Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old brain cancer patient who announced her plan to take her own life on November 1, may have changed her mind. According to a report by Norah O’Donnell on CBS News, the terminally ill woman isn’t feeling so bad–and now she wants to “see how it goes.”
Brittany had been married only a year when she received a devastating diagnosis in April 2014: She had an aggressive form of brain cancer and, according to doctors, had possibly only six months left to live.
Brittany, fearful of being dependent and losing her faculties as her illness progressed, decided rather than wait for the disease to progress, she would commit suicide on November 1. She moved with her family from California to Oregon because assisted suicide is legal in that state. She has determined to spend her last days fundraising and lobbying for legalization of assisted suicide in other states. Brittany said,
“I hope to pass in peace. The reason to consider life and what’s of value is to make sure you’re not missing out, seize the day, what’s important to you, what do you care about–what matters–pursue that, forget the rest.”
Since the diagnosis, Brittany has been ticking off items on her “bucket list” in an attempt to squeeze in as much living as possible in the brief time she has left. Last week, with the help of a crowd-sourcing campaign, she visited the Grand Canyon with her family–checking off the last item on her list.
But now, it appears that Brittany may not be so anxious to end it all on Saturday, after all. She’s not feeling that bad; and with only a few days left until November 1 and her planned demise, she seems to be reconsidering.
I can’t say with authority what caused Brittany to change her mind. I can’t say that she won’t, at some future date, decide to go ahead with her plan to take her own life, rather than waiting for God to take her home according to His timetable. CBS’s report doesn’t sound like a major reversal; in fact, it seems more like a stay of execution.
But I can say this: Death is scary. For all of us. No one looks forward with pleasure to the prospect of increasing dependency, pain, and loss of self-control. In the face of such a troubling future, perhaps Brittany needs reassurance and a calming voice, letting her know that she won’t be too much trouble even when she’s bedridden, that she’ll still be beautiful if her hair falls out, that those closest to her will treasure every minute that they have together.
In this Internet era, Brittany has gotten one Great Big Group Hug from people she’ll likely never meet. There’s been a groundswell of support and sympathy on Facebook and in other social media. A crowd-sourcing campaign funded her trip to the Grand Canyon–for which she thanked people via her website. Around the world, people have prayed for her–including on this Facebook page, which is dedicated to a day of fasting and prayer for Brittany on October 31.
One of the most touching articles emanating from this is a column written by a Catholic seminarian, Philip Johnson, who is himself suffering from an aggressive brain cancer but who has chosen to live as long and as well as he is able. Philip wrote:
I have experienced so much sadness due to my illness, but there have also been times of great joy. The support I have received from others encourages me to keep pushing on. I want to be a priest, I want to see my three young nephews grow up, and these goals give me the hope to wake up each day and live my life with trust.
Today, Brittany Maynard wants to live. Somehow–perhaps as a result of the prayers of thousands of people around the world–she has found the strength and determination to push forward. I am grateful for that. Her family must be relieved, too, that she’s changed her mind and will now wait and see what will happen with this cancer.
Now and on November 1, All Saints Day, let us storm heaven for this lovely young woman. Let us pray that God will grant her the grace to live well and love much, and to put her life in His hands. And when her death draws near, may she find peace in knowing that for this, we were created: to be with Him for all eternity.