Mom of 4 with Incurable Cancer 'Still Fighting' for Her Life as She Plans Her Death with Dignity
Assisted dying is not legal in many states, including Nevada
Hanna Olivas isn’t letting her terminal illness define her story.
The Las Vegas mom of four was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, in 2017, but has spent the years since fighting for her right to end her life on her terms.
Olivas, 45, has become an advocate for people like herself, who (as she previously told PEOPLE) want to die before cancer robs them of happy moments, but face obstacles to doing so on their own terms due to state laws.
On Thursday, Olivas appeared on The Tamron Hall Show to further speak about her two-year progression of pain.
“I have my good and my bad days,” Olivas said, adding that the “past six months have been more symptomatic.”
Speaking about her desire to have control over her end-of-life planning, Olivas told Hall, “I think we as patients choose this way because we don’t want our families to suffer and carry that burden. I know for me watching my kids and my husband … it’s taken a lot of joy from them.”
“I believe that God doesn’t want me to suffer this way,” she added. “Ibelieve he wants me to live an abundant life and the best way that I can.”
Olivas says she hasn’t resigned herself to the end: “Right now I’m still fighting, I’m not going to give up. Originally when they found the correct diagnosis, they said five years. One of my doctors is telling me maybe a year. But I’m not going to [believe] that because I have so much life to live.”
But despite her desire to fight the disease as long as she can, she remains a passionate advocate for providing terminally ill adults control over their death. “I just want us to have the option. All I ask just learn about it, educate yourself about it, give us as patients that choice,” she says. “This is a journey that I never imagined I would be on, [but] I came to the decision that I would be a voice for others that are like me. I will look at this positively as I can.”
For her part, Olivas has lobbied lawmakers to support legislation that would give terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the choice to get prescription medication they can take to “peacefully end their suffering if it becomes unbearable,” according to the right-to-die advocacy group Compassion & Choices.
By her side in her fight is husband Jerry, 46, four children, and two grandchildren. She and her husband were teenage sweethearts before going their separate ways, each having four children of their own.
In May 2013, they reconnected, and within months Jerry had proposed to Olivas, who ran a mobile hair-and-makeup business that traveled around the state.
“It came very natural,” he told PEOPLE. “We just picked up where we left.”
After becoming pregnant, then losing the baby in 2015, Olivas received her cancer diagnosis, and was given just three to five years to live.
She began treatment immediately, but stopped after five rounds of chemotherapy because of the damage it caused her kidneys and liver, she wrote in an April op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun.
Now, she’s dedicated what time she has left to ensure that her worst fear, “dying painfully in a horrific way,” as she wrote, isn’t realized.
Assisted dying is not legal in Olivas’ home state of Nevada, so she and her husband would have to move to California should she decide that is what she wants to do.
She previously told PEOPLE that she hoped to be able to drink powdered prescription medication that’d been dissolved into a glass or water or juice with her family by her side, and fall asleep within minutes, and die within an hour.
Olivas has recruited Compassion & Choices to help her in her fight, and they’ve lobbied the governor and state legislature to guarantee end-of-life options for the terminally ill.
She was even nominated by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Southern Nevada for woman of the year, according to NBC affiliate KSNV.
“This strong Latina wants to live … But when our Lord calls me, I do not want to be connected to machines, catheters and tubes that will cause more pain in my spine, bones, body nausea and vomiting that only debilitate my relatively young … body,” prescription.