“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi


In his early 30s, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with lung cancer. He wrote about his career, the many times he had to help people through death as a doctor, and then facing it himself as the patient. It was very interesting to be taken into this up-close journey of facing death from the eyes of a doctor who understands it and has had to face it so many times through his patients. The epilogue was written by his wife and also was well done. What I found particularly interesting was that when faced with the fact that he would likely die soon, he and his wife chose to have a baby. That is an enormous decision that I don’t see a lot of couples choosing to do knowing what lies ahead. The book was decent.

Good quotes: 
“Doctors invade the body in every way imaginable. They see people at their most vulnerable, their most scared, their most private. They escort them into the world, and then back out.”

“Diseases are molecules misbehaving; the basic requirement of life is metabolism, and death its cessation.”

“When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeons only tool.”

“Death comes for all of us. For us, for our patients: it is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms.”

“Severe illness wasn’t life-altering, it was life shattering. It felt less like an epiphany- a piercing burst of light, illuminating What Really Matters — and more like someone had just firebombed the path forward. Now I would have to work around it.”

“After so many years of living with death, I’d come to understand that the easiest death wasn’t necessarily the best.”

“Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”

“Maybe, in the absence of any certainty, we should just assume that we’re going to live a long time. Maybe that’s the only way forward.”

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