“When breath becomes air”
“When breath becomes air”, is a memoir of Paul kalanithi. He was an exemplified man, with dominant curiosity about life and death. Like every other intellectual, he was so curious about his life and the profession he would choose in future. Therefore, after acquiring several degrees in literature, science and medicine; he opted for neurosurgery as his profession, to understand this life more vividly by operating the most vital organ of human body. In his memoir, he described what it liked to be a neurosurgeon during the first year of his operating residency. The cutting of skin, opening of skull and the inhaling of burnt flesh’s smell. However, as time lapsed he became accustomed to such practices. He understood slowly and gradually, that in neurosurgery, It was not only the brain, but the hands, eyes and every organ that should be quick and aware. He also mastered the technique of how to create a calmness and serenity in the life of patients and how well to advise them, to choose a particular decision. No doubt, he was fond of literature, he knows psychology and he had empathic feelings beyond the operation theatre, in the common lives of his patients.
His life was moving smoothly, as planned. He was happily married with Lucy (a doctor as well) and somewhere they both were dreaming of having a child. In the midst of this, Paul suddenly started to loose his body weight. The appetite was dwindling, fatigue was a daily routine and a severe back pain had started to crush his back. It might be due to the over burdened schedule of residency, he thought. However, his health was deteriorating, day by day. Something was not good about his health, deep inside his heart, he knew that. Therefore, he was searching those symptoms on internet to unearth the hidden disease. As a doctor, he and his wife had the idea that the symptoms were telling the tale of the bloodiest CANCER. However, terrified enough both were not taking its name, widely and openly. Soon, they were scheduled for his X-ray, and when the results arrived their doubt had started to turn into reality. A blurry lungs on X-ray and a chronic back pain had drag them toward MRI. After MRI, he himself saw his reports and the lung cancer was evident in it.
All the future planning, dreams, ambitions and his quest to understand life and death was shattered. For him, his own life was turning into the real example of life and death. He was 36 years old, during that cursed diagnosis. Almost, more than half of his life was still unexplored. Once a highly talented doctor, now lay in a hospital as a patient. Moreover, he and Lucy had always wanted to have a child, so they decided to have one. It was their love, which made him brave and stronger to fight such a dangerous disease. During his most fragile moments, once Lucy lay her head on his chest and then asked abruptly, is laying my head on your chest causing you difficulty in breathing? He replied, Lucy it is the only way through which I know how to breathe. However, he went through all the treatments, from a mere tablet to chemotherapy but nothing stopped the cancer from spreading. Then there was a time in his life, when merely holding his head was a great labor work to do. Lately, he was so fragile and feeble that he had developed a difficulty in breathing. Therefore, one day only taking a single breath was like a great battle for him to win. Then, he was shifted to the emergency room where he whispered in the Lucy’s ear that, are they going to put me in a ventilator? Lucy remained silent, tears roll down from her eyes. Indeed, he knew and the doctors suggested the same, however, he opted for morphine to be injected in his veins to reduce the intensity of pain and the oxygen mask should be removed, so that he could die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life on ventilator. Morphine injected, mask removed and the tears roll down from his eyes. His parents, brothers and Lucy paid him tributes and said their goodbyes. Then, slowly, he went into the realm of unconsciousness and then he took a long and final breathe. It was the time, when his breathe becomes air and Paul Kalanithi had left this world by leaving Lucy his wife and Cady his eight months old daughter, behind.