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When Breath Becomes Air Paperback – 5 Jan 2017
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It's a 'must read', inspiring - LIFE CHANGING - book. Paul, it seems to me, was a genius but he wasn't a distant, aloof intellectual - he was a kind, gentle, giving, empathetic person. Humanity is all the poorer now that he has passed away but thanks to and via the legacy of his beautiful writing, his teachings, his lessons, he will continue to inspire and comfort all who come across his giant footprint.
I'm now an unofficial, self-appointed ambassador/promoter of this book and the words and teachings of Paul Kalanithi.
Paul Kalanithi was a brilliant brain surgeon when he was diagnosed with an aggressive lung cancer, which despite treatment, continued to spread and ultimately caused his premature death. Paul was also a brilliant and very gifted writer, who, in his long terms plans prior to a diagnosis was going to spend twenty years of his life post-medical career, dedicated to writing. His ability to write shines through in this book. He uses language beautifully and has an almost poetic turn of phrase while remaining brutally honest to the situation he is facing.
Ironically, I found this book to be more about life than death. Paul talks about his journey into medicine and the privilege of being allowed to change the course of a person's life through surgery. His own cancer journey is shown as something he deals with rather than being ruled by. He continues to work and plans to start a family with his wife, Lucy. He charts the difficult transition he needs to make from being the doctor to being the patient and how he is not always successful in doing this.
No philosopher can explain the sublime better than this, standing between day and night. It was as if this were the moment God said, “Let there be light!” You could not help but feel your specklike existence against the immensity of the mountain, the earth, the universe, and yet still feel your own two feet on the talus, reaffirming your presence amid the grandeur.”
― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air
He really writes very well..
The rest of the book is about his diagnosis and struggle to survive but underneath the very capable writing, it remained curiously dispassionate. Maybe he couldn't afford to let go and describe despair, which I can't believe he did not at times feel. I wnated to know how you face premature detah and the loss of all the considerable aspirations he had striven towards. I dont feel I really got that.
It may be that if my expectations hadn't been raised to a stellar level as a result of the sales pitch, I might have appreciated it more. Or maybe its because there is a dearth of books addressing the issues more openly with more of a willingness to expose vulnerability.
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