I was going to finish writing something new this morning, but nothing I could write today could possibly be as beautiful or thoughtful as Paul Kalinithi’s piece in tomorrow’s New York Times. Kalinithi is a chief resident in neurosurgery at Stanford University living with lung cancer. Some of his questions about cancer, time, and career mirror mine as a doctoral student in the humanities. When my life’s work requires such a long-term time investment, how do I deal with a diagnosis that makes the time so short and uncertain?
Kalinithi writes, “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”