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Why this woman, 29, chooses to die two days after husband’s birthday

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On New Year's Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, a young woman recently married learned that she had brain cancer.

It was shortly after her wedding last year, and as they were working on creating a family that Brittany Maynard, age 29, learned the news.

"Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research," Brittany writes in a commentary post on CNN. "Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe."

Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of her tumor.

In April 2014, Brittany learned that not only had her tumor come back, it was more aggressive. Doctors gave her a prognosis of six months to live.

Because her tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation.

"I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone," Brittany writes.

After months of research, she says she, and her family, reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save her life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time she had left.

"I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home," she says. "But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind."

"Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind," Brittany explains. "I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that."

She will end her life using medication prescribed by her doctor on November 1, while surrounded by her husband, mother and best friend. Brittany's husband Dan's birthday is October 30.

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

The medication will give her a “peaceful and painless” ending to her life. However, Brittany said this is not a suicide.

"I've had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms," she writes.

“There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die,” Brittany told People.com. “I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there’s not. … Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”

Maynard’s family moved with her to Oregon earlier this year so she would have access to Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act,” which has allowed over 750 people to die using medication since 1997.

Life-rights advocacy organization Compassion & Choices and The Brittany Maynard Fund will allow Brittany to share her story and bring attention to end-of-life rights.

According to Compassion & Choices, Brittany will spend her last days fighting for others’ rights to end their lives.

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.

Now, I'm able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.

I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I'll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, "I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next." I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can't imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.

Watch her tell her story, in the video above, and read more here. 

62 comments

  • mike

    Yeah he still sounds bitter from his ex. Grow up you POS. Maybe you too can choose to end your life early.

  • barbara haynes

    Many blessings to you young lady! I admire your strength and courage and your clear thinking on what needs to be. I am sorry and saddened that this is the way it is for you, but perhaps you are a vehicle for others to know what to do when faced with similar difficulties. Blessings to your husband and family and friends, it is not easy.

  • Gordon

    How selfish of her to want to have control over her own life. The government should get involved in some way, and also profit from this.

  • thoughts be with you

    wow some of the comments you all are leaving. seriously are you even thinking about what you are saying? I think it is extremely brave and smart of her to choose when her life ends. this way she doesn’t have to lay in pain, suffering for Lord only knows how long. if this was your wife, mother, daughter, etc… would you want them to lay in pain and watch them suffer when this is an option? I watched my father suffer for weeks before cancer finally caused his organs to shut down, stealing him from us, and had I known this was an option, quite frankly, I would have moved him to Oregon to allow him to choose this option. that being said, miss, you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. may the Lord be with you thru it all.

    • kaitlyne

      I went through it with my grandma, the cancer and the dying. She was doing pretty good, all the sudden she’s in a nursing home with memory issues, falling all the time, and dead within 3 weeks…. it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch… those last three days she couldn’t do anything mot even speak. … and we got fooled because she went from whispers and barely moving and shaking whenever she did to one day being herself… talking laughing singing and then 3 days later she was gone

      • Belsma

        I went through this with mom and dad, of course they were way older, but it’s still hard. I could not imagine making that decision for yourself at the tender age of 29. It’s her choice, but sad all the way around.

    • Deb

      We all were born to live and die at some time. Not at your time but God’s time. I pray that God will not put his wrath on any of you all. He will reveal himself in strange ways and make you think . We were born in a sinful world when Adam and Eve sinned. That’s why the world is in a terrible shape. Now we have the Ebola virus. You never know what will happen. We are living in the last days. God was there and is here for the 29 year old. She doesn’t have to die that way. Yes, I believe in miracles. They happen everyday. For those that think you are going to live perfect peaceful lives and never get sick be careful. You will never know what will happen. You could get hit by a 18 wheeler and not be able to walk . So be careful how you are mocking the Lord. I know one thing there is a HELL. A lot of people will be there and there is no turning back. My Bible and my Jesus told me. Yes, I have heard the voice of Jesus. He said to follow me. I obeyed. This is no fairy tale or joke. This is serious. God loves you and cares. He wants everyone to know him. That’s why we were promised eternal life if we believe in him. I don’t care who disagrees with me. It doesn’t matter.

  • kaitlyne

    I think she’s making the right choice. To watch someone die is extremely horrible, especially when it’s slow and you watch them in pain and you’re completely helpless. The last couple days they cant even speak. They cant respond. There’s nothing you can do. I think it’s awesome of her to want to be coherent when she dies. It’ll be easier for her and her family. It’s the right choice. You can’t hold on to the “nee treatment” when you’re dying and all it will do is put you through more pain when the probability of you dying is still 98%… die happy, not in pain.

  • kaitlyne

    That’s exactly why I agree. It is hard to watch and I can’t imagine how hard it is not to be able to say what you want to say to people you need to talk to..

