Watch CBS News

Dying South Florida Woman Authors Life Affirming Book

MIAMI (CBS4) - We all know that our time on earth is limited.

But what would you do if you knew you had maybe another year to live? A South Florida woman faced that very situation and decided to create special memories for the people she loved in a book that just came out titled "Until I Say Good-Bye." By doing so, she may touch the world, and teach all of us a very important lesson.

Susan Spencer-Wendel had a happy, and what she called an autopilot, life. She juggled three kids, a husband, friends and a dream job as a court reporter for the Palm Beach Post. She thought it would go on forever.

But four years ago her life took a detour when she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS.

"If you have a deadline in life, just do it," said Spencer-Wendel. "Start living with joy and doing what you want to do."

Just before last Christmas, CBS4's Shannon Hori spoke with Spencer-Wendel who was well aware that with each passing day the disease was progressing and she was losing her ability to speak.

She had just finished a book that made big news in the publishing world as she got a two million dollar advance that allowed her husband of 21 years to quit his job and be with her.

"It turned this into the best, worst case scenario," said Spencer-Wendel. "Until I say 'goodbye' it is about a year of living with joy."

Spencer-Wendel and her best friend Nancy Kinnally went to Canada to try to see the Northern Lights. Kinnally hopes those who read about the journeys in the pages will pause, and look at their own life.

"I think it reminds them of the things that are important. You know really important. So easy to miss in our daily lives," said Kinnally.

Over the years, Spencer-Wendel made special memories with those she loved. Days were filled with sweetness, smiles never to be forgotten.

Perhaps the most memorable trip was with her 14-year-old daughter Marina. They went to Kleinfeld's Bridal in New York City. Marina's not getting married today, but if and when she does years from now this moment will help fill her heart.

"So one day when she gets married, she'll have a memory of shopping for a wedding dress with her mother," Spencer-Wendel said.

Spencer-Wendel spends most of her days now under the Tiki hut, it's where she tapped out her book on an iPhone - leaving behind a legacy of love.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened," said Susan's husband John. "Just be thankful for what we had."

And more good news for the family - the movie rights to the book have already been purchased.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.