When Breath Becomes Air Quotes For A New Lease On Life

Check out our When Breath Becomes Air quotes and question the finite nature of our existence.

When we think of the word life, we think of living, doing, and experiencing.

We think of heartbeats and blood pumping through veins. 

Learn more about why acknowledging death is a part of living and gain some new perspective with our When Breath Becomes Air quotes. 

What is When Breath Becomes Air?

When Breath Becomes Air is a book written by Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD. 

The book chronicles Dr. Kalanithi’s experience as he is diagnosed with lung cancer and grapples with death in the prime of his life.

When Breath Becomes Air covers themes such as:

  • Human mortality.
  • The power of connectivity.
  • Finding peace in the face of death.

What happens when the doctor becomes the patient?

Part of what makes this book so powerful is the theme of role reversal. 

As a professional, Dr. Kalanithi dedicated his life to saving others.

In a dark twist of irony, as a man, Paul must learn to let go and allow himself to become someone else’s patient.

His willingness to roll with the punches and choose happiness over contempt is an inspirational account of the human spirit. 

Redefining our views on mortality 

Dr. Kalanithi’s honest and eloquent narrative explores a man whose calling is to save lives and contend with saving his own. 

His realizations are gripping, powerful, and humbling. 

Another central theme of the book is saying goodbye before it is time to go.

When Breath Becomes Air allows readers to come to their own terms about the death process. 

It is difficult for anyone to read the beautiful message Dr. Kalanithi leaves to his daughter without getting emotional:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied.”

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To learn more, check out our When Breath Becomes Air quotes below. 

Short When Breath Becomes Air quotes about finding yourself and letting go

We start with these touching quotes from Dr. Paul Kalanithi

1. “Putting lifestyle first is how you find a job, not a calling.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

2. “Even if I’m dying until I actually die, I am still living.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

3. “Patients don’t typically ask how their doctors are doing.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

4. “It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

5. “One of the early meanings of patient, after all, is one who endures hardship without complaint.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

The best When Breath Becomes Air about treating alcoholic patients

6. “He sliced that open as well, and a small face appeared, then disappeared amid the blood.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

7. “An alcoholic, his blood no longer able to clot, who bled to death into his joints and under his skin.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

8. “Before he became delirious, he looked up at me and said, It’s not fair I’ve been diluting my drinks with water.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

9. “The chairman, passing through the ward: Always eat with your left hand; you’ve got to learn to be ambidextrous.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

10. “Every day, the bruises would spread.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

The top When Breath Becomes Air quotes about living and death

Dr. Kalanithi has a profound relationship to death and life.

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11. “In plunged the doctor’s hands, pulling out one, then two purple babies, barely moving, eyes fused shut, like tiny birds fallen too soon from a nest.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

12. “In opening my cadaver’s stomach, I found two undigested pills, meaning that he had died in pain, perhaps alone and fumbling with the cap of a pill bottle.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

13. “As desperately as I now wanted to feel triumphant, instead, I felt the claws of the crab holding me back.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

14. “What are you most afraid or sad about? she asked me one evening while we were lying in bed. Leaving you, I told her.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

15. “Even working on the dead, with their faces covered, their names a mystery, you find that their humanity pops up at you.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Famous When Breath Becomes Air quotes about treating patients

16. “The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath 

17. “Patients, when hearing the news, most remain mute.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

18. “Standing at the crossroads where I should have been able to see and follow the footprints of the countless patients I had treated over the years, I saw instead only a blank, a harsh, vacant, gleaming white desert.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

19. “In an act of desperation, he cut open the patient’s chest and tried to pump his heart manually, tried to literally squeeze the life back into him.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

20. “The patient died, and Nuland was found by his supervisor, covered in blood and failure.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air quotes and sayings to live by

We close with these emotional quotes about life. 

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21. “Death, so familiar to me in my work, was now paying a personal visit. Here we were, finally face-to-face, and yet nothing about it seemed recognizable.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

22. “When there’s no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

23. “Here you are, violating society’s most fundamental taboos (cadaver dissection), and yet formaldehyde is a powerful appetite stimulant, so you also crave a burrito.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

24. “At home in bed a few weeks before he died, I asked him, Can you breathe okay with my head on your chest like this? His answer was It’s the only way I know how to breathe.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

25. “I sat, staring at a photo of Lucy and me from medical school, dancing and laughing; it was so sad, those two, planning a life together, unaware, never suspecting their own fragility.” — Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Can you live today like it was your last?

A book like When Breath Becomes Air forces readers to contend with their mortality.

Do we take our lives for granted?

What would you do differently if you knew you had a short amount of time to live?

Be sure to let us know in the comments.

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