  • Pastor Orvil

    PLEASE. DO not do this. There is a man whose name is Jesus. He can heal all illnesses and cure every disease. I am begging of you to stay strong and Pray and trust in the Lord. I will also be asking Prayer for you at my Church. God Bless you and may he touch your body in a way like you may have never known.

    • Belsma

      Really? He has not cured gazillions of people who suffer and good people at that. I don’t want her to do it either, but it’s her choice. This story breaks my heart. She may have let Jesus take the wheel earlier and he obviously did not deliver, so now she is taking control of her own destiny.

      • Robin

        We are never in control… never. Jesus will take her if it’s her absolute time. The bible says that we can lengthen or shorten our days… her’s can be lengthened. Much faith.

      • Belsma

        Robin, she has chosen to take care of her own destiny, and not suffer. Not sure if I could be as brave as her though, however I watched my parents suffer and I would not want that for my family.

  • rfrstormer

    Having faced this decision myself. I can tell you that you should always fight. But, I do not know your circumstances. I know we should all be able to make that choice near the end. I have seen too many of my family members with poor quality of life, that I understand why she is doing this.

    I pray for a peaceful time for you and your family. And thank you so much for bringing this forward into the light of the media.

  • Jackie

    I took care
    Of my father with lung cancer that traveled to the brain… I watched him dye in my home.. I read this story and just cried…. Go with dignity!

  • Sara

    All I can say is, suicide (whether it’s legally done) will send you to hell. Maybe she’s not religious, but either way dying is scary.. and she doesn’t know what’s on the other side.

    • Belsma

      How do you know “suicide” will send someone to “hell”? Because someone told you that? We are supposed to be all “Gods” children, so do you think he wants her to suffer? She is dying, there is no surviving her type of brain tumor. She is going to die regardless, why not let it her be on her terms?

      • Deb

        I think you better be careful, calling someone small minded. You need to look at yourself . Hell is a serious place, I sure hope that you don’t want to be there. Think about it. I would want to live with Jesus.

  • Robin

    Gather all family around her, holding hands and pray to Jesus for shrink the tumor. Pray with all your hearts and souls. Continue praying every night until the end of October. Think positive healing thoughts. Then have test to see if it is shrinking. Do this in the name of Jesus. (My Grandmother was dying after a massive heartattack, all family and a preacher gathered around her holding hands and prayed for a long time. We had churches praying, other family and friends who did not make it to the hospital. They did not go there to see her pass away. They went in hopes to save her. If you haven’t given Jesus a chance, please try this. If you have,… there is never too much prayer.

  • Deb

    This is sad for this young lady. I’m a cancer survivor. You have no right to end your life . God give you life. He decides when you will die. Do you know Jesus? I believe in miracles!!

    • Tina Koogler

      Deb,

      She has the right, and it is NOT suicide…So were you healed by your faith with NO medical intervention at all??? So your saying, all the diabetics should NOT use medical intervention? That is kinda the same mindset……playing God…

      • Deb

        First of all, I will pray for you. This world is in a terrible state. I was healed by God and I know it. I had meds also. God put breath in her and made her. Thy shalt not kill. Don’t you know if you kill yourself, you are going to hell. You will try to get out but won’t be able to. I want to go and live with Jesus. Don’t you?!! Miracles do happen!! The doctors don’t know everything. Sometimes we go thru things to make us stronger. Where is your faith?

    • Belsma

      She has every right to do what she wants! This type of brain cancer is terminal. Where was “god” when she was first diagnosed? Why hasn’t “he” healed her? What do you think happens when someone gets so bad and hospice is set up? They get pumped full of morphine and overdoes by the hands of someone else. She does not want her family to see her like that and who the hell does? Who wants to get to that point?

    • mason

      You say the doctors don’t know everything but I assure you, they know more than you. If she changes her decision, I would respect her still because it is HER decision, but she will be living the rest of her days in unbearable pain. Why would you want someone to suffer for the remainder of their life, and why would your god want that?

  • kelly

    My mother died at 29 from exactly the same thing, she left a husband and 3 girls. She didnt have a choice at that time it was almost 32 years ago. Treatment was not as advanced as it is and still with the advancements in medicine she would have chosen exactly the same as this woman. If you have never watched someone die slowly, painfully and terrified than you will never be able to understand this decision. Having not actually physically suffered myself, just watching her was worse than anything you can imagine. It is not like the movies or tv, its real, its exactly what you would think it is if you were actually given a death sentence personally. The fear of the unknown is way more scary than being able to chose what comes next instead of fearing it. And as we all know, life with nothing but fear is no life at all. God bless her and be with her, help her through the scary parts. Let her have great joy before leaving this world for something better. When its done, its not her suffering anymore its the ones left behind and to call her selfish would be idiotic because they will be left behind no matter which road she takes. But the memories of her dying would be drastically different in the minds of the ones who have to remember them. Its a decision that she feels is best for herself and her loved ones. Not a selfish one.

