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Brittany Maynard Takes her Life at Age 29 - Brain Cancer - Death with Dignity

Updated on August 06, 2015

The Brittany Maynard Fund

Brittany Maynard Wedding Day

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Brittany Maynard - Grade 4 Brain Cancer at age 29

In the beginning of this year, after suffering from debilitating headaches, Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer and told that she had six months left to live. She just recently turned 29 years old.

Her headaches started many years back when she first got married. Right after she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she and her husband were actively trying to start their family. So this prognosis was heartbreaking for the couple.

Glioblastoma multiforme is the type of cancer that Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with, which is the most aggressive and lethal form of brain cancer. This type of brain cancer grows and spreads to other parts of the brain quickly.

Regardless of the treatment(s) received, most patients do not live past three years in scientific studies of the cancer. Doctors first told her that she had a grade two astrocytoma with between three to five years to live; maybe up to ten years.

Brittany feels that hearing you're going to die in that time line, at age 29, still feels like you're going to die tomorrow. Seventy days post-op she went in for another MRI and was told that her cancer had made a great change (for the worse).

Now, instead of a grade two cancer, her cancer had progressed to a grade four, which is the worse most aggressive form of brain cancer. This type of cancer is called a Glioblastoma multiforme. As you can imagine, this was a major shock for not only Brittany, but her husband, and whole family.

In just a short time period, Brittany was told that she had years left to live to just six months. Hearing the news, her parents began searching for a miracle in the next few months. Debbie, Brittany's mom, said that she kept her hope alive in the beginning.

First, she hoped that the doctors had somehow gotten their hands on the wrong x rays, or the wrong set of scans. She was hoping that it was all just a big clerical mishap. She states, in her interview, that "Your brain will do really strange things to you when you don't want to believe something." She mentions that your mind will fabricate fairy tales.

Brain Scan showing Glioblastoma in Grade Four

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Brittany Maynard - Speaks about Death with Dignity

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Death-With-Dignity

Do you agree with Brittany's choice to end her own life to avoid pain and suffering? (Leave your Comments below)

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Death with Dignity

After searching for help in her home state of California, and finding very few options, Brittany and her family moved to Oregon so that she could access its Death-with-Dignity laws. After passing certain criteria, her doctor prescribed her a medication that will end her life peacefully and painlessly, when she chooses to ingest it.

Brittany says that she put the medicine in a safe spot so she doesn't wake up every day and look at it. She feels reassured that the medicine is there when she needs it. When she takes the medication, she plans to be surrounded by her immediate family members.

The family members which will be present, during that difficult time, are her husband, mother, stepfather, and her best friend who is also a physician. Not many more people will be invited. She plans to die upstairs in her bedroom that she shares with her husband.

She will have her husband and mother by her side and pass peacefully with some music that she enjoys playing in the background. Dan, Brittany's husband believes that she should be able to decide when she passes instead of dealing with pain and suffering.

Her husband believes that Brittany should be able to decide when enough is enough. This choice, for Brittany and Dan, provides a lot of relief and comfort to know the option is available; if and when she decides that it's time.

Brittany, in particular, is relieved that she does not have to die in the way that the brain tumor would take her on its own. According to Dan, Death with Dignity allows people who are in the predicament of facing a lot of suffering the choice to decide when enough is enough.

Brittany Maynard - Traveling with her Mom

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Death-With-Dignity

There are currently only five U.S. states which allow terminally ill patients the right to die with dignity.

A movement is underway that will expand access, so that no one has to endure prolonged pain and suffering.

For more information, visit the Brittany Fund: thebrittanyfund.com

Plans with Family

Now that Brittany is facing only months to live, she is planning to spend her time with the people that she loves the most, traveling. Debbie, her mother, reflects on Brittany growing up. She recalls that Brittany has always been bigger than life; a wanderlust who enjoys exciting things, the adrenaline rush, and traveling.

Brittany has always been precious and very bright, says her mom. Anything that Brittany set her mind to, she did. Since becoming ill, Brittany has been able to travel. She and her husband took an exquisite trip to Yellowstone. She also went with her best friend to Alaska. The also visited the Denali National park in Arkansas. She's also visited a few other places, and also traveled with her mother, during this time.

Before Brittany passes, she's hoping to travel to the Grand Canyon because she's never been there before. To help her to deal with the cancer and thought of death, she is setting herself little goals like traveling to new places. These travels make every day worthwhile.

Debbie, Brittany's mom, hopes that her daughter can live her life the way that she wants to; that she can make the decisions that she wants to; that she can be who she is which is this very autonomous, bright, well-read, well-traveled person who loves adventure.

Brittany and her mom have agreed to meet at Machu Picchu for a traveling adventure. There is a lot of climbing but Brittany said that she'd meet her mother there. Even though her mom is a bit scared of the whole thing, she is going to go for Brittany.

Brittany hopes to enjoy however many days that she has left on this earth and spend as much of it outside as she can, surrounding by those who she loves. Brittany hopes to pass in peace. She says during her interview, "The reason to consider life, and what's of value, is to make sure that you're not missing out. Seize the day. What's important to you? What do you care about? What matters to you?"

She encourages you to pursue those things and forget the rest.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the author. Please be kind and respectful to those when expressing their beliefs.

© 2014 Melinda Longoria, MSM

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    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Melinda, I cried when I watched the video. Brittany's mom must just be beside herself. I can't imagine facing such a diagnosis with my son.

      I hope the Death with Dignity laws spread to all the States. I feel we should be allowed to choose death over torturous pain.

    • Melinda Longoria profile image
      Author

      Melinda Longoria, MSM 2 years ago from Garland, Texas

      Bravewarrior, thank you for your comments. I also can't imagine what they are going through right now. Such a difficult thing to go through at such a young age. I feel for Britney and all her family.

    • Express10 profile image

      H C Palting 2 years ago from East Coast

      I think that choosing to die should be an option. I do not like how so many people talked about this woman as if she absolutely must suffer losing her mental and physical abilities and independence. She was especially young and it was her life, not anyone else's. I'm happy that she was able to end her suffering, it was worsening significantly. If I'm faced with this decision I would also choose death with dignity.

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 10 months ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      A very touching account and great article, Melinda. We can only hope that many more states make available the option that Melinda currently has.

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