When breath becomes air book summary. In the current phase of life. We all want success, a name and fame. But all these need patience, perseverance, and hard work. But many of our young friends search for shortcuts to all these. What pushes them is the darkness. And they commit suicide and go through mental breakdowns.
They look fit from the outside. But from inside they are that much hollow. If there is even a small obstacle in their life, then they crumble down like a playing card house.
According to a report from the world health organisation. The age group of 18-29 years is mostly affected by mental disorders. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death.
For all this, the main problem is that without making a strong foundation, we make a multi-floor building on it. The same condition is also in our life.
Without seeing or evaluating all the consequences of life, we make decisions and approaches. We only want success at any cost.
Whether for it, we do not give our time to relatives and family, Do not resort, or Do not care about our health.
These all things somewhere make us weak from the inside. So when the phase of challenges comes in our life. We get frustrated and make wrong decisions or to solve the problem apply wrong approach.
And the situation is getting worse. When the challenges are back to back. People are so frustrated that they get blank on a certain level. And take the decision to quit or give up on life.
Some people come into this mental breakdown and decide to commit suicide.
This is not limited to a few people. Whereas this type of circumstance is faced by all of us sometimes in life. Some people fall and stand up, some never stand up and some select coffins.
So while facing any challenges of life we should consider one thing. The challenges come and go, sometimes we lose them, and sometimes we win them. If we fall we stand up, sometimes it takes time. But when we lose our life, it never comes back.
The book when breath becomes air is the story of a young ambitious guy. Who has a lot of dreams for the future? He was studying to be a neurosurgeon. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer. But he did not let it go. He was fighting when breath becomes air.
whether life is 30 years old or 80 years old it doesn’t matter. Matter only that, how you live your life, and as owner or as a victim.
When breath becomes air book summary
Recently I read a biography of Paul Kalanithi named ” WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR.” This book very much inspired me and gave me a new direction to think about life.
The thing that attracts me the most is that this book was written by Paul while fighting lung cancer. His life did not give him enough time to complete this book.
I think about how a person writes a book. While going through a lot of pain mentally and physically both. When we have a small problem. We stop thinking and understanding and start making decisions out of impulse.
But he accumulates his mind and makes his last journey memorable for all of us. During the whole journey, his wife and family give him courage, and confidence and make him ready to fight the pain full journey of medication.
Paul Sudhir Arun Kalanithi was born on April 1, 1977. He was an Indo-American neurosurgeon and writer who fought lung cancer till his last breath.
In this memoir, he has described his family and his wife’s care and support. It is a matter of great sadness at a very young age. A talented neurosurgeon and a fine human being said goodbye to this world. But through this book, he will always be in the heart of his loved ones.
So his story is like that, in his words. I saw a CT scan. The tumour had spread to all the lungs and the spinal cord was also in bad condition.
One lobe of the liver was completely damaged. It was obvious that cancer had spread over the whole body.
At that time I was in the final year of my neurosurgeon studies. For the last six years, I used to do some procedures to cure my patients like this CT scan check.
But today I was looking at the CT scan, not of any patient but the scan was mine. My wife Lucy was with me. I was wearing a patient gown instead of my doctor’s white coat. And never thought that I would also face this one day.
I was watching my CT scan carefully, there might be some glimmer of hope. About six months ago I felt a change in myself. Suddenly I felt that my weight started reducing. And there was also a terrible pain in my back.
I was only 35 and at this age, all these things used to mean the same thing. That is a symptom of cancer.
X-ray results were in front of me.
My illness was being detected. I took a Bruffen to relieve back pain. And I thought perhaps all these symptoms were showing due to overwork.
So, I got back to my work. At that time I was practising as a resident doctor in the hospital. I had only one year left to complete my graduation. So, I was getting job offers from many universities. Right now the whole future was lying in front of me.
But after a few weeks, I felt that someone had entered a rod in my chest. A life-threatening pain occurred in my chest. My weight had reduced from 80 kg to 65 kg and there was a cough that was not taking the name of stopping.
There was no suspicion that I had cancer. Still, I didn’t hide anything from Lucy, our relationship was already in turmoil, and she felt that I didn’t give her time.
My work was such that I did not have any time at all. Lucy and I could not see each other for several days. I always thought that once the residency was over, all would be well between Lucy and me.
I was in the operation room for the next 36 hours. Because I had come across difficult cases like aneurysms and bypasses.
There was no rest even for a minute. After that, I did another X-ray. A few days later my doctor called me to tell me that my chest X-rays were not clear.
He had come very darkly. We both knew very well the meaning of this. I was sitting at home with Lucy.
I told him everything. Hearing this, she laid his head on my shoulder. At that moment all the bitterness between us dissolved.
