What would you do if you only had 25 days to live? It’s a tough question to answer. You’d likely spend lots of time with those you love. Maybe you’d visit a few places you’ve always wanted to or try some things you’ve always wished to do. Surely, Brittany Maynard has done these things – her trip to Southeast Asia and her hike to the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro being two examples. But Maynard, who will die from brain cancer on November 1 in a planned event, is also spending many of her last days trying to leave the world a better place for those who will inhabit it after her.
Maynard was first diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2014 after enduring years of splitting headaches. She was told she had a grade II astrocytoma tumor and had 10 years at most to live. Several months later, her life took yet another drastic turn when she was told her cancer had progressed to gliobastoma multiforme (GBM) and that she had roughly one year to live.
Brittany could let the disease kill her – a route that would involve increasingly painful headaches, violent seizures, and fits of nausea – but she’s opted to take what she believes is a more dignified route out. She will die quickly and painlessly on November 1 via lethal prescription medicine.
She takes issue with her choice being considered suicide.
"There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die," she told People in an extensive interview. "I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease, but there's not."
In order to carry out her plan, Maynard’s family had to move from California to Oregon – one of five states in the country with death-with-dignity laws. Maynard is dedicating much of her time these days trying to raise awareness on the need for similar laws in states across the country.
"My glioblastoma is going to kill me, and that's out of my control," she says. "I've discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it's a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying."
Thankfully, Maynard’s family had the resources to relocate from California to Oregon in order to accommodate her decision. Many others don’t have that economic privilege, though, and are forced to live through the excruciating last days Maynard is so thankful she can escape.
"Right now it's a choice that's only available to some Americans, which is really unethical," she says. "The amount of sacrifice and change my family had to go through in order to get me to legal access to death with dignity – changing our residency, establishing a team of doctors, having a place to live – was profound.
“There's tons of Americans who don’t have time or the ability or finances, and I don't think that's right or fair."
Maynard has teamed up with end-of-life rights organization Compassion & Choices and launched The Brittany Maynard Fund. The organization seeks to give Maynard and others like her a chance to share their story and spread awareness on the need for death-with-dignity laws around the country.
Here, courtesy of Compassion & Choices, is a video on Brittany’s story: