Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

91-year-old who inspired thousands by skipping chemotherapy to go on end of life road trip dies

'Over these past 12 months, all of us have learned so much about living, caring, loving and embracing the present moment'

Alexandra Sims
Wednesday 05 October 2016 09:35 BST
Norma Jean Bauerschmidt expresses delight at book to be published of her travels

An American woman who decided to take a road trip across the United States instead of undergoing cancer treatment has died at the age of 91.

Norma Jean Bauerschmidt’s travels have been followed by more than 400,000 people on the Facebook page "Driving Miss Norma", which posted pictures and accounts of her journey.

Ms Bauerschmidt's daughter-in-law Ramie, who set up the Facebook page, wrote that Ms Bauerschmidt had decided to take the trip last year after being diagnosed with uterine cancer and told by her doctor that surgery, radiation and chemotherapy were unlikely to treat the illness

"We found ourselves sitting in an OB/GYN office talking about treatment options," a post read. "You know the drill: surgery, then radiation and chemo in some order. When the doctor was finished he asked her how she would like to proceed.

"A tiny woman at 101 pounds and under five-feet tall, an exhausted Norma looked the young doctor dead in the eye and with the strongest voice she could muster, said, 'I’m 90-years-old, I’m hitting the road.'"

Ms Bauerschmidt set off from Michigan with her son Tim, daughter-in-law and their dog Ringo on 24 August 2015.

Norma Jean Bauerschmidt admiring Yellow Stone National Park in July (Driving Miss Norma/ Facebook ) (Driving Miss Norma/ Facebook)

A post marking a year on the road said: "We have driven the RV nearly 13,000 miles and slept in over 75 different locations in 32 states.

"Miss Norma has experienced more 'firsts' than we can count. Big things, like riding in a hot air balloon or on a horse, to little things like getting a pedicure or having her first taste of key lime pie, oysters and fried green tomatoes. She has had her hair done by ten different stylists and has crossed the time zones 9 times (I think.)

"Over these past 12 months, all of us have learned so much about living, caring, loving and embracing the present moment. No matter where we are, when asked where her favorite spot has been on this trip, Norma now says, 'Right here!' We have also learned so much about the human spirit and the beauty of people from all over the world."

Ms Bauerschmidt began hospice care in the town of Friday Harbour, San Juan Island, Washington - her final stop - in August when her health began to deteriorate.

The San Juan County Coroner Randall Gaylord confirmed Ms Bauerschmidt died on Friday morning.

On Friday evening Ms Bauerschmidt's son Tim and daughter-in-law Ramie posted a quote from the 13th-century poet Rumi: "'Life is a balance between holding on and letting go' - 'Today we are letting go'' it said.

A memorial service for Ms Bauerschmidt will take place in Friday Harbour on Friday.

A public invitation to the service says: “When we asked Norma earlier how she wanted people to pay their respects, she said, 'Wouldn’t it be nice if others could just spread joy in the world'.”

The invite asks people to send flowers to people they love rather than to the service, to donate money to a charity of their choice and to “take your grandmother out for lunch”.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in