I said politely in his ear “I need you”
She replied “I will never leave you,”
We called up a doctor friend from the hospital. I asked him if he would admit me. Like any patient, I also wore a hospital gown and plastic bracelet.
I was admitted to the same room where I had treated so many patients in the last six years. Don’t wait till I breathe Lucy and I were crying while sitting on the hospital bed.
We were still looking at that CT scan. She told me that she loves me very much and I also cried saying “I don’t want to die now”. Then I told her to get married again.
I didn’t want her to be left alone after me. For so many years, I was engaged in making my future wholeheartedly.
But now all this had no meaning. I had nothing left now. If I had not come to be a doctor, what would I have become? Today I can feel how my patients must feel as they die.
I will be discharged in the morning. After that, I had to meet my oncologist Emma Hayward. She was the most famous lung cancer doctor in the country.
My parents and brother also came. Emma said, “I am very sad to know about your illness”.
He got my tumour sample tested in the lab. The treatment I would now be given was up to the results. When I asked him how much time I had left, she refused to tell me.
I replied, As a doctor, I had every right to know this. But Emma said, “No, we can talk about these all at this time first we have to think about the therapy”.
We can also talk later about going back to work after you recover if you want?
She also said that. My chemotherapy drugs can also be changed according to my tumour condition. As a surgeon, I knew that these drugs should not affect my nervous system.
So instead of cisplatin, I would be given carboplatin. Thinking “Back to work? What is this saying? Is she talking in a dream?”? Emma left her card and left.
Two days later, I had to see her again. I was told by Emma that there are two strategies to treat me. First is chemotherapy, which is a very common treatment and most commonly used.
In this cancer cells are eliminated, but along with that healthy cells of the body are also targeted which are bone marrow, intestines, hair follicles and other places.
Another way is Newly developed therapies that kill cancer cells at the molecular level. I was informed that if I had an EGFR cancer mutation in my body, I would be given a drug called Tarceva and would not have chemotherapy.
I was sure I would be able to go back to my surgeon’s duty. She insisted on carboplatin instead of cisplatin if chemo was needed.
I knew Emma wouldn’t tell me. I decided to do my research to find out how many more days I will survive.
For the last few days, I do not understand anything. I was wondering where to start. But since I know about this EGFR mutation.
So I know that my chances of survival are high. Lucy and I had decided that. When I completed my residency. We would plan for the children
But now I do not know how long I will live, so it was meaningless to think about it. As a resident surgeon, many times I have tried to comfort patients and their families by sitting with them in their difficult times.
This is a difficult task for any doctor. It’s not a big deal if a 94-year-old is suffering from dementia, but it is very sad for a 36-year-old to have terminal cancer.
In such a situation, what to be comforted by saying, I do not understand. When Lucy and I reached home, I got a call that I had the treatable cancer mutation EGFR, which could be treated. I didn’t need chemo anymore.
All I needed to do was take a little white pill of Tarceva. Hearing this news gave me courage, I could see a ray of hope now. From next week onwards I increased my food intake.
I also started gaining a little weight. A pimple also appeared on my face, which showed that Tarsiva’s medicine was working.
Lucy said looking at my face, “Even if my whole face is filled with boils and pimples. She will still love me.” I was looking at my illness in two ways.
As a doctor and as a patient, I was seeing my death. But the physician in me knew how to face the truth. I knew everything about the treatment.
I also knew what the complications could be and how to do medical care. Lung cancer nowadays is like cancer was AIDS in the 80s.
This disease also knew that I had to do medical care. This disease is very dangerous, but new therapies are coming for its treatment.
I was a stage 4 patient so I could not understand anything. I was just wondering whether Lucy and I should have a baby or not?
Even if I have a child, how will I raise it when I have no place in my own life. Will my career go ahead? Should I think about my dreams knowing that I don’t have time?
Death had to come to me at any cost. But before that, I had to think about how to live life to the fullest. I didn’t know whether. I would be able to go to work after regaining consciousness. But still, can I find an explanation to live?
Now almost every day I began having physical therapy. It was very difficult for me, when you are a doctor, you know the meaning of being sick very well. But you cannot feel it until you get sick.
It’s like raising a child or falling in love. When I gan or IV (Intravenous Injection) my tongue used to get salty. My patients used to tell me so, but now I feel it myself.
During the therapy, I used to try to lift my legs a little. I was not lifting much weight, yet my life was lost. I was getting tired and irritable.
The mind was running but the body had become very weak. I felt as if I was some other person. I used to run marathons once.
But now, this life-threatening backache, feeling nauseous, spinning head all this did not allow me to get out of bed.
This disease was making me something else. Every day I gathered courage and strength and was motivated for physical therapy.
I included reps, minutes and weights in my routine. He used to do it till he vomited.
“One night while we were sleeping, Lucy asked, “What are you most afraid of?”
what makes you sad “By leaving you,” I said. Our love was getting deeper now.
