When Breath Becomes Air by Paul KalanithiFor readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decades worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithis transformation from a naïve medical student possessed, as he wrote, by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything, he wrote. Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: I cant go on. Ill go on. When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
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Many doctors, as they approach old age, observe that it is only when they themselves, or members of their family, fell ill and became patients that they really understood what the patients whom they had treated had had to go through. Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air while he was waiting to die from metastatic lung cancer. It is, however, much more than just another tragic life story or the memoirs of a cancer victim—literary forms that are currently very popular—as Kalanithi was a young neurosurgeon who was just on the point of completing his training when his cancer was diagnosed. As with many doctors with cancer—who often deny their symptoms—it was some time before the diagnosis was made. He dismissed his back pain—caused by secondary disease in his spine—as being benign. He recounts the months of treatment, and the difficult limbo of prolonged remission, which modern medicine can now give us.
“When Breath Becomes Air” By Paul Kalanithi (TH353)
SuperSoul Short: When Breath Becomes Air - SuperSoul Sunday - Oprah Winfrey Network
When Breath Becomes Air is the beautiful and heart-wrenching memoir of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgical resident diagnosed with lung cancer in the last year of his training. When the life Paul and his wife Lucy imagined for their futures ceases in the face of his diagnosis, he works to understand what his new life will look like and how long it will be. Through various treatments, his struggle to return to work, and the birth of his first and only child, Paul details his personal journey of discovering the meaning of life, death, and the thin line separating them. When Breath Becomes Air recounts the life of Dr.