Thursday, March 24, 2016

When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)

When breath becomes air is a memoir from a young neurosurgeon who gets cancer. He started it when he was in the midst of fighting cancer and hopeful that he would have much more time to live. It was (not quite) finished when he passed away.

It is a sad but profound book, well-written and moving. The book highlights Kalanithi's exploration of how life has meaning - both as a doctor fascinated by the mind and relating well to patients and as a patient who was trying to make choices when faced with uncertainty about how long he had to live.

I have purchased the book as part of my work (in campus ministry), as I think this is the sort of thing that all medical students ought to read. I also believe that the book raises helpful questions for everyone to ponder. His description of his learning how to become a better doctor presents a picture of an honest struggle about how to be present and honest to those we relate to. His description of being a patient helps those of us "in charge" to have empathy for those we serve, but also raises questions about the meaning of life and how to live honestly and fully in the midst of deep challenges.

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