Today Show: Mother Of Three With ALS Lives Out Bucket List
What would you do if you only had one more year to live? Hopefully it is a question you will never have to answer seriously, but for Susan Spencer-Wendel the threat of death is always near.
Susan Spencer-Wendel was living a dream. She was happily married to her high school sweetheart, both of them had thriving careers, hers as a journalist, and she had three happy and healthy children. Spencer-Wendel didn’t think anything could go wrong for her. But in 2011, the 42-year-old felt significant muscle weakness start developing in her body. She didn’t know what it was so she went to the doctor. Sadly, doctors diagnosed her with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disease that destroys the muscles and inevitably leads to paralysis and death.
After the diagnosis, Spencer-Wendel quit her job and decided she was going to spend the rest of her time with her family, making memories and crossing off everything on her bucket list.
Today Show: Until I Say Good-Bye Review
Spencer-Wendel decided she was not going to fight the disease, knowing there is no cure, only treatments that can potentially lengthen her life. She decided instead to spend an entire year with her family and friends creating new, positive memories with each and every person who mattered to her.
With her one good thumb that still worked, Spencer-Wendel began typing out a book on her iPhone where she recounted the journey she took the last years of her life. The book, Until I Say Good-Bye, is all about her whirlwind year. She traveled to the Yukon to see the Northern Lights with her best friend, she went with her husband to Budapest to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, she took her son Wesley to swim with dolphins in Florida, she went to Sanibel Island with her daughter Aubrey and she took her 14-year-old daughter to New York City where she tried on wedding dresses for her mother. She also took her sister on a cruise where they grew closer than ever.
“I don’t want her to ever feel like she has to worry about anything,” her sister said. “I said, ‘I’ll crawl in, and I’ll hold you and I won’t let you go. I’ll be with you through the end.’”
Spencer-Wendel told the Today Show she is not scared of dying. She said, through the translation of her husband since she has lost the ability to speak clearly, that she has known remarkable love her whole life and she is content with whatever happens to her tomorrow. Spencer-Wendel didn’t just make memories or write a book about her time with her family, She also recorded a lullaby she would sing to her children when they were younger. She quoted Dr. Seuss to sum up her message about living every day like it is your last: “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.”