TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – You can make a list of the likenesses between Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old terminally ill woman whose death is making headlines and Michelle DeJong, a Tampa woman fighting her own battle with brain cancer.
“We’re both around the same age, we both love to travel, we both were recently married. I think we were married a month apart,” DeJong said.
But most notably– they found themselves in a fight they never imagined.
“We both have brain tumors, so it hits home,” DeJong said.
Maynard’s public story of setting a date for her own death and then fulfilling it through Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act is sparking conversations nationwide about patient rights. People everywhere are reacting to Maynard’s choice.
Maynard chronicled a live-like-you-are-dying journey of travels and experiences since she was told she had only months to live.
“One thing I appreciate about my doctors is they’ve never put a timeline on me so I’ve never woken up and said, ‘today’s the day I have six months or six weeks or six days. I’ve never felt that way,” she said.
DeJong supports death with dignity though Maynard’s death she says is heart-breaking.
“You don’t ever want to see someone die or see someone suffer,” DeJong said.
Terminally ill patients often turn to Hospice, and they sometimes ask to end their life.
That’s not legal in Florida. ”In Hospice, we do not support a patient’s hastening their death at all,” said Lifepath Hospice’s Dr. Ron Schonwetter.
Hospice works to make patients as comfortable as possible. “In hospice, we support a patient’s quality of life, trying to maximize whatever time they have left. Allow them to make the most of life. For whatever time they have,” said Dr. Schonwetter.
Radiation and chemo have failed for Michelle Dejong. She’s now in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center, and hopeful.
“I feel like something positive is gonna come out of this,” she said.
She has no desire to push for a change in Florida law or see it as an option for her.
Instead, she’s chosen to put her energy in living for as long as she can.
“I want to fight. I want to find a cure. I’m in a clinical trial right now and the clinical trials they offer hope. It’s stuff that’s never been done before so and every day I wake up and just hope this trial is going to work,” she said.
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