  • June Jarquin-Tokosh

    You are very brave. I recently lost my husband to cancer. He died the day before his 26th birthday. We have 4 children and I am expecting our 5th. He was sick for about 6 months before he was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. We tried chemo. He had 5 rounds and after the 5th he couldn’t bounce back. For 3, weeks he suffered. I’m June 2014 he was given 6 months to a year to live. Almost exactly 3 months later he passed in our home under hospice care. His last week was miserable. He was on meds to keep him comfortable. My children had to watch their daddy look literally die before their eyes slowly. It was a painfully process. During this 3 months their were many many nights that my husband would be awake just crying to end his life. BC of the chemo he did not get to enjoy his last 3 months with his children and If we knew then how things would have been we would have not done chemo. I wish you and your family the best of luck. May the Lord be with you all as you go through this process.

    • June Jarquin-Tokosh

      I am not worried about child support or alimony. My main concern is that my children will grow up with out their daddy. I have worked since I was 15 yrs old and will work for what my children and I need.

      • Deb

        Mr. David, I do not appreciate your assumptions. First of all, you do not know me or have never seen me. You make yourself look like a fool. For your info, I’m middle aged and 5’6 and I weigh about 137lbs. See I’m not fat or stinky. I look good for my age. You seem like you do not like yourself. Because you are pointing fingers about everyone else except yourself. God doesn’t like ugly. You may not believe in Him but he has a way of getting your attention. I would be careful . He has all power.

    • Belsma

      Just shut TFU. You obviously were raised with absolutely no manners or empathy. Go start your own hate blog against women elsewhere you Richard.

    • Katherine

      June, I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. I will be praying for you and your family. I know how tough the grieving process is. I pray that God will give you all strength and comfort.

  • PAM

    that’s right June Jarquin-Tokosh, Timmy we all know that is your dumb a$$. You’re a bitter sad case!!!!

    • June Jarquin-Tokosh

      Thank you Pam. My children and their well being are far more important than a dollar sign. Our 3 youngest are 5,4 and 18 months. They cry for their daddy everyday but they will be the first to tell you daddy’s not hurting anymore and he’s in heaven. Even the 18 month old says daddy up.

  • Morning Dew

    I would have made the exact same decision. I’d rather say good-bye when I know who I am talking to than become a burden, unaware of those around me while they watch every bit of human dignity leave my physical body.

  • darren oglesby

    All you creepy wierdos who say she’s goin to hell expect it very soon. Read your Bible and it says you shall not, but your doing it to this poor girl who has the bravery of a saint and does not want to see anyone else suffer over her affliction, but you creepys are just thinking about yourselfs and how it is effecting you. Am gutted for yer girl and God speed xxx

      • Deb

        Don’t you read the Bible?! It’s God’s word. He created us. That’s probably why you don’t believe there is Hell. No I don’t want to go there and suffer until eternity. I want to go to heaven and be at home with Jesus. There will be no more suffering or pain. Heaven will be perfect and peaceful. It will be like something we never experienced.

  • Bricklayer

    People make this a similar decision for their pets every day. Then the animals that are loved and often considered family are assisted with passing on painlessly and with dignity. Given that, how it is wrong to make the same decision when it’s for yourself?

  • JLLight

    I support her 100%, God bless her n her family. Shame on all of u for Judging her. You never know what u would do until you r in her shoes. Telling someone else they will go to hell…who made u God? unbelievable !

    • Deb

      Excuse me? No one is judging her. We are just telling her the consequences of taking your life before God wants to end it. God is in control. It will be strange if something weird happens and she doesn’t do it. That just means that God intervened. God has all power.

  • Liana Varnum

    Dear Brittany: is monday 20, 2014, 11:31 pm. Your story and your journey is bringing tears into my eyes, my heart hurts bad like I knew you for years, for a life time , I prayed for you this morning and tonight and tomorrow morning, I cried and begged to God for mercy , for a miracle, I admire your bravery, and I think if I was in your shoes, I’ll die the same way, to die with dignity, maybe some day we can meet , hopefully in heaven, I’ll try to behave good so I can join you someday :), and give you a big hug , don’t be afraid to die, I’m not afraid either, but I’m scared of pain so I understand you very well, God bless you, and I have never met u in person but I feel my heart is with you, my love is with you ( I’m not lesbian By the way) :) I am talking about fraternal love, I’ll see you someday and maybe we can become friends, this stranger that cares for you, that is sick worry for you, that is crying for you, that is praying for you. Liana Varnum :)

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