Only two days after her beloved husband of 67 years passed away, "Miss Norma" discovered she had uterine cancer. The chances of curing the disease through aggressive chemotherapy were slim, so the 90-year-old decided to skip treatment and hit the open road for one more epic adventure.
Last September, together with her son and daughter-in-law, Miss Norma packed up an RV and set out across America. As documented on the Facebook page "Driving Miss Norma," the now six-month trip has included several national parks (Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon), laughs in Disney World, a hot air balloon ride, whale watching in Florida, the Kennedy Space Center, and plenty of quiet beautiful moments.
In an interview with ABC News, Norma's daughter-in-law Ramie said the adventure has given this inspiring grandmother a much-needed boost.
“She continues to surprise us on this trip," she said. "She’s getting healthier, I think, from eating well and being outside a lot. She’s breathing fresh air and getting to see new things all the time."
According to Norma's family, reading the book "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" by Dr. Atul Gawande had a huge impact on their decision to embark on this adventure. In an interview with Spiegel, Gawande said his book has changed people's perceptions on end-of-life care –– and also raised a lot of questions for nursing home administrators forced to consider mental well-being as well as health.
"I think the important question is: Do we want to create a medical institution to keep the old safe, or do we want to create a home?" he said. "Why don't we allow people to have cats and dogs when we know it gives them a purpose in life? Because it's usually not a caregiver's job to walk the dog when the owner no longer can. But shouldn't that be exactly what a nursing home helps you do? Make sure you live a good life all the way to the end?"
Norma's family hopes her story encourages others to deeply consider their own end-of-life choices. As for the family's trip, it will keep going as long as Miss Norma wants. A sincere cheers from all of us at MNN to her road ahead.