Posts tagged ‘Brittany Maynard’

Cancer, Michael, and Heroes

Once in a while at an odd moment, thoughts of my cancer come flooding in. This time it was probably brought on by the fact that I go in for another PSA test and my PSA has been showing a slight rise.  Is this a new chapter? Now as far as cancer patients go, I have no complaints. While I have an incurable prostate cancer with a really high (9) Gleason score (highly aggressive), right now the treatment has put it in slow motion. So other than the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and antiantrogen therapy to wipe out testosterone in the body (fatigue, loss of libido, some weight gain, hot flashes that never end, sore breasts), I am mostly fine. No pain, no chemo, no radiation or their horrible side effects. So it is easy to ignore it, forget your now on a fast-moving time clock, and just cruise like most of us did through our younger days. Sure, weight lifting is more of a challenge, and golf wipes me out for two days, losing weight is a bitch, but I can still do all of them. My tolerance of heat is non-existent, but I am not suffering the ravages from the treatment that most cancer patients suffer so bravely and fight so valiantly (My sister-in-law comes to mind as a close example).

But still, I know that when things start to go down hill, things are going to get tough, unless some new treatment comes along to prolong my life until I die of something else. When those thoughts come flooding in as they do sometimes, I think of the movie Michael, the archangel played by John Travolta, who was on his last trip to earth to pull off one more miracle. But he knows this is it, this is his last hurrah, he is not coming back. Michael lived life large and enjoyed the sensory pleasures of this world taking in everything life had to offer. But in a great scene, Michael has that same sense that I am sure most terminal patients all have at one time or another, about how much they love life.*

The scene is with Michael who sees a bull in the field and decides to take it on. The noble fight. Imagine the battle scene between the two when they charge at each other, full of the passion of the moment and the fight, and then Michael and the bull are both knocked out by a high-speed head butt (there might be something here being said about fighting itself and its utility). When Michael gets back to his feet with help from William Hurt, he reveals to Hurt that this is his last big blast on Earth, his last hoorah. Michael looks to the skies, eyes closed, arms up, wind in his hair, and says, “I’m gonna miss everything so much.”

That is exactly how I feel. It just could not almost be over. There is so much around me that is to rejoice in. Yeah, young love is gone no matter what, I am an old man after all, but I have a wonderful enduring love that few will ever experience. And then there is that sunset, the amazing beauty of the sun, the feeling of a breeze blowing by you, just the pure joy of living, of being, all of that is still there and the thing that comes flooding in, that soon this is going to be over. Take it in, drink it up. Stay in the moment. And then… I’m gonna miss everything so much.

But the moment I am trying to stay in will pass and I will be in another moment, one that could be brutally hard, not just on me, but for everyone around me. And that is when I think of heroes. People who just carry on when things get really tough. That is the real definition of a hero. I think of the Medal of Honor winner who was honored the other day at the White House, who was a medic who just carried on with his job risking everything for his comrades. Who does not have a hero fantasy about themselves? You know, some fantasy about you saving the world. We have a whole genre of movies these days about heroes.

I think they all miss the point. Heroes don’t have to be super. Heroes are all around us. People, who in the face of adversity, carry on. And many of them do it with such grace. Whether it is the last throes of cancer, a disability that puts them at a disadvantage in this life, a tragic loss, or simply being poor and disadvantaged. If you want to find heroes, stand in a crowd and look around. The fact that you don’t know their stories makes what they are going through and how they manage it so much more heroic. And whether they win or lose the battle is not the point, but how they nobly fought the fight.

And that is my next great challenge. Who knows, I may luck out, but then again I may not. And the challenge is to do this thing with grace and dignity, to leave those you love so very much ready to carry on without you, remembering you for your grace and dignity. This last chapter is really more about them than me. Am I up to it? I really don’t have a choice. I have to be up to it. And if I need a role model to inspire me to get me through, it is not the combat soldier, the Navy Seal, the fireman, the police officer, the usual suspects, it is a little old lady who spent her last days in pain, but carried on. It is the bravery of those around you who will have to shoulder the pain of your loss when you are gone. It is all around us and yet most of us are oblivious to it. Well, I see it, maybe because I now am forced to profoundly understand it. I just hope I am up to it.

*This is not to say that at the end, some could and should choose death when the reality of life and their disease overcomes them. I cannot help thinking of the bravery of Brittany Maynard, her husband, and her family on her journey with cancer, and giving the rest of us some modicum of control over our lives in the end. That is one amazing role model.

Out of the Darkness

Here in California Governor Brown signed the Doctor Assisted Suicide Bill today with these remarks:

“I have discussed this matter with a Catholic Bishop, two of my own doctors and former classmates and friends who take varied, contradictory and nuanced positions,” Brown wrote. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.”

