When Breath Becomes Air

by

Paul Kalanithi

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Paul’s oncologist. Emma is an intelligent, caring, and judicious doctor. She helps Paul through his struggle with cancer in the same way that Paul aimed to help his own patients with their struggles with mortality. She strategizes about how to allow Paul to return to work, and to preserve the parts of his life about which he cares the most. At the same time, she refuses to give him the statistical probability on his survival, knowing that it is better to maintain optimism than to present dry and possibly inaccurate facts. Even though Paul at first tries to become an expert on his own treatment, eventually Emma provides him with the great relief of allowing him to be a patient and letting her manage his illness. She provides him not only with physical treatment, but also with vital emotional and mental care.

Emma Hayward Quotes in When Breath Becomes Air

The When Breath Becomes Air quotes below are all either spoken by Emma Hayward or refer to Emma Hayward. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of When Breath Becomes Air published in 2017.
Part 2 Quotes

The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.

Related Characters: Paul Kalanithi (speaker), Emma Hayward
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.

Related Characters: Paul Kalanithi (speaker), Emma Hayward
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:
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When Breath Becomes Air PDF

Emma Hayward Character Timeline in When Breath Becomes Air

The timeline below shows where the character Emma Hayward appears in When Breath Becomes Air. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Cease Not till Death
Knowledge, Experience, and Judgment Theme Icon
Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
That night, Paul briefly meets his oncologist, Emma Hayward, prior to a more official appointment the following week. Emma begins to step Paul... (full context)
Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Emma continues stepping through what Paul’s treatment might look like and offers to discuss how Paul... (full context)
Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Emma leaves, and Paul, Lucy and his family begin to search their network of medical colleagues... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
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Paul and Lucy return to the hospital for his first official appointment with Emma. Emma explains the two likely treatment options: the first is chemotherapy, which targets rapidly dividing... (full context)
Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Emma explains that the results of the tests for a common mutation, EGFR, will come back... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Emma tells Paul that if he has to have chemotherapy, she will swap out one of... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
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At Paul and Emma’s first appointment after his treatment begins, the two discuss Paul’s future. Emma tells him that... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Paul becomes slightly frustrated that Emma is not giving him more of a sense of how long he might survive. But... (full context)
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Emma concludes that Paul is well enough to meet every six weeks. That weekend, Paul looks... (full context)
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...necessary for operating. Paul’s next CT scan shows that his tumor has shrunk even more. Emma tells him that it is not out of the realm of possibility for Paul to... (full context)
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At his next appointment with Emma, Paul confesses that he is disappointed that a surgeon-scientist position at Stanford had been filled... (full context)
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...also worries that if he were to move to Wisconsin, he would be far from Emma, who has earned his deep trust and respect. He realizes one of the most important... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
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...about the cancer growth. It is Thursday night, and he wouldn’t have another appointment with Emma until Monday, so the two of them map out the next steps of his treatment.... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
Paul and Lucy go to Emma’s office on Monday. She says that they will look for more mutations in the tumor,... (full context)
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No targetable mutations are found, and so chemotherapy becomes Paul’s only option. Paul asks Emma about the different chemotherapy agents and their side effects, asking to include a particular agent... (full context)
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...doesn’t want to give him the medication because it would involve revealing his error to Emma. Paul demands that he order the medication. When morning arrives, Paul discovers that the medication... (full context)
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Emma returns and informs Paul that he’s been in the intensive care unit for over a... (full context)
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Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
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...first contractions. She stays home while Paul’s mother drives him to a follow-up appointment with Emma. Emma comments that his disease looks stable, and says that Paul can’t restart any treatment... (full context)
Epilogue
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Knowledge, Experience, and Judgment Theme Icon
Human Mortality, Strength, and Support Theme Icon
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...hits him hard, as he fears losing agency and meaning. Lucy and Paul strategize with Emma about how to preserve his mental acuity as long as possible. Looking back, Lucy comments... (full context)