Coping with a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer at age 29 was an unimaginable struggle for newlywed Brittany Maynard. Facing a six-month life expectancy characterized by seizures, pain and suffering, Maynard, with the full support of her husband, Dan Diaz, made the decision to end her life on her own terms. It was a difficult choice, but their harrowing journey wasn't over.
Maynard and Diaz lived in California at the time of her diagnosis, a state that did not administer legal aid in dying. Because Maynard wanted the "peace of mind" of having all end-of-life options available to her, as Diaz tells Oprah, the whole family uprooted and moved to Oregon, which at the time was one of five states with death-with-dignity laws.
There, on Nov. 1, 2014, Maynard drank a fatal dose of prescribed medication and passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. Since her death, Diaz has continued to advocate for death with dignity legislation, delivering on the final promise he made to his wife before she died.
"The one thing that does keep me going is working towards fulfilling the promise that I made to her," he says in the above video. "The promise was that Brittany wanted to see legislation in all states, really, but in California in particular, so that people wouldn't have to go through what we did."
What they went through, he continues, was as much of an emotional hardship as a logistical one. "In the middle of [the] chaos of receiving a diagnosis of a terminal brain tumor and the prognosis of only six months to live, in the middle of that we had to up and leave our home, her medical team and start all over," Diaz says.
Her story has had an obvious impact. "When I hear that there are now 13 states introducing legislation and Washington, D.C. -- I think that's because of Brittany," he says.
In her own advocacy, Maynard worked closely with the organization Compassion & Choices, which released a series of videos with her to help tell her story. Maynard's first video was posted online on October 6 and was viewed more than 9 million times in its first month. Each video spread quickly through the media; Diaz says that he and Maynard were surprised by that level of attention.
"There was a little bit of shock [by] how much attention it got, but then as we thought through it, we recognize, yeah, she started a conversation," Diaz says. "Here's this young, vibrant, beautiful individual, well-spoken, just saying that it's unfair that [she has] to move to Oregon in order to pass away without suffering."
Diaz continues to advocate in an effort to help others simply have access to the same personal choice that provided peace and dignity for his wife.
"I'm happy to help make a difference... She's gone -- I can't advocate for her anymore. I can't fight for her anymore," Diaz says tearfully. "Now, the people that I'm advocating for, it's you and me."
In the video below, Diaz appears on HuffPost Live and talks more about end-of-life options, saying "it's a choice."
"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.
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