A Cancer Survivor, On Brittany Maynard’s Death


Amidst all the controversy regarding the Brittany Maynard story is a girl who is fearful. She has a fear of speaking her opinion about the story because it’s likely not one that everyone shares. Yet, it’s one that she feels may speak to someone today, and so she shares.

This is my story. No, mine is not the same as Brittany’s. But it is one in which I too faced death, not just once, but multiple times.

Until you’re knee-deep in quicksand, you have no idea how you will react. You may THINK you know…you may have heard stories about how fighting just makes you sink deeper…that stillness, surrendering, is the only thing that might save you.

You have no idea how the emotions catch you off-guard, how much your faith is tested, and how quickly you find out your (sometimes surprising) sources of support.

I fell into that quicksand and screamed a guttural scream, an angry scream of desperation.

I ignored it and denied that I was in it, continuing to try to move forward, struggling while I sank deeper.

And then I did something that surprised even me…I surrendered. But not with the kind of mournful surrender you might imagine…it was a soft surrender, like a deep exhalation that releases all the tension from your body.

I was born with a personality that was happy-go-lucky, positive…to the point of being almost Pollyanna-ish. And I’m glad that I was, because it’s one of the things that I believe kept me on this earth.

cancer post

By the time I was diagnosed with cancer for the third time, I knew that I had already been in the quicksand before. I knew what it would take to get out, even though I didn’t know that I would.

There is an ancient yoga belief that we are born with a pre-determined, finite number of breaths. In fact, the word “pranayama”(what we call “breath work” in yoga) has a literal translation of “lengthening the life force”. That concept has always intrigued me, especially in the midst of stress. Go through life less rushed and frantic, take fewer breaths…slow down the breath, live longer.

Who knows when that last breath will come? We just don’t know. Yet I have had the experience of living my life as it if COULD come at any moment. I didn’t let cancer define me, but I let it take control of my mindset. I shifted from the initial despair, to acceptance, and finally, to feeling blessed because of it.

That’s right…you may be thinking that sounds crazy, and to some, it probably does. But I look at cancer as one of my many blessings. God has used my life for a purpose far beyond my understanding…and I’m still here.

I know what it is like to take nothing for granted…not the people in my life, not my career, not the material things I have, and certainly not my health and my life.

Do I judge Brittany Maynard for making the decision she made? Certainly not…I have never been given a finite number of months or years to live, knowing that my health would rapidly deteriorate and that I would suffer.

My quicksand is not her quicksand.

Do I believe that God has used her story for good? Absolutely. People are talking about it, thinking about it…and pausing to wonder “What would I do?” Perhaps this is meant for us all to slow down…to appreciate the little things…to not take one single breath for granted. Because we just never know when the breath we take will be our last.

 This post is part of the FYB “31 Days to Quiet the Voices in Your Head” series.
Read more about it HERE.

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