When breath becomes air

Paul Kalanithi

When his uncle, a doctor, like his father and many other of his relatives, asked him what he plans on doing for a career, he knew with certainty that he would never be a doctor. If he was forced to answer, he would have said a writer.

Yet, years later he became a neurosurgeon, who as well received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery's highest reward for research. After completing his undergraduate studies, he thought that medicine was in fact what he was really passionate about.

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.

Recently I read When Breath Becomes Air, an amazing book written by Paul Kalanithi, an awarded doctor who at the same time happened to be a great writer. A book which I have deeply resonated with and which touched me emotionally. A book in which Paul is trying to shed some light on the search for meaning in his life. Who he is and what he wants during the heavy fight with his sickness.

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

But the book is not all sadness. It is a memoir about Paul's life journey, starting with his childhood, a son of a doctor from India who immigrated to the USA together with his family. Talking about his school days, his neurosurgeon residency days, his wife and newborn child, his constant life learning path. Although there are a lot of medical terms in the book, his eloquent writing makes it a breeze to read.

Reading When Breath Becomes Air was certainly a gift for me. It left me thinking about how much we take for granted some things in life, how lucky we sometimes are and how precious life is. We don't need extraordinary moments to find happiness. It is right in front of us and we should be grateful for it.

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