With Days to Live, Brittany Maynard Shares Her Story
byKaitlin StanfordOct 20, 2014
It's a story that inevitably captivates everyone who hears it, before taking their heart and breaking it right in two.
You've likely come across the headlines by now. After all, the story of Brittany Maynard's life—and the way in which she's choosing to end it on November 1—has been making the rounds online for weeks. The 29-year-old newlywed, who after suffering through two years of debilitating headaches, was finally dealt a crushing blow: she was dying of brain cancer. That reality in and of itself was enough to move people, but Brittany's eventual decision to travel to Oregon on November 1 and willingly end her life through the state's Death With Dignity Act is what has led her story to go viral.
For weeks, she's listened to others retell her story for her. But on October 15, in a post she wrote exclusively for Elite Daily, Maynard shared in her own words the feelings that have been rattling around inside her since she first heard her diagnosis. And we owe it to her to read them.
In her essay, she writes of the crippling headaches that were signs of something serious, but ultimately dismissed to her by doctors as “women’s headaches.” While she was told they'd disappear once she became pregnant, she writes, "I never did get pregnant; although, as my husband and I rang in the start of a new year in Healdsburg, we were trying."
Instead, a CT scan would finally reveal the truth.
"As many of you already know," she writes, "I was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer the next day. Everything that came after that fateful day, was the beginning of a completely new reality. Within nine days of my initial diagnosis, I was in three hospitals and underwent an intrusive partial craniotomy to try to debulk my tumor and de-pressurize my cranium."
Though the surgery did help some, she says, 70 days later she received more terrible news. "We learned that my tumor had swelled, showing enhancement indicative of a grade change," writes Brittany. "Doctors told me I had six months to live."
So what do you do—and how do you feel—when being told that at just 29 years old, your life is coming to an end?
"When I found out I had so little time left, my first thought was about everything I needed to say to my family and friends: the gratitude, the adoration," Brittany shares. "I immediately wanted to tell them how much I love them. My diagnosis has also reaffirmed my philosophy on how I live my life: to value people, not things. To travel, to see the world."
Her approaching death has also caused her to take a long, hard look at her life and all the things in it that matter most—while making choices that many might not necessarily agree with.
"When doctors told me that my cancer was incurable, but that I had treatment options that would prolong my life but expose me to pain and suffering, I chose a different path," she writes. "I chose time with my husband and mother. I chose travel. I chose adventures. My greatest challenge has been accepting that death is part of my story this soon in my journey. It’s not that I am unafraid now, but I’ve gone through an intellectual and emotional process over the last seven months that has brought a lot of acceptance. Accepting death became significantly easier once I had access to death with dignity."
And this final choice—of voluntarily ending her life in November—has actually brought with it a sense of relief more than sadness.
"I cannot tell you the relief that comes from knowing I don’t have to endure prolonged pain and suffering," says Brittany. "Because my body is young and healthy, my end-of-life was going to be especially horrendous, as my brain cancer advanced and went to war with my body."
When November 1 comes, Brittany says she will pass peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones. "I will have the courage and conviction to choose what is right for my family, and take it," she says.
You can read Brittany's full essay over on Elite Daily or support her cause, which aims to extend the right to death with dignity for all, at TheBrittanyFund.org.