Brittany Maynard, 29, didn’t have a choice when it came to being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. And she didn’t have a say in how long she would have left to live – six months or less, said doctors. She wasn’t able to decide how her body would change because of her disease, or that she would never be able to have the family she dreamed of. But she could choose one thing: How she died.
Brittany and her family moved to Portland, Oregon earlier this year, because it is one of the few states to have the Death With Dignity Act. And she picked November 1, a few days after being able to celebrate her husband’s birthday, but before her 30th birthday, on November 19, as the day she would take a lethal dose of medication.
But she had always said her plans could change.
"If November 2nd comes along and I've passed, I hope my family is still proud of me and the choices I made,” Brittany explains in a new video for Compassion & Choices. “If November 2nd comes along and I'm still alive, I know that we'll just still be moving forward as a family, like, out of love for each other and that that decision will come later.”
But, as of now, she knows that decision will come eventually. “When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or whatever they've decided is best for me, it hurts,” she says. “I risk it every day that I wake up. And I do it because I still feel good enough, and I still have enough joy, and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn't seem the right time right now.”
“It will come because I feel myself getting sicker. It's happening each week,” Brittany continues, discussing a recent series of terrifying seizures that left her without the ability to talk, and the prescription medicine she’s taken that have made her unrecognizable even to herself.
"If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this,” she says. “But I most likely won't.”
Instead, Brittany has three dreams that she would like to come true: First, that her story “influence[s] policy for positive change,” she says. “I would like to see all Americans have success to the same health care rights.”
Second, she says, is that her mother, Debbie Ziegler, can find solace after she is gone: “Having been an only child for my mother, I want her to recover from this and not break down, not suffer from any kind of depression."
And third, that her husband, Dan Diaz, 43, eventually moves on: "I want him to be happy, so I want him to have a family. I know that may sound weird, but there's no part of me that wants him to live out the rest of his life just missing his wife. So I hope he moves on and becomes a father.”
You can find out more about Brittany and donate to her cause at The Brittany Maynard Fund. And watch how another woman, Good Morning America’s Joan Lunden, is handling her battle with breast cancer: