Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Until I Say Goodbye

Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel with Bret Witter c. 2013 Harper Collins

I want you to go and buy this book. Keep it at home, in the office, in the car. You don't have to read it now. The next time you want to whine about spouses, kids or hemorrhoids, I want you to take out this book. Your spirit will soar and you will never complain again.

Susan Spencer-Wendel had it all. You could just hate her. She was the crime reporter for the Palm Beach Journal; she had a happy marriage to a hunky husband and they had three gorgeous kids. They lived in West Palm Beach, FL where the sun never sets and snow is something on which to pour flavored syrup in a paper cone. Oh, and she's a beauty.
One day Susan noticed that her left hand was withered. There followed numbness from one hand to the next. Eventually she found a doctor who looked her in the eye and said, "There's no doubt you have ALS".

 ALS: aka Lou Gehrig disease. All the muscles in the body die. There is no treatment and no cure. The mind is unaffected as the body slowly but surely fails and the patient becomes trapped in paralysis until death. Life expectancy about 2 years. No promise they'll be two good years.

Susan decided she was going to have one great year and hope for more. Her book is clear abut her diagnosis and about her condition. She continues to deteriorate, chapter by chapter. She's still with us, unable to walk or speak.

But what a year! Pay attention to what you have. Go after what you want. Susan took each of her children on a special trip of their own "making memories". Mind you, her oldest child was 14 at the time, and the youngest has Asperger's. An adoptee, Susan finds her birth mother, a fading hippie in California. The search for her birth father takes her to Cyprus (she's in a wheel chair by now) Her father is dead. His family embraces Susan as one of their own.

Susan's adopted mother, a Greek beauty named Tee struggles with her own serious illness and a continuing case of mother-daughter angst. Susan goes from vital,  busy and energetic to a woman unable to raise her arms, then unable to walk, her speech fading and" finally John has to wipe me."

This is not a depressing book! To say it is demeans Susan and her family. She has no denial about her condition but she will not give in to despair. Making memories for her kids is important to her. Planning a life for her beloved husband John, the hero of this book,  is important to her. She is thrilled when this book sells well and gets a movie sale. She can leave her loved ones financially well off and she works mighty hard to insure they won't be worse off without her.

 Read the book, say a prayer for Susan's family and go and hug your own. And don't you DARE be sad!

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