Cancer Is My Prison, and Intolerable Suffering Is My Sentence

Brittany Maynard's Fate vs. Mine

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old terminally ill woman who inspired the passage of California's new medical aid-in-dying law, and I both suffered from deadly brain tumors that caused convulsions and agonizing headaches. We both had a tri-colored Beagle that slept by our sides to comfort us during our last days of excruciating suffering.

But my death from incurable cancer, which has spread from my brain to my liver, stomach, testicles and most of my other body organs, will be much less peaceful than Brittany's gentle passing. Unlike me, she had the financial resources and time to relocate to Oregon to utilize its Death With Dignity law, which gave her the option to obtain prescription medication that she ingested to die gently at a time of her choosing.

I have lived with the reality of a premature death for more than four years. In early 2012, when I was 30 years old, doctors gave me the news that I had the most aggressive type of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. In April of last year, my physicians told me I only had about one year left to live. My vicious tumor is now growing about an inch a week.

I recently recorded a bilingual video for Compassion & Choices to urge state lawmakers nationwide to pass laws to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying. The video is posted in English here and in Spanish here.

Today, I live with horrific blackouts, blindness, convulsions and electric shocks that confine my battered body to a bed because I keep falling when I try to stand or walk.

Aside from these horrific symptoms, I live in constant fear of even worse days that lie ahead.

That's why I have made a decision: In the near future, when I cannot take it anymore, I will refuse fluids and nutrition until I die from dehydration or my cancer.

This process is known as voluntary stopping eating and drinking (VSED). VSED is one of the few options that help terminally ill people like me to shorten an unbearable dying process if they live in a place that does not authorize medical aid in dying.

But I'm scared. It will take days or even weeks before I die this way. Since I'm only 35 years old, my body could linger for a month while I may suffer from brutal headaches, delirium and muscle pain.

Aside from these horrific symptoms, I live in constant fear of even worse days that lie ahead. ... What crime did I commit to be forced to die this way?

Cancer is my prison, and intolerable suffering is my sentence.

What crime did I commit to be forced to die this way?

Why aren't there laws authorizing the option of medical aid-in-dying in every U.S. state and territory, including my home state of Illinois and Puerto Rico, where my parents are caring for me during my final days?

As a Catholic, I believe it is not for me to judge someone else. I truly respect those who would make a different decision if they were in my shoes, so I hope others would also respect my final wishes. I believe in a God of love who doesn't want his children to suffer.

Why can't my Catholic brothers and sisters stop referring to medical aid in dying as a sin?

I would do anything to move to one of the fives states that authorize medical aid in dying -- California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- so I could access this option. But our family doesn't have the money to pick up and move 2,000 miles or more to one of these states, establish residency and find a new medical team to give me the peace of mind so I could die painlessly.

I recently reached out to Brittany Maynard's widower, Dan Diaz, in California. We spoke about the state's new medical aid-in-dying law, which he worked so hard on Brittany's behalf to get passed and that will take effect on June 9.

We spoke about my blackouts, convulsions and mind-splitting headaches.

We spoke about Brittany's gentle passing -- and the one I will never experience.


Miguel Carrasquillo, 35, is a native Chicagoan who currently is living with his parents in Cidra, Puerto Rico.