Married for a year, Brittany Maynard, 29, found she had aggressive brain cancer
She had six months to live, and she didn’t want her family to watch her dying in pain
Maynard and her family moved to Oregon to take advantage of the Death with Dignity law
She says nobody has the right to take away the option from someone who is terminally ill
Editor’s note: Brittany Maynard is a volunteer advocate for the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion and Choices. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler. Watch Brittany and her family tell her story at http://www.thebrittanyfund.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) — On New Year’s Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, I learned that I had brain cancer.
I was 29 years old. I’d been married for just over a year. My husband and I were trying for a family.
Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz on their wedding day. She had been married a little more than a year when she was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Brittany Maynard shares a moment with her bridesmaids.
Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research. Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe. Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of my tumor.
In April, I learned that not only had my tumor come back, but it was more aggressive. Doctors gave me a prognosis of six months to live.
Because my tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.
After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.
I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home. But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind.
Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz
Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.
I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.
I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.
We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized.
I met the criteria for death with dignity in Oregon, but establishing residency in the state to make use of the law required a monumental number of changes. I had to find new physicians, establish residency in Portland, search for a new home, obtain a new driver’s license, change my voter registration and enlist people to take care of our animals, and my husband, Dan, had to take a leave of absence from his job. The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes.
I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.
I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?
Now that I’ve had the prescription filled and it’s in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief. And if I decide to change my mind about taking the medication, I will not take it.
Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.
Now, I’m able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.
I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I’ll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.
When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, “I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever’s next.” I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.
-I read these stories, as always, with compassion towards the people involved. I see Assisted Suicide, or Death with Dignity as a human right and oppose any religious meddling by the myth believers that would force their sick, twisted beliefs upon these people who are just trying to die with dignity instead of suffering. The scourge of the bible needs to be forever removed from the scientific practice of medicine and sensibility and logic need to always be in place. If the god of the bible were actually all powerful, I believe that he would do something about much of the suffering of the world, instead I believe IT to be an impotent myth that needs to be swept into the dust bin of history. 90% of people are followers and less than 10% are forward thinkers. The 90% drag down the forward thinkers with ridiculous bullshit such as religion, fads and the inability to come together on important matters such as the threat of Global Warming, something that the idiot bible beaters seem to always refute because the don’t believe in science.
I was born on an Air Force base in Rantoul, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. My father was an Airman who packed parachutes for a living and rode out the Vietnam War on a beach drinking Cokes. He never saw any action and never had PTSD. My mother was a trailer park opportunist from a well to do family that had destroyed her mother’s business because she had a fucking axe to grind. She did not elevate herself to a better station with her mother’s business, she just destroyed it because she was a short sighted hateful bitch. This is what I gathered from her from out interactions during our lives together. She obviously had some type of mental illness component, or she was just a vindictive bitch. Who knows.
I grew up in 38 states in every Section 8 housing complex and every homeless food shelter across the U.S.A. I observed the most blatant abuse of the welfare system possible, with parking lots filled with Mercedes Benz, apartments filled with expensive furniture, and people trolling the steak isle while talking endlessly on cell phones. I saw this in every town that I lived in and was constantly told that these were the minority of welfare people. I sold news papers, pedaled junk and worked for people who would hire me off of a lie. Sexual abuse was a footnote in my life and very brief. I was told that the profits were better in drugs and other dealings, but I never faltered. I saw that despite the better prospects, that these people would rather sacrifice and go to jail for $2.000 a day than work for that in a two week period. I see why this is the norm, but I worked my way to the top of my profession and eschewed the easy $2.000 dollar a day method of risk and human destruction. Now, it is different, and people scramble for jobs with Master’s degrees. This is wrong and needs to be adjusted. We need to join all other civilized nations with socialized college and hopefully, when we can control our worthless ass-sucking population, socialized medicine. Don’t get me wrong, if a person can’t get their drug problem in check, Soylent Green would be a great option, but there is a future beyond addiction as long as the asshole who is addicted wants it. People should have a way out, but they should have to earn it, hands down. Fuck what yer daddy and mom did to ya. I can give you a run for your money on that one. Mom and dad weren’t around, I got it. Now wake up you assholes and realize a better way to live! Change your government and get your shit right!!
I know that I’m workin’ yo dissonance here, but we don’t need state subsidized sky fairies anymore. We know where the sun comes from and why the rain falls. We know that illness is random and doesn’t play fair but are only fucking with our own heads when we falsely rationalize that our dead loved ones are in a better place. The fact of the matter is is that the body and all that is contained in it is either in the ground or in the burn pan if the body has been cremated.
The mythology surrounding gods and angels is a well worn mythology that is very entertaining, but serves little function in a scientific world where the discoveries being made are sure as Hell more interesting than the bogus claims of the religious zealots. Mythology makes for great cinema and for those of us who remember The Omen, it sure as fuck was awesome entertainment, but if one actually believes that the son of Satan dwells upon the Earth, then these people are gonna have a Helluva wait for the fireworks between the son of God and ‘ol Damian to fly! This is whats generally known as ‘Cultish Crap,’ and has no actual relevance in the true scientific scheme of things. You see, scientists are NOT going to discover a child born of a jackal and then mysteriously die in a freak auto accident, they are going to trudge on revealing absolutely NO PROOF of the supernatural fairies of the bonzo world of the Holy Bible! In fact, they will continue to dismiss the arrogant, unfounded, ridiculous claims that that book of fairy stories continues to pass off as real. Hell, even Bill O’Reilly, who attacks atheists at every turn, cannot elevate the Bible to anything but “Parables, a book to guide one on a moral path. Of course I don’t take the Bible literally.” Strange though, that if you don’t believe that the Bible is the inspired work of God through his supplicants, you have to disbelieve in the story of Adam and Eve as a literal interpretation.
If the Adam and Eve story is not true, than Original Sin is not a fact and that negates the entire Noah thing from EVER having to come to pass, and that we do not even need a Savior to come down and sacrifice Himself to Himself, even though He is God on Earth, and he does not have to wash away the sins of man, because Original Sin actually does not exist! FUUUUUCK! Religion has WAY too many renditions of itself to be taken seriously! How can ANY faction claim legitimacy unless……none of it is real???!!
This obvious conundrum aside, I recently saw that horrible piece of shit Noah, ( thank Glob not in the theater ), and can see why it both sucked, and was reviled by the Christian masses. Not only does it defer to Jewish mythological interpretation, but it also retells the story for maximum movie excitement value, endorses Evolution, and portrays Noah as any other person in the Bible; as a person of blind devotion to something that he cannot see and is able to justify murder in it’s name, a zealot, an unhinged, paranoid radical! Perfect, a standard Biblical figure!
Thank Glob that the Bible is just ‘Parables’ and that most mainstream people don’t actually believe in talking snakes and bushes. That is why I have suggested The One Commandment to be adopted over The Ten Commandments, my One Commandment, 1. Do not fuck with people without reason to do so and let them live in peace worshipping what they want to, and be generally good to all without having to be told to fucking do so. A-Fucking-Men!