Shortly after marrying her husband Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard, 29, began experiencing severe headaches. The couple were actively trying for a family, but on New Year’s Day this year Brittany was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer – the most lethal and aggressive form. After an initial prognosis suggested that she could survive for anywhere between 3 and 10 years, she was later told by doctors that she had just six months to live.
In all sense of the word, she is courageous. She has spent her life running half-marathons, exploring Southeast Asia, and has even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Her fearless attitude is just as evident in the way she faces death as she has faced life – with courage.
Following the devastating news, she and her family moved from California to Oregon, which in 1997 became the first US state to allow assisted suicide for terminally ill patients through its Death with Dignity Act. Washington State, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico have since joined Oregon as the only five US states that allow it.
In Oregon a doctor is legally allowed to prescribe a life-ending drug to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who makes the request. The patient must swallow the drug without help; it is illegal for a doctor to administer it.
More than 750 people in Oregon have used the law to die as of 31 December, 2013. The median age of the deceased is 71 and only six were younger than 34, like Brittany.
“This journey has been challenging, to say the least,” she says. “We’ve uprooted our lives. I take prescription drugs to reduce the swelling in my brain, that have caused my entire body to swell instead.”
Nine days after her initial diagnosis of a grade 2 astrocytoma in January, “I had brain surgery, a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe,” she says.
Within weeks, the tumor came back and was diagnosed as a stage 4 glioblastoma, and in April she was told she had six months to live.
“Because my tumor is so large, I would have required nearly a full brain radiation,” she says. “It would have burned all the hair off my head and caused burns to my scalp. I would have been pretty much bedridden.”
“After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life,” she says.
She, her mom, her stepfather and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Oregon over the summer so she could get access to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.
On November 1, she 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 she 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.”
She 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.”
She 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,” she says, “and I don’t think that’s right or fair.”
She 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.
She plans to pass away in the bedroom she has shared with her husband, with her mother, stepfather, husband, and best friend at her side.
Source Credits: Supreeta Singh, Inquisitr, People and The Independent