gratitude-a-thon day 458: what brittany maynard leaves behind

Brittany Maynard at her wedding.

Brittany Maynard, 29, beautiful, smart, a lover of life and living it fully, overdosed on November 1st. I’m celebrating.

Brittany Maynard had an incurable brain tumor, was given six months to live, and chose to move from California to Oregon, whose  Death with Dignity Act allows someone with a terminal illness to choose when they will die by taking a lethal dose of drugs. I have nothing but respect for this choice. Her tumor, resisted treatment, and was going to leave her in terrible pain, stealing her eyesight and her dignity, if she allowed it to have its way.

Instead, she chose to end her life before she was hit with blinding pain, and made totally incapacitated. She chose to die in her house, in her own bed, with her family surrounding her, while she still felt well enough to make the decision.

To be clear, it just plain sucks that this tumor decided to grow in Brittany Maynard’s head. Nobody deserves to have their lives cut short by suffering, and Brittany, by all descriptions was a warm, positive and compassionate woman, a teacher, who loved dogs, her family, friends, and traveling. She had a lot more life to live, and a lot more to give to the world.

But the C word doesn’t care if you’re a good guy or a bad guy. It marches on its merry way, despite age, or attitude, ruining lives, forcing decisions, laughing at dignity. But Brittany Maynard decided to stick her middle finger up at cancer and have it her own way. Of course, really her own way would have been not to have had an incurable brain tumor to start with, but given her situation, she did what she could, and told that tumor to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

I have watched three people I loved madly, die of cancer. It’s insidious and ugly and mean. At the end, as it ate away at my my mom’s brain lining, I know she would have made this choice if she could have, and I would make it, if I were in the same situation. I believe we should all have the choice to die the way we want to.

“It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all,” she said.

I think that life is incredible and amazing. Its beauty is breathtaking, the possibilities it offers are stunning and endless. But when terminal and searingly painful illness comes at you, there should be a way out, that doesn’t require an illegal act. I am a fan of life, but I was also a fan of Kevorkian. Brittany Maynard was able to choose her exit, in the face of suffering. I believe we all should have this choice, to give a big fuck you to illness when the time is right and the path is too hard to navigate. Brittany Maynard worked with a group called Compassion and Choices, which is a group that “protects and expands options at the end of life.” I love this group.

I know that there are all sorts of judgements and religious considerations when it comes to end-of-life decisions. But to me, Brittany Maynard’s story is a prime example of how death with dignity can help us live life with dignity. I’m grateful for her making this story, her story, public. I hope one day, you don’t have to move to Oregon to make this choice.

For more information Death with Dignity: see How to Die in Oregon

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