When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air – Book Review By Paul Kalanithi

‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is probably one of the best books that I have ever read. It is a beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming book. Which I recommend everyone to read. I cried many times reading this book, it is a little bit about dying but, I think it is more about what it feels like to be alive.

When Breath Becomes Air“What do you do when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? What makes life worth living in the face of death?”

Paul Kalanithi is a thirty-six year old neurosurgeon, before going to med school Paul attended Stanford University to study English Literature and Human Biology, then later completed his Masters in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge. He then attended Yale School of Medicine.  Paul wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a career but he knew that he would “never be a doctor”. “I knew Medicine only by it’s absence – specifically, the absence of a father growing up, one who went to work before dawn and returned in the dark to a plate of reheated dinner”.

Paul really wanted to find out and really understand the meaning of life and death that is why he chose neurosurgery as a career. “I had started in this career, in part, to pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see it eye-to-eye, unblinking. Neurosurgery attracted me as much for its intertwining of brain and consciousness as for its intertwining of life and death.”

On the verge of qualifying as a neurosurgeon after a decade of training Paul Kalanithi discovered that he had inoperable lung cancer at the age of 36. “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 wrote this book to help people understand the meaning of life and death. This book is based on a real-life account of what it means to live with cancer. Paul writes in all honesty, on how he knew and ignored all the warning signs whereas, deep deep down he knew it was cancer.

I’m going to quote some quotes from this book that really touched me..

“..but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”

“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.”

“I had started in this career, in part, to pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see eye-to-eye, unblinking. Neurosurgery attracted me as much for its intertwining of brain and consciousness as for its intertwining of life and death. I had thought that a life spent in the space between the two would grant me not merely a stage for compassionate action but an elevation of my own being: getting as far away from petty materialism, from self- important trivia, getting right there, to the heart of the matter, to truly life and death decisions and struggles… surely a kind of transcendence would be found there?”

“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.”

I hope that I have convinced you to read this amazing book it sure is an incredible read.

 

Love Mariam