Brittany + Doug 4ever

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This will probably be an awkward post for a lot of people. Cancer is awkward. Death is awkward. Disease just sucks. Pain is uncomfortable. It makes people fidget. I get that. So don't read on if you're already feeling fidgety.

The Brittany Maynard situation makes me sad, but not for the reason you'd think. I'm not going to get into any political conversations about right to die, or how young and beautiful Brittany was, which is surely part of the reason her story got so much coverage. That, coupled with her very big and aggressive decision, and that her life, to many, was just beginning. I actually never really like to talk about these things publicly because I spend enough time fending off political conversations with my very opinionated and intellectually curious family. As far as I'm concerned, opinions can't be right or wrong, so lobbing them at each other with the intent to prove your point just isn't worth the extra glass(es) of wine.

What I will say is this: I know first-hand the havoc glioblastoma can wreck on a perfectly healthy, amazing human. I've seen it ravage a body, tear apart a family, impact futures and devastate relationships. I've watched it come in uninvited and terrorize the person I called home for 26 years. I've watched it win.

I can't say I would have supported my dad making a decision like Brittany did. I do know he'd probably be proud of her, though. She took control. She spared her family a lot of pain - as counter-intuitive as that may sound. She forced her closest people to remember her as able and unravaged as she could. And that, at least, is incredibly courageous. When you know what I know, you see it for the gift it is.

It breaks my heart, though, because I wish it didn't exist and that no family should have to make the kind of decision Brittany and hers did, or that mine did, which was obviously different than Brittany's. We wanted as much time as we could get, and that certainly came with a unique set of pros and cons. I do, however, feel a sense of kindredness with them, and with her.

And, hey, if this story brings awareness to an unrivaled silent killer, good. It deserves more attention so maybe someday a girl like me won't have to wonder what it would have been like to have my dad here making spaghetti and eating ice cream with my future children. My hope is the potential for memory making won't be stolen from others. It's an absolutely humbling big hairy monster that still brings me to my knees when I give it too much power. It made me a better person - a person who sees these situations from all sides, with compassion and deep understanding.

So, RIP, Brittany. I hope my dad's taking good care of you up there.

And if you're a family member of someone like Brittany, or like my dad, know you're never alone, the knowledge and pain of it will always beat - sometimes dully, sometimes powerfully - inside of you. Harnessing it and sharing it is power. We are better for having faced it.

Photo: Andria Lindquist
I hope our story helps someone. If you have questions or want to know more, you can email me. I'm always glad to meet new people and, selfishly, know I'm not alone either.

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