Last fall, the nation was riveted to the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman afflicted with inoperable brain cancer. She captured the media spotlight when she moved to Oregon to access lethal drugs under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. Maynard had chosen to die before the tumor took her autonomy.
It’s one of life’s little ironies. The proteins in our bodies fight infection, carry messages, ferry oxygen and build tissue. But then, like double agents in a spy novel, they can betray us. They overreact to a virus and attack our own organs. They promote cancer, help clog arteries or set up roadblocks in the brain. We may never know until symptoms appear — a lump, chest pain, severe memory lapses — and irreversible damage is done.