Like Brittany Maynard, I have extremely aggressive brain cancer. But I’m not downing any kill pills.
I’m not surprised that an Oct. 6, 2014 article by Nicole Weisensee Egan—titled “Terminally Ill 29-Year Old Woman: Why I’m Choosing to Die on My Own Terms” featuring a well-produced video found on People.com—has gone viral.
The video, which features interviews of Brittany Maynard and her family members, is very emotional. Maynard, who was diagnosed this past spring, suffers from a stage-four gliobastoma multiforme brain tumor. She has a very aggressive form of brain cancer, and it is difficult to control its growth. In her video story, she describes how she was diagnosed and relates her understanding that the glioblastoma will eventually kill her. She then relates her fear that this scenario will be “out of her control.”
As I watched the video, I wanted to hug Brittany and shed tears right along with her because I, too, know those fears. I was also diagnosed this past spring with a stage-four glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor.
I can identify with Maynard and her spunky, adventurous spirit. She describes her love of travel. In my profession with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s mercy outreach, I’ve led medical mission teams and worked on relief projects in 11 countries, loving every minute of it. I have seen the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. I have seen suffering that would make anyone’s stomach turn.
The Hardest Part Is Not Knowing When
Now I face my own prognosis of future suffering. Some days are joyful. Some days the diagnosis feels like a huge weight in my backpack.
The hardest part of a terminal diagnosis is not knowing the timeline. I speak candidly with my physicians and pray that they can keep my tumor under control with the latest therapies to extend my life, one more year, month, day. Someday, I hope my tumor qualifies to be studied in one of the many clinical trials for brain cancer. I’d like to think my situation was part of a cure for someone else.
My doctors have applauded my decision to step down from my physically and emotionally demanding job to spend precious time with my family. I have a husband and three daughters who I hope will always remember me as a strong, thoughtful (but bull-headed) woman, carrying Christ’s mercy and compassion for others in my soul with rich joy and meaning.
Suicide Is Not the Answer to Brain Cancer
And here is where my comparison with Brittany Maynard ends. Maynard chose to move her family to Oregon earlier this year to have legal access to physician-assisted suicide and to receive a prescription for drugs that she has stated she will use to take her life two days following her husband’s birthday, on Nov. 1, 2014. It’s interesting that Maynard steadfastly refuses to refer to her decision as an act of suicide, even though she will, quite literally, take her own life.
Written by Maggie Karner
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