forgotten yoga techniques. He learned how to summon up unforeseen forces, listen to his own heart, and break with convention. He searched for alternatives in confronting his illness – and in the process, came face-to-face with himself.

This book, neither gloomy account of disease, nor dogmatic spiritual rulebook, gains in substance, as Hanf correlates his personal biography and background with multi-faceted therapeutic ideas and approaches – without verging on, or drifting myopically off into diffuse doctrines of salvation. On the contrary: He discovers many touch-points with traditional Western medicine.

Philipp Hanf, altogether grateful for his experiences, even if he has little time left on this earth, knows today that healing and death do not stand in contradiction to each other. In „ALSohappy“, he explains the genesis of this potentially incongruous-sounding conclusion. Philipp invites his readers to accompany him on a very personal journey of discovery. Instead of a swan song, a passionate plea for life awaits us – open, illuminating, and by all means with humor.

The english translation will be published shortly by The Key Publishing House.

> about me

Learning every day

I was born in 1969 in Celle, the second of four children; I grew up in Hankensbüttel, a community at the southern tip of the Lüneburg Heath in Lower Saxony, Germany. After my Abitur, or high school diploma, I went on to study dentistry in Heidelberg. Together with my wife, we carried on my father’s practice in my hometown for over twenty years.

In 2017, I was confronted with a devastating diagnosis: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a grave illness that affects motor neurons, better known as ALS. From that point onwards, I experienced a lot of changes in my life.  But instead of falling into a dark hole, I soared to new heights. I put an end to my active professional life and used the newly gained free time for myself as well as spending it with my wife, our dog, and with others. I read a ton. I delved into philosophical, scientific, and medical topics, thereby experiencing some of the most unforgettable and mind-boggling moments in my life. I arrived at insights and viewpoints that would have seemed completely alien to me before my illness.

Naturally, I stayed true to my roots in an utterly practical and down-to-earth way: 2019, I was elected as the President of our local sports club, Hankensbütteler Sportverein (HSV). The „little HSV“ holds significant importance for the region and the community. After having benefited greatly from sports and the volunteer work of many coaches and trainers in my youth, it was a fond wish of mine to be able to give back in some way. Since November 2022, I also actively support the Wolfsburg Krzysztof-Nowak-Foundation. For over twenty years, the foundation has been advocating for people who suffer financially due to their diagnosis with ALS. The two major players in this effort are members of the board of trustees Roy Präger and Reiner Müller. I am proud to work beside them, representing the needs of the foundation with my insider perspective, and thus helping those in need.

Today I can say that I am a happy person which fills me with gratitude and humility. Or, am I happy because I’m learning every day to be more grateful and humble?

> about translation

Reunion in words

When I was on the quest of finding the right person who could translate my autobiography, I spared no effort – with an almost romantic result. It was a downright casting call: I made a lot of phone calls, sent out parts of my book to several promising candidates for them to translate on a trial basis. Finally, I had several contenders at hand: a British native speaker, an American native speaker, and a German native speaker who had lived in an English speaking country for a long time. I expected that each of them had read the entirety of my book. When we spoke on the phone, I wanted to find out whether we jived, were on the same wavelength, if they had understood my message and related to my style of writing. Choosing the right translator was a matter of the heart for me.

I decided to send the collection of sample translations to an old friend of mine to get her feedback: the love of my youth, Maren. Since she had emigrated to the US shortly after high school and lived in many different places in the world, which I describe in the book, I knew I could trust her judgement. In the last 20, 30 years we kept in touch, but only sporadically. She now lives in France. It took some time before she shared her assessment with me. Just in passing she asked if it would also be an option if she were to translate my book. It would be a great pleasure, she said. I was surprised that she would even be interested in such a thing. I felt more than honored. I knew that she had been interested in languages since high school, that she wrote poetry and had a general artistic talent. So we began talking about a possible collaboration. With the result that she actually agreed to us working together with some words that really moved me, in that the translation of my book could be ›our baby‹ that we never had.

It is important to note that our relationship between the ages seventeen and twenty-one was not the easiest and went through several highs and lows. But you can read all about it in my book. In any case, what I mean to say is that my autobiography has reunited us. She wants to give me a voice so that I will be understood in many parts of the world. And that feels really good!

Maren Welling was born in 1969 in Wolfsburg, Germany, where she grew up. After the Abitur, she studied History and German literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, living and working there for almost twenty years. Returning to Europe in 2005, she has translated documentary films. This book is her first literary translation.

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