When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Published by Bodley Head on February 4th 2016
Pages: 228
ISBN: 1847923674
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Death comes for all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. Most lives are lived with passivity toward death -it’s something that happens to you and those around you.

At the age of thirty-six neurosurgeon, Paul Kalantihi was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He suspected he had cancer. He had been experiencing excruciating back pain, was fatigued and losing weight. After his diagnosis, he went from being a brilliant doctor to being a patient struggling to live. How hard must it have been for him to have all that knowledge and experience to go from being a healer to someone who could not be healed.

His writing was beautiful and eloquent. He not only had medical degrees, he also had a M.A. from Stanford University in English Literature. He wrote this book while undergoing treatment in order to live. A doctor and a writer. It was very fitting that another doctor and Author – Abraham Verghese wrote the forward to this book.

If I were a writer of books, I would compile a register, with a comment, of the various deaths of men: he who should teach men to die would at the same time teach them to live.
– Michel de Montaigne “That to Study Philosophy Is to Learn to Die”

This book is a very emotional, beautiful and sad memoir of a man living while dying. What gives meaning to our lives? How to measure a life well lived? When to stop working” Should one have a child? How hard should one fight? This book is about Paul’s life, his struggles, his acceptance and his impact on the lives of his loved ones. He showed tremendous grace during what was the most physically and emotionally challenging time of his life.

From Dr. Abraham Verghese’s prologue to the epilogue written by Paul’s wife, Lucy, this book is more than just a memoir. It is a beautiful labor of love. The writing is wonderful and heartbreaking.