Fourteen One Two Eight

“Fourteen One Two Eight” was the words a brain tumor patient said to Dr. Kalanithi three times in “When Breath Becomes Air” before he could leave the room.  Dr. Kalanithi later died on Mar. 9, 15.  Exactly each of the numbers of Fourteen, Two, Eight but plus the second number: ONE.  Coincidence?  Prophecy?  Or gibberish from a paranoid math Ph.D.?

It is a good book that isn’t the same with what I expected.  I expected a book telling me new perspectives of life and death from a dying person, a doctor in particular.  I was curious to know how a person who faced death every day would deal with his own when death paid him an immediate and unexpected visit.  In this sense, maybe this book is what I expected.

In the first part (more than half) of the book he had recorded his daily life as a surgeon.  From few places, you can see any of these were from a dying person, which was the truth as he wrote the book during his final day.  Seemed like he just wanted to record everything when it was normal for him, hoping the world would know and remember what a good surgeon he was and what a greater one he would become.  And this is kind of abnormal to me when imagining that was the most important thing to him in his last days.

The second half was about his journey fighting against the tumor.  However, it was more like he was fighting against the tumor such that he could continue becoming a greater surgeon that he announced to the world in the first part of the book.  It was a very sad story.  But to me, the biggest regret to him was that he couldn’t accomplish himself in the way he pictured.  A wife left in sorrow and his little infant girl were just some by-products of his tragic fate.

One thing I couldn’t really understand was his decision to let his wife conceive and give the birth to their little girl when he already knew at most he would have a few years to live.  Just because he wanted things to be more beautiful when he would leave.

I am sad that the world lost a great surgeon, a great doctor.  Probably a good writer too as he convinced me using his writing that he was both of the above.  I blamed myself as I should feel more sorry for a wife having lost her husband; a girl having lost a father that she didn’t even remember.  Meanwhile, two words are emerging in my mind –“focused” and “selfish”.

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