In all sense of the word, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard is courageous. She has spent her life running half-marathons, exploring Southeast Asia, and has even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
Brittany Maynard’s fearless attitude is just as evident in the way she faces death as she has faced life – with courage.
In April, Maynard was given six months to live by her doctor. She has stage 4 gliobastoma, a malignant brain tumor.
On November 1, Maynard plans to end her own life, using medication prescribed to her by her doctor, and she wants the world to know that it’s not suicide.
She says eloquently, “There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die. I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there’s not.”
As Maynard explains, “My glioblastoma is going to kill me, and that’s out of my control. I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
Maynard was newly married to husband Dan Diaz, and the couple was actively trying to begin a family, when Maynard began to have horrible headaches. It was then that she learned that she had brain cancer. A few months later, after undergoing brain surgery, the doctors discovered that the tumor had grown even larger, and she was told that, at best, she had six months to live.
Brittany Maynard and her husband were living in San Francisco at the time. After researching what options she had, Maynard came to the difficult, heartbreaking conclusion that aid in dying was her best option. With that decision, she and her entire family moved to Portland in order to allow her to have access to Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, an act which has been in place since 1997. The Death with Dignity Act states that it “allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.” Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act has allowed 752 people die with the aid of a physician. Only four other states – Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico – have similar laws.
Which is why Brittany Maynard, with little time left, has partnered up with with the nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy organization that is pushing Death with Dignity legislation. Maynard, too, wishes to spend her time fighting to expand these Death with Dignity laws nationwide. Compassion & Choices currently has campaigns in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. This month, Maynard will give video-taped testimony to the California lawmakers who are considering the legislation.
Maynard says, “Right now it’s a choice that’s only available to some Americans, which is really unethical. The amount of sacrifice and change my family had to go through in order to get me to legal access to death with dignity – changing our residency, establishing a team of doctors, having a place to live – was profound.”
Maynard believes that everyone who faces the same extremely limited choices she has had to face deserve the same option.
“There’s tons of Americans who don’t have time or the ability or finances,” Maynard says, “and I don’t think that’s right or fair.”
Maynard has been feeling increasingly tired, her headaches have increased, and she now suffers from seizures. But she is holding onto the November 1 date for a simple reason – she wants to celebrate her husband’s birthday, which is on October 30.
Maynard plans to pass away in the bedroom she has shared with her husband, with her mother, stepfather, husband, and best friend at her side.
She sums it up by explaining, “I’m dying, but I’m choosing to suffer less, to put myself through less physical and emotional pain and my family as well.”
[Image via People]