Brittany Maynard, the woman with terminal brain cancer who made headlines last month, reportedly ended her life on Saturday. She was 29.
If you’ve been following the story, Maynard was diagnosed at the beginning of the year with stage 4 glioblastoma, the most aggressive and lethal form of brain cancer, and was told she had about six months to live. After receiving the news and suffering through the increasingly excruciating pain as her condition worsened, she and her husband moved to Oregon, one of the country’s few states allowing for terminally ill patients to die on their own terms, under the Death with Dignity Act.
Her online video campaign in collaboration with Compassion & Choices, a national end-of-life choice advocacy organization, caused controversy last month, but it mostly drew tears from the many people, including myself, who could not fathom being faced with her situation and but still remaining so strong and brave throughout.
At the time of her first video posted October 6th, Maynard had set a goal, not a deadline, for herself of November 1, when she would make the decision to end her own life. In her second video, posted October 29th, but recorded a couple of weeks before, Maynard spoke of the joy she still felt with her family and how it might not feel like the right time, but that she could feel her body getting sicker and the illness worsening.
People has reported that she indeed made it to her November 1 goal, but also made the ultimate choice to relieve her suffering, and to die with dignity on her own terms, peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones. She posted a farewell message to her facebook page before she passed:
“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”
I get chills reading this, and my heart breaks for this young woman dealt such a tough hand and a shortened life. But damn it, was she a badass and I don’t hesitate to say that the way she lived the last few months of her life was nothing short of deeply inspiring.
“My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control,” she told PEOPLE last month. “I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
“For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me,” she told PEOPLE. “They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.”
This video interview from a few weeks ago solidifies her stance on dying with dignity (versus calling it suicide) and why I was sobbing like a baby for her, her family, her husband, for the fact that she had to make this decision at all and the fact that she’s doing it with such poise and integrity.
Having never been faced with what feels like an impossibly difficult and painful decision myself, it’s extremely hard to say what I might have done had I been in her shoes. But I do know for sure that the decision was hers to make, and that becoming a voice for everyone’s right to die on their own terms is something so many people have and will be grateful for long after her passing. Not only did she die with dignity, she lived with courage, and for that she will not be forgotten.