When Breath Becomes Air

February 3, 2016


My tattered copy, signed my Lucy Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a work of art and should be required reading for all students entering the medical field. There is just no singular way of describing the experience you will feel when you read this book. There are books that can't be put down. Then, there are those that change you. This one is both. I was transformed.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, set out to write his memoir. Instead, he gifted his readers the most remarkable story about love, medicine, family and mortality. He was a man deeply in love with his wife, Lucy, and baby daughter, Cady and family. But, he also loved the mind, literature, neurosurgery and the patient/doctor relationship. At times, through the story, it felt as if he was trapped between his loves and ambitions; trying to make meaning of what was important to him through his favorite works of literature and science. His life ended last March at the age of 36 from lung cancer leaving behind an enviable legacy.

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His depictions of medicine certainly made me change the way I view my physicians. I often view my doctors as machines that have all the answers, completely overlooking the fact that they are just like me. People working desperately to figure things out. Do yourself a favor and read this book!

A couple nights ago, I had the added bonus of attending a book signing with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, Paul's wife. Upon, listening to the moderated open conversation and the question and answer session, I felt completely inadequate offering any words of encouragement or well wishes to her when I was next in line at the book signing. She was so unbelievably strong while sharing their personal love story and anecdotes on marriage, parenthood and mortality. Yes, there was laughter that night. Remarkably, she has overcome her deep loss to shed some lightness on such a heavy topic. I've never met someone so completely open, generous, courageous and grateful. She expressed her gratitude many times for the outpouring of praise and acceptance of their story. It was so humbling. We are the ones that should be offering our thanks to them for sharing their experiences.



It was a night and a book that I will never forget. Aren't those the greatest?

2 comments :

  1. Love this post! Gorgeous pictures! I really like your blog, let me know if you would like to follow each other! x
    adelelydia.blogspot.com

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