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Summary of When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi

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The memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon at Stanford University, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his mid-thirties. Kalanithi uses the pages in this book to not only tell his story, but also share his ideas on how to approach death with grace and what it means to be fully alive.

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For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question 'What makes a life worth living?' At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naïve medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir. Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. "I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything," he wrote. "Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: 'I can't go on

I'll go on.'" When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

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All in all, When Breath Becomes Air is a uniquely powerful look at one man’s pursuit of meaning in life. Dr

Kalanithi’s profoundly honest account of his inner thoughts through this tremendously challenging experience is a blessing to the reader. I am grateful to have read and learned from this book, and I’m sure you will be too.

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