My current health situation definitely enabled me to connect with When Breath Becomes Air on quite a personal level. The hospital visits, the drugs and the unknown outcomes; I’m all too familiar with the process of being sick thanks to my arthritis. I, however, am not dying and can not begin to imagine the pain and heartache that Paul and his loved ones went through. I believe everyone who reads this book, no matter what their health is like, can connect with what Paul writes.
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
Paul seems like he was a wonderful man. His storytelling is genuine and he faces his unfortunate situation front on. He makes the reader understand the struggle that he went through as he transitioned from someone who helped others, to someone who needed help. He was no longer the doctor, but rather the patient – the person on the other side of the table.
Paul speaks his mind around the issue of death and what it means to be dying but also what it means to live. His words definitely made me teary, as they encourage you to think about your own mortality and what that means to you. As he was writing his book, he reflects on how he has lived his life and how he wanted to live it until it ended, which in turn makes you reflect upon your own life.
“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.” – Paul Kalanithi
I think this will be a book I re-read in a few years and I will not only enjoy it again, but I’ll most likely take a different perspective to it. As I said, I think everyone can connect with this moving book.
I would definitely recommend it, even though I may have had pause to make a few Google searches throughout the book due to the medical lingo!
Feature Image from here.