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Posts tagged ‘When Breath Becomes Air’

5
Apr

The Unwinding of the Miracle

When serious illness strikes the young, we are often drawn to their story while feeling thankful a different fate awaits us.  Such was how I felt when I read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

In Pausch’s book, the authors focused on big life lessons after Pausch was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer while Kalanithi’s book focused on how he spent the limited amount of time he had left, which included living in the moment with the people – his wife, daughter, parents, brothers, friends, and colleagues – who made his life meaningful, after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37. Read more »

28
Jun

The Bright Hour

In 1838, 35-year old Ralph Waldo Emerson sat down and wrote in his journal:

I am cheered with the moist, warm, glittering, budding and melodious hour that takes down the narrow walls of my soul and extends its pulsation and life to the very horizon. That is morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body, and to become as large as the World.

Nearly 200 years later, Emerson’s great-great-great granddaughter, Nina Riggs found profound meaning in that entry and named the book she finished a month before her death at age 39, in February, 2017, “The Bright Hour.” When the reader fully absorbs that journal entry, it’s as if the generations between Emerson and Riggs disappear and that these two people born 174 years apart shared a connection, a knowledge of how hard it is to live when the body is failing, and the beauty of experiencing something so simple – daybreak – to alleviate the suffering.  Although Emerson recovered and went on to live another 44 years, dying at the age of 78, Riggs was not so lucky. Read more »

26
Sep

When Breath Becomes Air

When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.

Paul Kalanithi graduated from Stanford with a BA and an MA in English Literature and a BA in Biology. He also earned a MPhil in history and philosophy of science and medicine from Cambridge before attending and graduating from the Yale School of Medicine. He returned to Stanford to do an 8-year residency in neurosurgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience.  In his seventh year of residency in May, 2013, 36-year old Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer – an illness that rarely strikes young men (he notes that only 0.0012 percent of 36-year olds get lung cancer). Read more »