Lucy Kalanithi and her daughter.

When Lucy Kalanithi’s 36-year-old husband Paul was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, the two agreed that they would “keep saying things out loud.” This meant that they’d talk openly about Paul’s end of life decisions, his hope that Lucy would remarry and their desire to have a child. Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi died in 2015 while writing ‘When Breath Becomes Air,’ a memoir about facing mortality and his emotionally complicated transition from doctor to patient. Lucy Kalanithi, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Stanford, joins Forum to talk about the book, her late husband and the relationship between love and suffering. And we’d like to hear from you: If you or a loved one have received a terminal prognosis – how did it change how you live?

Mentioned on Air: My Marriage Didn’t End When I Became a Widow

Lucy Kalanithi Reflects on Love, Mortality and the Moment ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ 26 May,2017Mina Kim

Lucy Kalanithi , clinical assistant professor of medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine; widow of Paul Kalanithi, author of 'When Breath Becomes Air'

  • Jessica

    Aaand, now I’m crying at work, but this story is worth it!

  • Kay

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful, heartbreaking story. What were your thoughts about how your child would feel knowing that she will not have a dad growing up. Did you and Paul discuss that and do you have advice on how to help kids growing up in these situations?

  • caroltheartist

    I was so moved with this discussion. When I was 16 my first real boyfriend died of Leukemia. This was 43 years ago but to this day I still think of the event with some sadness about the loss. My feeling has changed of course through the years.

    When I lost him my heart ached for myself, of course, and for his parents and his brother. Now my heart aches for the world, which would have been a better place had he grown to adulthood… he was bright, athletic, sensitive, and he loved learning.

    It taught me that if you have anyone you care about, you could lose them at any time, with or without time to let them know how you feel about them.

    It was terrible to see his health deteriorate but while sick, he had his homework sent to him and he even was teaching himself Greek! It was really a lesson in making every day count, and how to move forward despite catastrophic circumstances.

    He was never told he had leukemia, (This was common in those days) although I’m fairly certain he’d figured it out.

    I do wish I’d been there for him in his final days but my parents wanted to spare me the heartache of watching him pass away and actually took us down to the Jersey shore where we were ensconced all through July, during which time he died. This was probably a wise decision on their part.


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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