Amy Leblanc Wilson has the same terminal diagnosis that Brittany Maynard had.
When Brittany Maynard’s story of life and death made its way into our homes and hearts, no one was left without wondering…
What if it had been me?
For many of us, we can only hope that we never have to answer that question, but for Amy Leblanc Wilson, there is no wondering. She is living with a stage IV glioblastoma brain tumor, the very same kind of brain tumor that Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with.
When Wilson, now 29, began having debilitating migraines over five years ago, she made the doctor’s appointment that would lead most of us to Googling the worst-case scenarios that headaches can lead to — except in her case, she really was given the very worst-case scenario.
At the age of 24, she was given six months, at best, to live.
Glioblastomas are highly malignant tumors that are difficult to operate on due to their size, location and type. The two-year survival rate with treatment is less than 30 percent and, as Maynard’s case clearly showed, sometimes the treatment and resulting horrible side effects can seem futile in the case of a death sentence.
In Wilson’s case, her doctors recommended immediate and emergency surgery to remove the parts of the tumor that they could, followed by radiation and chemotherapy to slow its growth. “They explained it as a very rapidly growing cancer,” explains Wilson. “Because glioblastomas have finger-like tentacles, they are very difficult to completely remove.”
Wilson opted for the surgery, followed by an intense clinical study, radiation and chemotherapy — treatments that doctors told her would prolong her life only by months and would render her infertile in the process.
The months turned into years and two years into her treatment Wilson got the second shock of her young life — she was pregnant.
Now, completely defying everything her medical team thought they could expect from Wilson’s brain tumor, she decided to put all of her trust in choosing hope and stopped all treatment for her tumor completely in order to give her baby a chance at living.
Against all odds, Wilson survived and had her first daughter, Maria, who is now 3. Shortly after her birth, Wilson discovered she was pregnant again — this time with twin boys. And less than a year later, another son joined her happy brood. As Wilson’s tumor miraculously stopped growing, her family didn’t. She and her husband also welcomed another daughter through foster care, taking Wilson from a death sentence at age 24 to a mother of five less than five years later.
And as for those doctors who gave her the initial diagnosis? “They have no explanation!” Wilson exclaims.
Currently six years in remission, Wilson is still living with her tumor and her terminal diagnosis, but, for now, she believes that having loved ones by her side has helped keep her strong by encouraging her to keep fighting. She explains that while she doesn’t have a lot of pain from her tumor right now, she deals with the symptoms like tiredness, headaches and seizures as they come. “But like everyone else you have good days and bad days whether you are diagnosed of a terminal illness or not,” remarks Wilson.
Wilson says that she would be “lying” if she said she didn’t have some fear of death. While she and her husband haven’t made any definite plans for the end, she explains that her children know that, “Mommy sometimes gets headaches.” Right now Wilson is just focusing on living life to the fullest while she can. Her main goal in living in the face of death is just that — living. Unlike Maynard, Wilson believes that death by choice, “offends the human of his or her own dignity,” and wants only to have the chance to love her family as long as possible. “My hope for the rest of my life,” says Wilson, “is to love — to love my husband and children as much as I can and not worry about the small things, to hope, to never give up faith and to cherish my life as a gift and be an example for others.”
In the end, Wilson maintains that she is not out to show that there is ever a right way to deal with a terminal diagnosis. “I am not here to judge or to say my choices in life are better,” she says simply. “I am only saying be strong, fight the great fight and love.”