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Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon

Terminally Ill Brittany Maynard Visits Grand Canyon, Realizes a Final Wish

Brittany Maynard (third from left) and her family at the Grand Canyon

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

10/24/2014 AT 03:30 PM EDT

After being told she had about six months to live in April, Brittany Maynard, who has terminal brain cancer, has been quietly checking off items on her bucket list.

She and her husband, Dan Diaz, travelled to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; she kayaked up to the glaciers in Alaska with her best friend, then met her mother, Debbie Ziegler, in Juneau, where they took “a spectacular boat trip,” Maynard, 29, says in a video posted online on Oct. 6.

“Before I pass, I’m hoping to make it to the Grand Canyon ’cause I’ve never been,” she says in the video, which she used to launch her campaign with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy organization, to get Death with Dignity laws passed nationwide.

“It’s her last hurrah,” Ziegler, 56, told PEOPLE in a recent interview.

Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon| Health, Real People Stories

Brittany Maynard (left) with mom Debbie Ziegler

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

Earlier this week, that dream became a reality, Maynard said in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE.

“This week my family and I travelled to the Grand Canyon, thanks to the kindness of Americans around the country who came forward to make my ‘bucket list’ dream come true,” she wrote.

“The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature,” she wrote.

Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon| Health, Real People Stories

Brittany Maynard with husband Dan Diaz

Courtesy Brittany Maynard

“Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer,” she wrote. “Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day.

“The seizure was a harsh reminder that my symptoms continue to worsen as the tumor runs its course,” she said in the statement.

“However, I find meaning and take pride that the Compassion & Choices movement is accelerating rapidly, thanks to supporters like you,” she continued.

“I ask that you please continue to support C&C’s state-by-state efforts to make death with dignity laws available to all Americans,” she wrote. “My dream is that every terminally ill American have access to the choice to die on their own terms with dignity.

“Please take an active role to make this a reality,” she wrote. “The person you’re helping may be someone you love, or even in the future, yourself.”

Maynard and her husband, mother and stepfather, Gary Holmes, moved to Oregon in June so she could get access to the state’s Death with Dignity Act.

She said she plans to end her own life on Nov. 1 if her suffering becomes too great.

Source: Brittany Maynard Realizes a Final Wish, Visits Grand Canyon

Brittany Maynard to Dr. Ira Byock: Quit Talking About Me

Brittany Maynard, death with dignity, Ira Byock

Brittany Maynard with her Great Dane, Charley

Courtesy Dan Diaz

10/23/2014 AT 07:05 PM EDT

Brittany Maynard is firing back at Dr. Ira Byock, a top palliative care physician and vocal opponent of right-to-die laws, for making public comments about her that she says are untrue.

“As a terminally ill patient, I find it disrespectful and disturbing when people discuss my personal health with details that are not accurate to push an agenda,” she wrote in a comment on the website for the Diane Rehm radio show, where Byock was scheduled to speak Thursday.

“I am Brittany Maynard and it concerns me that Dr. Ira Byock will speak on my ‘behalf’ at all again,” she wrote. “I watched a special on PBS where this same individual spoke about my case as though he knew personal details about me, saying some things that were quite frankly not true.”

On Oct. 6, Maynard launched a national online video campaign with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy group, to fight for expanding Death with Dignity laws nationwide.

And in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, she said she planned to end her life on Nov. 1, due to her rapidly deteriorating health.

In the wake of all the publicity about her decision, Byock, chief medical officer of the Providence Institute for Human Caring in Torrance, California, has been making the rounds of various national television and radio shows.

“My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard,” Byock said on the PBS Newshour on Oct. 14. “But I want to assure people watching that she could get excellent whole-person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family.” Not so, says Maynard.

“He said that a gentle death would be available to me easily through hospice,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, that would be after a great length of time, with lots of suffering (physical and emotional), and loss for my young body.”

And then there was this.

“Unfortunately, while not being coerced, she is being exploited by Compassion & Choices,” he said. “And I think that’s a tragedy. I worry what will happen if her life still feels worth living on Nov. 1. Will she then feel compelled to end her life in order to meet the public’s expectations?”

Maynard furiously denied she feels compelled to die now “based on public expectations.”

“I DO NOT,” she wrote. “This MY choice. I am not that weak. The day is my choice. I have the right to change my mind at any time. It is my right. I am very confident about this.”

Nor is she being exploited by Compassion & Choices, she says.

“I had gone through the entire process of moving, physician approval for DWD, and filled my prescription before I EVER even spoke to anyone at Compassion & Choices about volunteering and decided to share my story.”

Furthermore, “I am not depressed or suicidal or on a ‘slippery slope,’ ” she wrote. “I have been in charge of this choice, gaining control of a terrifying terminal disease through the application of my own humane logic.”

Byock did not respond to a request for comment but did address Maynard’s comments when asked about them by Diane Rehm.

“It’s personally hard for me to hear that I’ve caused this young woman more distress,” he said. But “I do in fact disagree with a number of the things she said.”

“One of the things I disagree with is that Brittany Maynard has just said again that she thinks it’s her personal choice,” he said. “But physician-assisted suicide is not a personal act. It’s a social act.”

