cancer

Terminally ill woman surprised by flash mob: 'I am really, really blessed'

May 19, 2014 at 4:57 PM ET

Amy Wagner was surprised by a flash mob of 50 of her loved ones.
Courtesy of Christina Noellsch
Amy Wagner was surprised by a flash mob of 50 of her loved ones.

To celebrate the life of a mother dying of cancer, 50 people joined together for a surprise flash mob, showing her the best of their love. Warning: watch with lots of tissues.

Lauren Keppel wanted to show her mom, Amy Wagner, how much she was loved after she was told she had terminal cancer in October 2013.

“The realization it was terminal … it is extremely difficult,” says Keppel. “Literally every day is a gift to her.”


Wagner was first diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in October 2012. She underwent a massive surgery, where doctors removed her ovaries and a spot on her liver, and she then completed chemotherapy. Within six months the cancer returned; the cancer did not respond to chemotherapy.

“If there is anything that makes one realize the importance of what you truly value, it is looking at your own mortality,” Wagner says. She is on palliative chemo, which lessens the symptoms. She notices that she feel worn down and in four weeks she’ll decide if she wants to continue treatment.  

Despite the terminal diagnosis, Wagner remained upbeat and inspirational. Even when she is hospitalized, she befriends everyone on the ward. She often says “Dum vivimus vivamus,” which means “while we live, let us live.”

“We decided to live by that motto and make the most of her days,” Keppel adds.

The family often celebrated with music, and Keppel believed a flash mob would show Wagner how important she was. She proposed the idea to her stepfather, Scott Hindsley, thinking he might say no, but he agreed. She sent out an email and soon the replies flooded in—her stepbrother, Grant in Utah, said yes, in-laws from Indiana wanted in, a friend from California said yes, and even Wagner’s parents in Florida wanted to dance for her. In all, 50 people joined.    

Amy Wagner reacts to the flash mob organized by her daughter.
Courtesy of Christina Noellsch
Amy Wagner reacts to the flash mob organized by her daughter.

“Everybody said absolutely,” she says. “She is incredibly influential.”

Keppel says she and her friend Christina Noellsch choreographed a dance to “The Best of My Love” by the Emotions in the basement in an afternoon. After they perfected the routine, Keppel’s husband Andrew videotaped it and they sent the video to the dancers. They decided to hold the flash mob on May 10, the day before Wagner’s 56th birthday.

Everybody rehearsed at home. Hindsley waited until Wagner went to bed and practiced his steps in the basement. Wagner’s father, Gordon, wanted to dance but bad knees prevented him from doing the entire routine, so he practiced the entrance and sat in the front and danced in a chair. The day of the flash mob, everyone arrived at Keppel’s house in Wheaton, Illinois, at 1 p.m. to rehearse together before Wagner arrived at 4.

Lauren Keppel with her mother, Amy Wagner, who has terminal cancer.
Courtesy of Lauren Keppel
Lauren Keppel with her mother, Amy Wagner, who has terminal cancer.

The video starts out with Keppel, her husband, and Hindsley. Grant is the first special guest who enters the frame, causing Wagner to exclaim, “Oh my God.” 

“I thought when my stepson Grant had come out, that that was it … that he came home for the birthday weekend,” Wagner says. “That 50 people would do that for me … I am really humbled.”

Keppel wanted a camera focused on Wagner to capture her reaction. She hoped her mom could watch the video and be reminded of how much she was loved.

“The impact she has had on the people in her life is tremendous and I wanted to be able to show her that in a cumulative, grander way. I am not sure she will really understand how much that she has given to us,” says Keppel.

Wagner’s reactions throughout are endearing. Seeing the scope of it, she says ”Oh you guys this is amazing.” Later, she encourages them to “Shake it.”

Keppel says that the flash mob accomplished something she never thought would happen.

“She was literally speechless for 10 or 15 minutes, which we all thought was impossible for my mother … she was floored.”  

Wagner says she is still overwhelmed by all the love she felt.

“It is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me,” she says. “I just love them all so much. I am really, really blessed.” 

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