By now, many of you have heard of or read Paul Kalanithi's magnificent book, When Breath Becomes Air. Dr. Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon at Stanford when he was diagnosed with cancer and was forced to face his mortality as a young man, husband, and father.
This is a beautiful, but a serious and heart-breaking, read. For those of us also living with a cancer diagnosis, it brings an immediacy that others may be able to avoid. It also resonates strongly with oncologists. There is a book group here at BID for oncologists, and this was their chosen book several months ago. Suspect that has also been true elsewhere.
And amazingly enough, there was a special session at ASCO earlier this month to discuss the book--an impromptu book group if you will. From Medscape comes this description of that meeting:
Oncologists Discuss Bestseller: When Breath Becomes Air
When it was published early this year, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, MD, a neurosurgeon at Stanford University in California, immediately rose to number one on the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for 12 weeks. It has since been translated in 30 languages and has become an international bestseller.
It is obviously resonating with the public, but it has a particular resonance for a medical audience, as it covers in some depth what it means to be a doctor. But it also has a special resonance for oncologists, as the author also describes his shock diagnosis, at 36 years of age, of metastatic lung cancer, and the transition from doctor to a patient facing his mortality.
The book was discussed at a special session during the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2016 Annual Meeting. Teresa Gilewski, MD, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, talked to the author's widow, Lucy Kalanithi, MD, clinical assistant professor
at Stanford. She completed the unfinished manuscript and added an epilogue.
Many in the audience praised the book and were recommending it to
colleagues and to trainees. "He put into words what many of us feel as
doctors," one oncologist commented in the discussion period.
In the first part of the book, Paul discusses in some detail the
responsibilities of being a doctor, noted Dr Gilewski, and she highlighted
several quotes, as follows:
"[Doctors] trespass into sacred spheres.... They see people at their most vulnerable, at their most scared, their most private."