Source: Brittany Maynard to Dr. Ira Byock: Quit Talking About Me

The Voice Battle Rounds: Alicia Keys a Puts Soul Spin on ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’

10/14/2014 AT 07:35 AM EDT

At first, Texas singer Luke Wade and his duet partner, known simply as Griffin, from Nashville, were having an awkward time rehearsing the Paul McCartney and Wings hit “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

But then their coach Pharrell Williams, with guidance from his team mentor Alicia Keys, lit an Aretha-inspired soul fire under the rock song, leading to an epic, competitive moment on The Voice as the Season 7 battle rounds kicked off Monday.

With each singer taking a verse, Wade went raw and bluesy, and then Griffin, a Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra fan, smoothed it on out. Their harmonies took on a spirit-filled revival tone that had Williams shaking his head at their power – and his tough choice.

Adam Levine and Blake Shelton were also blown away by the talent in both singers.

“I think Luke is the best singer in the competition. You have everything,” Levine praised, calling out Wade’s rasp and range. Noted Shelton: “Definitely one of the greatest battles we’ve ever had on this show.”

In the end, Williams kept Wade on his team, but not before noting that the runner-up would definitely be stolen. Quickly, Gwen Stefani hit her red button, followed soon by Shelton, as Griffin got a new life on the show.

Blake’s bid to steal Griffin seemed the most authentic, as he recalled Griffin’s performance of a Michael Bublé song during the blind auditions. “You occupy a space that nobody occupies on this show,” Shelton said. “I occupy my own space on this show. I think we have a connection.”

In the end, Griffin headed off to Team Blake. But Stefani was not outdone, surprising the other coaches as she stole veteran Nashville country singer Craig Wayne Boyd. He earned praise for his natural stage style after losing a sing-off on Pat Green’s 2003 hit “Wave on Wave” to more traditionalist country singer James David Carter.

“Craig, you’re so comfortable on stage. It’s not like you’re in a contest. You’re performing,” Stefani told Boyd, who came alive in his music.

The show opened strong with Elyjuh René offering up a magnificent version of Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You” alongside veteran soul singer and Yale grad Maiya Sykes.

Both from Los Angeles, they each mined energetic, nuanced and stratospheric vocal runs that had the audience and judges rapt and a pleased Williams declaring that “my team is magical.”

“That was unbelievable,” noted Stefani, who described the pair’s vocal connection as “like LEGO.”

In the end, Williams chose René, the braces-wearing teen, who cried at his big win. “You just have this ethereal quality that I want to know more about,” Levine told him.

Shelton offered high praise to both singers: “I felt like I had a front-row seat at some awesome Grammy moment watching you perform that. It was great.”

Also moving on in the battle rounds were Chris Jamison for Team Adam and Taylor John Williams and Sugar Joans for Team Gwen.

Team Pharrell beat out Levine to pick up Joans’s battle-round competitor, Jean Kelley of Atlanta, whose sing-off was among the tightest contests of the night. He called her singing on Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” “really special.”

The battle rounds continue Tuesday at 8/7c on NBC.

Source: The Voice Battle Rounds: Alicia Keys a Puts Soul Spin on ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’

Mayors in 55 Cities Fill Backpacks with Food for Hungry Children

Mayors in 55 Cities Fill Backpacks with Food for Hungry Children

Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton and children at Nevitt Elementary School

Tempe Elementary School District.

09/19/2014 AT 06:15 PM EDT

Thousands of students across the country this weekend will bring home backpacks filled not just with textbooks, but with plenty of food to carry them through to Monday.

Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit based in Louisville, Kentucky, provides food-filled backpacks every Friday for children in hundreds of schools across 45 states. PEOPLE introduced readers to the organization in 2012 as part of the PEOPLE First: Help Feed a Child initiative.

Mayors Jim Schmitt of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Arizona, sponsored the resolution made by the United States Conference of Mayors that declares Sept. 18 “Blessings in a Backpack Day.”

In 55 cities, mayors stepped out into their communities Thursday and packed backpacks for hungry children.

“If a child doesn’t come to school well-feed and with a nutritious meal, that affects every aspect of their life,” Stanton tells PEOPLE.

Stanton, the father of two young children, says childhood hunger “is not an acceptable situation in the most prosperous nation on earth.”

Backpacks were also filled yesterday in Arab, Alabama, a city with roughly 9,000 residents.

“A lot of students here come from [troubled] homes,” Mayor Bob Joslin tells PEOPLE. “They don’t have food on the weekend, so these backpacks are so important.”

Mayors in 55 Cities Fill Backpacks with Food for Hungry Children| Heroes Among Us, Good Deeds, Real People Stories, Real Heroes

Andrew Lebowitz, Greg Stanton and Tiffany Moore

Jack Lunsford

Every Friday during the school year, three churches in the area hand out 470 backpacks to children who need them. “Our community takes care of its own,” Joslin says.

When the organization was first featured in PEOPLE in 2012, it comprised 329 schools helping 23,490 students. It now has 696 schools feeding 65,000 students.

Blessings board member Richard Gordon says the PEOPLE First initiative helped to raise more than $1.5 million in direct donations and local funds to start new community programs.

Michael Gouloff, an architect, started a program at four elementary schools in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2006. All together, these programs send home 1,750 backpacks every Friday.

“It’s so important we are feeding these kids,” Gouloff says. “But the real message is that people in their community care about them.”

Source: Mayors in 55 Cities Fill Backpacks with Food for Hungry Children

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