“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

Thank you Governor.  It should be our personal choice and thank you Brittany Maynard for your brave death to highlight this issue and to give us the choice to control our own destinies when we face no good options.

Read more here:

Assisted Suicide Dead In California Again

No put intended.  From the Sacramento Bee, an article that said the votes weren’t there and put away for another year::

Past attempts to legalize assisted death in California also collapsed, but SB 128’s champions believed that public sentiment had turned in their favor. They also surmounted a major political obstacle when the California Medical Association silenced its longstanding aversion to helping ailing patients die.

But the Catholic Church remained firmly opposed to the bill, arguing that it was an ethical violation. Proponents were not able to sway a majority of members on the Assembly Health Committee, some of whom pointed to personal experiences that counseled them against backing the bill.

Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona, who worked as an emergency medical technician, said Monday. “Letting folks have that option to end their life, it’s just something I can’t come to grips with.”

This comment makes me so angry I can’t see straight, “Letting folks have that option to end their life, it’s just something I can’t come to grips with.” So he is in charge of my end of life decisions?  The arogance and stupidity of this attitude is everything people hate about government.  In the end it is my decision not yours you jerk.. He seemed to learn nothing from Brittany Maynard and her heart breaking decision to move to Oregon where she had control of her last few days with her husband and family.  

More on the American Taliban

Yesterday I wrote about my feelings on Right to Lifers. They want to take away your right to choose because of their religious beliefs. In this case the right of a woman to have control over her own body and decide when she is ready to carry a child. All the rest of the arguments are smoke and mirrors. They want to force their choice on you.

Well California is going to take up Death with Dignity again and the usual suspects will come out of the woodwork. Religious groups and fear mongering groups (death panels) because they don’t want you to have the right to make that most ultimate decision on how you die. After all it could be abused, so please, die in agony because God, well their god, wants it that way. Oh wait, suicide is a sin but is it suicide if you are dying anyway. Is living a fast life with serious heart conditions suicide? Is doing dangerous things suicide? Where do you draw the line there? Is prolonging live in a drugged out state God’s will?

Of course that is the point. It is not for anyone but you to draw that line and once again like the Right to Lifers, they want to deny you the right to make that decision for yourself. One of the things I find most ironic is this is from mostly conservatives, but in this case having a nanny state is quite alright, because, well, everyone should live by what they would do. I also know the arguments about abuse, but the law has worked fine in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.

But I think most importantly is that when the time comes, I want that choice. It is no one else’s choice to make and all the arguments in the world do not hold up to demanding that in the end, it is my life and I will do what I want with it. Hopefully this time people will not be such morons and go for all the scare tactics. Here are two links to understand on a personal level, the choices:

Brittany Maynard

Merla Zellerbach

Neither choices were easy and both showed great courage in their final days. Maybe instead of intellectualizing death, we should let it be what is, a very personal and subjective decision and our ultimate freedom.

Death with Dignity

I think it was on Wednesday I saw the Lawrence O’Donnell (Last Word) interview with Brittany Maynard, the young woman with terminal brain tumor who had chosen to move to Oregon so she could decide when it was time to die. It is one thing to discuss it in the abstract, but to listen to a young woman face this terrible decision was heart wrenching.

Her choices were stark. Decide a time and place to end her life or face the certainty that one of the strokes and seizures now plaguing her daily would make that choice impossible, and then to live out her life in pain, paralyzed, and probably so heavily sedated as to be in a coma. It is one thing to think about it when you are in your 70’s another when you are in your 20’s.

We all delude ourselves. Death is not something we dwell upon. It happens to other people, but, well, mine is far in the future. I cannot fathom how hard it must be to pick a date and how precious is that time until it arrives. She picked a date. 1 November. After I saw her interview I thought about her every day. I thought about her husband and her family. And then I read yesterday that she had ended her life. She made her choice and moved before events could overtake her. I cannot imagine how hard that was or how brave.

Thank god for places like Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Montana, and Vermont who have come to realize that that final decision should be left to us. Too bad California couldn’t have come to that realization so she wouldn’t have had to move to Oregon. In the end, it should be our choice and no one else’s. Of course there are those who would push their religious and political choices on the rest of us by denying this basic right. The group Priests for Life said:

“We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example. Our prayer is that these people will find the courage to live every day to the fullest until God calls them home. Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”

Here is an arrogance of their religious belief that is insufferable. They wanted to choose for Brittany and the rest of us because of their religious beliefs. I guess knowing is antithetical to religion. When we know the end, and we know that at this point hope is futile, we want to make our own decision on how those final days and hours are spent. Maybe that is what scares them the most, it is not in God’s hands, but ours. I only know this. Listening to Brittany make what was in her mind the best choice for her, I know how hard and brave that must have been, and no one but she had the right to make it.