Kalanithi’s words touch millions

Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD, died of lung cancer just a few weeks after his essay “Before I Go” was published in the spring issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, but he lived to see it appreciated by thousands. Since his death, his words have reached millions.

On Feb. 24, Longreads.com posted an excerpt on its blog and shared a link through Twitter; over the next week the essay on the magazine’s website had more than 75,000 hits. Letters to Kalanithi poured in, thanking him for writing, asking permission to use the essay in classrooms and wishing him well. Tweets and blog posts encouraged others to read it: “This should be mandatory reading for humanity: time warps for young surgeon w/ metastatic cancer,” tweeted Harvard physician Neel Shah, MD.

The essay has been republished by many media organizations, including The Washington Post, where it has had more than 4 million hits; The Guardian in England; and the Huffington Post’s German edition. The Washington Post distributed it on its wire service, resulting in republication throughout the world.

“The comments are among the most affirming I’ve seen on any of the articles on our site,” wrote the Post’s senior editor for social issues, Sydney Trent, in an email to Stanford Medicine’s editor.

On Stanford websites, as of June 1 the essay had more than 500,000 hits, his obituary had been viewed a million times and the video had been viewed 300,000 times. You can see them at http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2015spring/before-i-go.html.