When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanith

1288 Words 6 Pages
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a memoir accounting his transformation from being a bright, young medical student to a highly-praised neurosurgeon to a vulnerable cancer patient. Kalanithi depicts this journey in a heartbreaking and powerful way. Kalanithi is an esteemed surgeon, scholar, writer, and father who lost his life to cancer at the age of 37. This 228-page memoir illustrates Kalanithi’s cancer story: his struggles and triumphs, his heartbreak and successes, and eventually the birth of his daughter and his death. Published posthumously in 2016 by Random House, this memoir honors the legacy of Kalanithi. Kalanithi has degrees in English literature, human biology, and history and philosophy of science and medicine from …show more content…
The diagnosis was life altering to him and his wife. Kalanithi’s role changed from the physician who called the shots, to the vulnerable patient, unable to control his outcome. Kalanithi wondered why he was” so authoritative in a surgeon’s coat but so meek in a patient’s gown” (6). Kalanithi was at the pinnacle of his career when he was diagnosed. He was in his final year of residency, he had won many prestigious awards, and was receiving job offers from many top universities in the nation. Kalanithi was now lying in a hospital bed where he had previously diagnosed patients, told patients they had been cured, and pronounced patients dead. Paul met his diagnosis head on; he did not let it defeat him. Paul saw his career as a surgeon draw to a close. He transitioned from being the one leading people through life changes to himself being led into the unknown. The future as he had planned was now forever changed. He now faced a dark, empty unknown. Paul felt as though after he stopped caring for patients, his life as he knew it was over; he was no longer needed. His oncologist constantly encouraged him to continue to pursue a career in neurosurgery. She asked him to do something to make his life worth living. Paul decided to not let his diagnosis define him. Despite his odds and the deck stacked against him, Paul pressed on. If he was not working towards something—if he had no end goal—what made life worth living? Paul found himself drawing many parallels between himself and his patients. He now understood the interworks of their minds, their worries and concerns. He now had to face his own mortality. Paul began his rigorous treatment regime and slowly began the path back towards health. He slowly began to regain strength and work towards long hours in the operating room. The journey was incredibly difficult for him. When times became hard, Paul was

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