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Terminally Ill Reporter Pens Life Story in Three Months Using Only Her iPhone and Thumb


“My decline is speeding up: each day I lose more steps and words."

Susan Spencer-Wendel has been making headlines for the past 20 years as a reporter. But this past summer she herself was the subject of the headlines when she sold her book and movie rights to her story for millions.

Spencer-Wendel with her family. (Photo: SusanSpencerWendel.com)

Now, the Palm Beach Post, a newspaper for which Spencer-Wendel spent 11 years as a crime reporter before she left after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), is asking the terminally ill woman hard questions like those she once was accustomed to asking others. One of these questions in the story published Dec. 30 was if Spencer-Wendel thought this would have been her last Christmas.

Her honest response: “Yes. So by jove we’re gonna enjoy it!”

"Until I Say Goodbye" will become available in March 2013. (Image: SusanSpencerWendel.com)

This past summer, Spencer-Wendel became nationally known for selling her book -- "Until I Say Goodbye" -- to HaperCollins for about $2 million. Universal Studios afterward purchased the movie rights to her story for another $2 million. But the $4 million price tag on Spencer-Wendel's life story might not be the most interesting part of it. According to the Palm Beach Post, she wrote it in three months using only her one thumb and her iPhone.  It will be pushed in March.

According to Two Road Books, Spencer-Wendel was diagnosed with ALS in June 2011. The disease is one that cause the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that control muscles to deteriorate. According to the NIH, there is no known cure for the disease. There are treatments that can control symptoms, slow progression and extend life. The NIH goes on to state that the ultimate prognosis for those with the disease is the ultimate loss of the ability to function and care for oneself with death occurring within three to five years of diagnosis. Only about 1 in four patients will survive longer than five years after diagnosis.

Even though she's unable to use many of her muscles now, Spencer-Wendel's positive attitude shines through in a couple of her Facebook posts:

(Image: Facebook)

(Image: Facebook)

Her book is about her "year of living with joy." Since her diagnosis, Spencer-Wendel has spend some time checking things off her bucket list. Here is more on that from Two Roads Books:

After her diagnosis, Susan began taking special trips: to the Yukon, to see the Northern Lights with her best friend; to Budapest, where she and her husband spent the first two years of their marriage; to Northern California, to meet her birth mother; to Cyprus, the home country of the deceased birth father she never met. But one of her most important adventures was a visit to New York City and Kleinfeld’s Bridal, where she and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Marina, shared an unforgettably moving experience: shopping for the perfect dress for a wedding Susan will not see. “As my beautiful daughter walks out of the dressing room in white silk, I will see her ten years in the future, in the back room right before her wedding, giddy and crying, overwhelmed by a moment I will never share. . . . When my only daughter thinks of me on her wedding day, as I hope she will, I want her to think of my smile when I say to her at Kleinfeld’s, ‘You are my beautiful.’ ”

Spencer-Wendel and her daughter trying on a wedding dress. (Photo via Facebook)

Here's what she wrote most recently in an email to the Palm Beach Post:

“I so enjoy meeting the journalists. Seeing what they create and how talented they are. People shared their stories with me for so many years, I consider it a privilege to share mine with them.

“We taped a lot of media these past weeks as my voice becomes more slurred everyday. All the content is due to be aired around March 12 — the book’s release date. By then, my voice will be unintelligible.

“My decline is speeding up: each day I lose more steps and words. I now choke at most every meal, episodes which leave people around me screaming ‘Should we call 911?’ Ergo, I don’t eat much anymore.

“I knew it would be this way. So for Thanksgiving we had our major holiday event. Our entire families — 40 in all — came. Was wonderful. Hectic, but wonderful.

“Thus, Christmas is a time just for John and me and our children.”

Spencer-Wendel was given this ring for Christmas. It was something she asked for, hoping it would become an heirloom for her daughter or something her son's might use when they propose someday. (Photo via Facebook)

Read more of Spencer-Wendel's most recent thoughts in the Palm Beach Post here.

(H/T: Daily Mail)

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