When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

Large Print - 2016
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At the age of 36, on the verge of a completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi's health began to falter. He started losing weight and was wracked by waves of excruciating back pain. A CT scan confirmed what Paul, deep down, had suspected: he had stage four lung cancer, widely disseminated. One day, he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next, he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined, the culmination of decades of striving, evaporated. Breath Becomes Air approaches the questions raised by facing mortality from the dual perspective of the neurosurgeon who spent a decade meeting patients in the twilight between life and death, and the terminally ill patient who suddenly found himself living in that liminality. At the base of Paul's inquiry are essential questions such as: What makes life worth living in the face of death? What happens when the future, instead of being a ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present? When faced with a terminal diagnosis, what does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another one fades away? As Paul wrote, "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 passed away in March 2015, while working on this book.
Publisher: Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016.
Edition: Large print edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9781410487858
1410487857
Branch Call Number: [LP] B/KALANITHI
Characteristics: large print.
241 pages (large print) ; 23 cm

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SDPL_HUMANITIES Dec 12, 2015

How does breath become air? Paul, a neurosurgeon, answers with his personal and medical point of view. He didn’t believe that anything, especially health, could go wrong since he was at the height of his career, but everything was threatened by a devastating diagnosis. With poignant perspectives,... Read More »


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o
ortiztuc
Apr 03, 2018

Would read again. 5 of 5 stars.
Good author. Recommend. Will be one of the books I buy in the future.

k
knitter2248
Mar 30, 2018

One of the best books I've read in a long time. Paul Kalanithi aspired to be a writer before he became a surgeon and the words just flow. Yes, it's a sad story, sad that we lost someone this gifted at any early age, but he gives us the gift by sharing his life, his desire to find meaning in life, his illness, and his death.

Do look up Bill Gates review of this book. It's far more eloquent that what I've shared. Also, look up Lucy Kalanithi and her life after Paul. Sometimes new opportunities come in strange ways...

j
joyful_rose
Mar 20, 2018

After losing my 45 year old mother to an obscenely aggressive Lung Cancer at the age of 15, I could still relate to this breath-taking account of life on death's terms.
To this little human and loving wife that Paul left behind, I pray that the insight he bestowed affords comfort in your times of sorrow and enriches whatever wake he has left behind.
What a brilliant mind!

a
anthonychew
Feb 07, 2018

A good read. Paul generously and openly shared his experiences, sufferings and thoughts when test confirmed he had cancer. I'd have send a friend of mine this book but unfortunately he just passed away prior to my reading this book. The stages and experiences he had undergone were similar to Paul's and I'm sure having a reference during those difficult moments would be useful.

l
Liber_vermis
Jan 30, 2018

Did the author jeopardize his health by the grueling regimen to train to be a neurosurgeon? The technical and medical terms in this memoir (such as a 'dehiscent' wound, pressors) interfere with the narrative when simple, descriptive language would have been more meaningful to the reader.

b
Bibili
Dec 14, 2017

I've breezed through this book in 2 days, crying...it's a must-read and relatable on a deep, human level. Both doctor Paul's life and death are inspiring, it's a shame he's no longer with us, but what a great legacy he's left behind. May he rest in peace. Read this book!

l
Lourdeaux
Oct 24, 2017

Once I started I couldn't put this book down. For readers who now contemplate multiple paths their lives might take, as well as anyone who'd like to know what it feels like to live a medical specialist's life, this book is an unforgettable tale of life meeting death day by day.

m
Mymulla
Oct 04, 2017

A reflective and compelling book. I had to read and ponder every page of this excellent book. Paul gives the reader insight to his thoughts, career and his life. May he and his family be blessed. A must read for all.

s
sgcf
Sep 09, 2017

Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s skill as a lyrical and contemplative writer brings the reader a profound gift by fusing his medical knowledge with his expected death. I am full of admiration for him as a very enlightened being. In using his dying experience for this book he helps all who read it to live their lives more fully. His repeated theme of wanting to find meaning in life reminded me of a previous work I’ve valued, "Through the Dark Woods: Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life" by Dr. James Hollis, who says happiness is not life’s goal – a meaningful life is.

a
ADELP95
Jul 28, 2017

Excellent yet heartbreaking story. A must read for everyone.

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l
Liber_vermis
Jan 30, 2018

"... As a resident [neurosurgeon], my highest ideal was not saving lives - everyone dies eventually - but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness. ... The families [of the patient] see the past, the ... memories, the freshly felt love, all represented by the body before them. I see the possible futures, the breathing machines connected [to] the neck, the pasty liquid dripping [into] the belly, the possible long, painful, and only partial recovery - or, sometimes more likely, no return at all of the person they remember. In these moments, I acted not, as I most often did, as death's enemy, but as its ambassador. I had to help those families understand that the person they know ... now lived only in the past and that I needed their input to understand what sort of future he or she would want: an easy death or to be strung between bags of fluids ... to persist despite being unable to struggle." (p. 87-88)

AL_MARYA Jan 26, 2017

...When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

j
jenn_g
Jan 18, 2017

You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.

s
shayshortt
Aug 18, 2016

I was less driven by achievement than by trying to understand, in earnest: what makes human life meaningful? I still felt literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain.

j
JanPruatt
Aug 05, 2016

Chemotherapy began on Monday. Lucy, my mother and I went to the infusion center together. I had an IV placed, settled into an easy chair and waited.

b
BeckyR21
May 03, 2016

There we were, doctor and patient, in a relationship that sometimes carries a magisterial air and other times, like now, was no more, and no less, than two people huddled together, as one faces the abyss.

Doctors, it turns out, need hope, too.

Summary

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s
shayshortt
Aug 18, 2016

After ten years of medical education, Paul Kalanithi was on the verge of completing his training as a neurosurgeon when he became concerned about his own health. At first he blamed the rigours of residency, but a CT scan soon revealed the worst: cancer in the lungs, spine, and liver. Early in his university career, Kalanithi studied literature, dreaming of a career as a writer, but was driven to medicine by questions about mortality and meaning that he felt could not be answered by literature alone. Suddenly, those questions became urgent and personal, and the only time left to write a book and achieve that dream was now.

j
JanPruatt
Aug 05, 2016

This book is one of the best 75 books in the past 75 years and it was just published this year. It will be truly a classic when you consider it’s about a neurosurgeon who discovers he has lung cancer. As the summary on the back of the box says – “One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live.” Only 36 years old Kalanithi had many questions he wanted answers to – “What make life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away?” Together with his large, loving family Kalanithi discovers the meaning of life. He was a brilliant writer and surgeon and was transformed as he explored literature in pursuit of what is important in life. I admire that he found what he was looking for and reported in a sensitive, matter-of-fact way without sentimentality.

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JanPruatt
Aug 05, 2016

JanPruatt thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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