The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 14, 2013

Dying writer pens memoir for her family

HERMITAGE — An award-winning journalist with family ties to Hermitage, has published the journey of her final days battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, told in her memoir, “Until I Say Goodbye - My Year of Living With Joy.”

The book, published by Harper Collins, was released Tuesday. A movie deal is in the works.

Susan Spencer-Wendel, 45, recently resigned from her longtime position as an award-winning court reporter for the Palm Beach Post, after a 2011 diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis left with her with dwindling muscle control that she knew would shortly result in paralysis and eventually in death.

Married to John Wendel, whose parents Janet and Dick Wendel live in Hermitage, she made the decision to make the most of the time she had left, sharing special memories meant to last a lifetime for her husband and each of her three children, Marina, Aubrey and Wesley.

Susan and John took a trip to Budapest, Hungary, to celebrate their 20th anniversary and recall the years they spent there while he was on a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English. She started a newspaper while she was there.

Since her diagnosis, she has swam with dolphins and traveled to the Yukon to see the Northern Lights with her best friend, Nancy.

She relies on her husband to do the physical work for her. He bathes and dresses her, feeds her and has learned to do her hair.

Her speech, when she can speak, is garbled, her  her mother-in-law said.  But Wendel is able to understand her and speaks for her.

She tapped out the entire book on her iPhone, using her right thumb, the only part of her she can move. Near the end of the book, she relied on eye-movement technology to finish the typing. The book was co-written by friend and writer Bret Witter.

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