book report / when breath becomes air


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This book is an inspirational and thought-provoking memoir. At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

I was very interested in the subject of neuroscience since I spent a week in the intensive care unit with neurosurgeons with my mom as the patient, before she passed away in December 2015.  I liked that the book talks about the doctor-patient relationships. Reading this book helped me understand the topic of neuroscience more and made me think of how different my mom’s life would have been if she had survived, would it be a life she would want to live?

Although parts of this book is sad and talks about the subject of dying, I personally thought it was more about being alive and how to be present. This book will stay with me for a long time. It is sad, but it is also raw and beautiful.

“the question is not simply whether to live or to die but what kind of life is worth living”

“The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence”


“Relying on his own strength and the support of his family and community, Paul faced each stage of his illness with grace—not with bravado or a misguided faith that he would “overcome” or “beat” cancer but with an authenticity that allowed him to grieve the loss of the future he had planned and forge a new one. He cried on the day he was diagnosed. He cried while looking at a drawing we kept on the bathroom mirror that said, “I want to spend all the rest of my days here with you.” He cried on his last day in the operating room. He let himself be open and vulnerable, let himself be comforted. Even while terminally ill, Paul was fully alive; despite physical collapse, he remained vigorous, open, full of hope not for an unlikely cure but for days that were full of purpose and meaning”

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