Fighting this lethal disease, it was Lucy’s love that gave me the courage to live. We thought a lot about the child. If not for me, it will be very difficult for him to raise the child alone.
It will be really difficult for me to say goodbye to my child for the last time while dying. But what is that death that is easy?
We had learned that the second name of life is pain. This cannot be avoided. If we have a child, then our relationship will get a new identity.
We narrated our decision to the family members. Lucy and I opted for IVF, or in vitro fertilization, in which the baby is not produced through sex, but the man’s sperm is mixed with the woman’s cell in a lab.
And later that fertilized egg is inserted back into the woman’s fallopian tubes. I had another CT scan done to find out how Tarceva is affecting me.
It’s been six weeks since I took this pill. The CT showed a lot of tumours in my lungs, but the new scan showed that there was only one tumour left.
My spine was also getting better. Tarceva was affecting me. I was very relieved to know this. My cancer is stable now.
Now, what do I do next? Should I become a scientist or a writer or a teacher? Or a neurosurgeon as before, as Emma used to speak. Orsay-at-someone father? Cancer changes lives.
Now I can feel how my patients must be feeling. I did not know what it is like to face death, how difficult, how crazy. My future will always be in the dusk.
Wherever I have, the shadow of death will continue to hover over my head. When I woke up one morning, my whole body was breaking in pain. I thought I would not be able to escape now.
But somehow I got up from the bed. I took one step then another. Consoled myself that whatever happens, I have to be alive. And at that moment I decided to go back to my neurosurgeon duties.
I wanted to work in the operating room again. Even though I was fighting cancer. And I knew I could do it. Because even if I’m on the verge of death, I’m still alive until death comes.” And I made preparations to return to the operating theatre.
So I made some changes to my physical therapy. After all, I should be able to lift small objects and stand for a long time. Therefore I had another CT scan.
The tumour that was left was now smaller than before. If it kept getting smaller like this, I could have lived for another ten years. Emma told me. One of Emma’s patients took Tarceva for 7 years and didn’t have any problems.
I told the program director that I was coming back. Another resident doctor was going to assist me in the operation. I had to go through the operation every day and I just had to settle a case.
And I will not be available. Whenever I want and will not work outside the operation theatre. In my first operation, I had to have a temporal lobectomy.
Epilepsy is usually caused by a defective hippocampus. The hippocampus had to be removed from the temporal lobe of K. Overall, the operation was successful.
After a few weeks, I felt stronger than ever. My techniques and fluency were getting better. My muscle memory was also working well.
I took a few more cases in hand, after a month I had a lot of work. When I came home from the hospital, I was very tired.
My head was throbbing as well as body pain and vomiting. I used to work a lot during the day so I was taking anti-inflammatory medicines and pain pills.
I used to take these medicines before and after the operation. During all this Lucy was about to become the mother of our first child. Graduation time was near.
Soon I was going to complete my residency. In February I had an interview in Wisconsin for a job as a surgeon-scientist.
I got a very good offer. Celery was getting good and funding was also getting for research. The atmosphere there was also pleasant and Lucy was also getting a job.
It was so much for me that’s why I was working so hard for so many years. But it was all like a dream.
My cancer equation was changing. In the last few months, I started seeing myself back in my old form.
So, I started denying myself that I had cancer. It has been seven months since I returned to work. Now I got another CT scan done.
This was my last scan before graduation and becoming a father. Before seeing the result, I completed all my work for the day. I checked my report at 8 pm.
The old tumour was the same, nothing new. Then I checked again and I saw something. A large tumour was spreading in my right lung.
It didn’t show up as clearly in the last scan.
Now it was coming out completely. Now I may have to undergo chemotherapy, biopsy and other tests as well.
And I knew that this time the treatment would be more difficult than before. It was Thursday. I did my last operation.
After that, I gathered all my things. I cried while starting my car. On reaching home, I took out my white coat and ID card.
And called my fellow resident and told them that I will not be able to come to work from Monday. I might never be able to work anymore.
She said “You know? I was having nightmares that one day this would happen. She said I don’t know how you handled it till now.
So chemotherapy started on Monday. It took 4 days for the medicine to completely dissolve in my veins.”
During this time Lucy and my mother stayed with me. I had to have chemo every three weeks.
The results were visible the next morning. I felt weakness in my bones. And was tired all day and was starving. Everything tastes salty. I used to spend all day watching TV.
I was forced to eat. And I had my graduation ceremony on Saturday. As I was getting ready I felt nauseous.
After chemo, It used to happen often but today it was different. My vomit was green in colour. I got diarrhoea after that.
Lucy and I ran to the hospital. So that I could be given IV injection to keep me hydrated. I was feeling weak.
My mouth was so dry that I could neither swallow spit nor speak. I had kidney failure. So, I was taken to the ICU.
