When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

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When Dr Kalanithi is diagnosed with a lung tumor, he doesn’t have the respite we have of a period of denial and hope. He recognizes it for the death sentence it is. He continues to fight for the slim chance of survival and manages to graduate from his residency program before succumbing to the disease.

Along the way he is objective and detached, listing each clinical symptom and his body’s response. I felt equally detached from his illness. He didn’t live lone enough to finish the book, and it is the wife’s epilogue that brought me to tears.

What a pity he never got to practice what he had spent 10 years learning to do. He never had the opportunity to help people and to teach other doctors to do the same. He died as a resident, never an attending, and the world is a poorer place because of it.

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