Susan Spencer-Wendell. . . .simply reading her name takes my breath away.
I have become captivated with her courage and resilience as she faces her mortality. I wonder if I could handle such a devastating situation with such peace and acceptance. She is truly remarkable. Here is her story.
In June of 2011, 45 year-old Susan received devastating news; she was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS. Within a year she lost the use of her legs and most of her fingers are frozen stiff. She is unable to speak or care for herself. Susan is an award-winning journalist and court-reporter and has been writing for over 20 years but had to resign from her job at the Palm Beach Post in Florida when she became ill. Her diagnosis did not diminish her passion for writing though and she managed to write a staggering 362-page book, Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living With Joy on her I-phone by using only her right thumb.
Susan has been married to her husband John for 21 years and has three children: Marina, fifteen; Aubrey, eleven; and Wesley, nine. Her positive attitude and constant smile keeps her family grounded through this tumultuous time.
Following the initial shock and devastation of the ALS diagnosis, Susan made a decision. She was going to spend her final days making a ‘garden of memories’ for her most cherished loved ones. She immediately planned a few trips, some with her husband and some with her children. Susan and her daughter, Marina, even traveled to New York City to try on wedding dresses. Although her daughter was only 16 at the time and felt very foolish, her mother knew that one day, the memory she was creating would become a treasure.
When the publisher offered her a substantial amount of money to write her memoirs, she new this would be a perfect opportunity to leave behind her legacy. The daunting task of writing a book with no use of her hands may have seemed impossible for someone else, but not to Susan. She used her right thumb and her IPhone. The screen could only hold 16 words, which she would send off for her co-author to organize for her. She knew she only 4 months so she decided to write 3-4 pages a day, which she did-40 chapters in 40 days.
The result is an emotional roller coaster of a memoir – not a self-help book and not a dreary book about a disease. It is Susan’s life story, as layered and colorful as the sunsets she adores.
This amazing woman is actually attending book signings. In her wheelchair, using her right thumb and an inkpad to imprint her signature for all who come to see her. She is truly a remarkable woman, one who is taking the worst situation any of us can imagine, and working it with grace, resilience, and determination; and she is doing it all, for the love of her family! Did I mention she wakes every day with a smile on her face? Astounding!