I used to faint now and then. How many specialist doctors came to check on me? Lucy was 38 weeks pregnant yet she stayed with me.
I had to stay there for more than a week. When all the tests came back normal, I was discharged.
My weight was reduced by 8 kilos again. Now my weight has reached the same as when I was in eighth grade.
It looked like a moving X-ray. I had to try hard to raise my head. When I put both hands, I could go and raise a glass of water.
My mother was with me on my next appointment with Emma. My earlier treatment, my medicine Tarceva, was not successful. The second treatment was chemotherapy taking my life.
I could have started the third treatment but Emma told me to recover first. So, I had to make myself strong. And I asked him and she said, “You have five full years now”.
After meeting Emma, I got a call that Lucy has started labour pains. My father took me away by pushing my wheelchair.
We reached the delivery room. When Lucy was having contractions, I lay on the same bed next to her. I was covered with a blanket.
After midnight, the nurse woke me up and said, “The baby is just about to be born.” With the help of the nurse, I sat on a chair. I saw our child coming into this world.
The obstetrician said, “Your daughter’s hair is just like yours.” Caddy was born at 2.11 pm. It was the 4th of July.
The nurse wrapped him in a blanket and placed him on my lap. I took her in my arms, with the other hand I held Lucy’s hand.
I saw Caddy’s first smile and heard her first laugh. And I used to take him in my arms and recite lullabies to him.
Lucy wants to tell you something: Caddy was eight months old when Paul died. Caddy was five months old when Paul’s third treatment failed.
And had become even weaker than before. Forgetting our sorrow, we tried to keep smiling in front of him. He wrote this book in his last days.
In February, he required an oxygen tank to breathe. His dosage had decreased a lot. She always felt nauseous.
His MRI and CT scan showed cancer spreading throughout his lungs. Moreover, the tumour had spread to his brain as well.
As a neurosurgeon, Paul knew what this meant. He had assumed that he was going to die soon.
But more than this he was sad that his mental condition should not deteriorate. Together with Emma, we were trying not to let her brain weaken until cancer had destroyed her.
Paul’s family was with us on the last Saturday before his death. We were sitting in the living room of our house.
Caddy was on Paul’s lap. He was singing something to her and she was smiling. The following Sunday we decided to go to church and after that, we wanted to take Caddy for a walk in the park.
But when I woke up in the morning, I saw Paul was burning with fever. We took him to the hospital. He had pneumonia.
He was having a lot of trouble breathing. BiPAP was applied to make him breathe.
The doctor attending to him said that Paul would be put on a ventilator or intubation to make it easier for him to breathe.
But instead of this help, Paul chose comfort care. He said, “Even if I survive like this, I don’t think I’ll be able to do better in the future.”
Paul wanted to go home now but we couldn’t take him home because of his critical condition. A friend of ours had brought Caddy to him.
She kept playing beside Paul, smiling, chuckling. Told her that she had pneumonia due to the last stage of cancer.
I went closer to Paul. He took off his mask and said softly “I am ready.” That meant he was ready to turn off the breathing machine.
She is ready to take morphine. He is ready to die now. We all came close to Paul. Her parents, her two brothers, me and Caddy.
We told him that we love him very much. There were tears in his eyes. He requested us to publish his book after he left.
One last time Paul told me that he loved me very much. Morphine started running in Paul’s veins.
His monitor wire and his mask had already been taken off. He had closed his eyes and he went into unconsciousness.
We were with him for the whole nine hours. Telling her jokes and anecdotes with weeping eyes.
When the evening deepened, Paul’s breathing had slowed down. I sang a lullaby to her and the caddy.
By 9 p.m., she was starting to lose her breath. His lips were open. His body had calmed down.
And Paul took his last breath. Paul wanted to tell his story to the world. And wherever he went, he used to carry his laptop with him.
However, due to cancer, his story could not last long. But with his story, he wanted to give the same message to his readers that as long lives freely. Find a purpose to live. Live a life that matters, even if you’re fighting to the death.
My motive behind telling the book summary is when breath becomes air. Is today’s youth, where there is some trouble and ups and down come in their life? Either they have a mental breakdown or they commit suicide?
Which is not a solution to anything. If you do not alive. Then what can you do for yourself?
The author of the book is a motivation for the youth. A young man who had many, wonderful dreams for his life, suddenly came to know that he had lung cancer? Under his feet, all the ground must have slipped away? But the illness does not break him.
He fought cancer. Till his last breath and for his last breath. He did not leave to live life and not stop dreaming.
So when in front of whom death stands and he can continue to fight for his life. Then why are we ready to take our life after seeing small troubles?
So please do not think to commit suicide. You are youth, your country, your society, and your family’s future depend on you. So for the shake of all these please become a fighter.
Best of luck.