Brittany Maynard is a 29-year-old newlywed. In 24 days, she will end her life.
Last New Year's, Brittany was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest form of brain cancer, and as of April, her doctors predicted that she'd only live for six grueling months. At that point, with the support of her husband and family, she decided she'd rather take her own life than watch her loved ones suffer on her behalf. This decision required her to uproot her family from California to Oregon, one of only five states with Death with Dignity Acts in place, so she could gain access to a pill that will kill her peacefully on November 1.
Since she bravely went public with her story on Monday, Brittany's received a great deal of media attention, which she's selflessly using as a platform to advocate for, the nation's leading end of life choice organization. We were completely taken by the poise and strength Brittany has exhibited. She graciously spoke to us about what she's going through and how's she's choosing to spend her last few weeks.
How has making this choice changed you?
When you get diagnosed with a terminal illness, your entire life does a 180. Before, I was happily working. My husband and I had just moved into a beautiful home and we wanted to start a family. But then I was told I was going to die, and everything fell out from underneath me. You never know how you're going to behave when you're faced with something so traumatic. I wish I could do something to change it, and to take this pain away from my mother, stepfather, and my husband, Dan. I would, but I can't. Faced with tragedy and dying, and knowing there's no cure for this type of cancer, I have to be realistic. I talked to a lot of doctors and read a lot about what this type of death would mean, and it's really terrible. I don't want to die, but I am dying, and I'm choosing to go in a way that's less traumatic and painful. 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.
How does Dan feel about your decision?
My husband is a hero. He's not a leaver. He's by my side, and he's moved to Oregon with me so I can have the right access to this death-with-dignity health-care. I just celebrated my second anniversary with him. And I celebrate our relationship every day. We've all experienced an extreme amount of pain. When you really love someone, you don't want to see them suffering. When I was in the hospital recently, I could see the fear on his face, and I don't want him to be in any more pain either.
How did you choose November 1?
It was important for me to be here to celebrate Dan's birthday on October 26. I had a scary day recently where I had seizures and lost the ability to speak for a few hours. It's difficult for me to plan life right now, but I really hope I can make it until then. I already did the gift shopping and card writing for Christmas and birthdays for the first year after I'm gone. I want my family to know that I've thought of them.
You say it's important to live in the moment. How have you found the strength to do that?
I've spent the past few years trying to appreciate the beauty of this earth. I was blessed to spend time traveling and volunteering in orphanages in Southeast Asia. I also became a bit of climber and had the opportunity to do trekking in Nepal. Being able to connect with nature is where I find my greatest appreciation for life, so I still try to get outside now. You have to figure out what brings you that peace and solace. Figure it out now. You never know what life is going to throw at you, so it's important to live with an appreciation for the life you have. I've been encouraging my mother to travel and be more adventurous, too. I want her to see the world, so I've told her if she goes, I'll be there with her in spirit. I even bought her traveling shoes to encourage her to find happiness and explore.
What has kept you feeling positive?
I still have a lot of joy in my days, and I let that cancel out the scary aspects. I suffer physical pain that's real and that's difficult, but I don't have a lot of negative thoughts. I'm pretty happy with the life I lead, the choices I made, and the life I love.
Did you ever think, "Why me?"
I don't have the "Why me?" emotion, and I think a lot of that is the work I did abroad at orphanages in Kathmandu. I've seen children abandoned at birth and other babies try to sleep four to a crib with no adults. In a strange way, because I've had the incredible experience of working with these beautiful children, there's less of a "Why me?". I know there are millions of people around the world who are born into worse lives from day one, and I've had a very lucky life. The world is filled with unfairness, and we have to do the best we can, so I have.
Is there any chance you'll change your mind about the way you go?
I don't see myself changing my mind if things stay the status quo. I've only had one day of media attention, but I've gotten a couple of emails from people talking about new therapies that I haven't heard about before, so I'm going to look into those. If I can find access to treatment that can save my life, I'll jump at it, but so far, I haven't been able to find anything like that, in which case death with dignity is my choice.
When Brittany passes on November 1, she'll do so on her own terms in the bed she shares with her husband, surrounded by the people she loves. She believes that no one should be denied the right to die in comfort. To learn more about how you can help advocate for this legislation, visit .
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