Remember when I got heavily into writing in the fall of 2011? No? That's okay. Some of you will remember, and Dee Fleischman is one of them. In fact, she became one of my first fans.
She spread word about An Affair to Remember to her family and friends in Ohio, and beyond. There wasn't enough good things she could say about my book – and it continues to this day with each title I release. She is always first in line to buy my books when they're first published and is one of the first to leave a review.
I listened to Dee as she shared about her life with her beloved late husband, Bob. She was diligent in caring for him throughout the years they've been together, even when he had to go through dialysis a few times each week. She stood beside him through everything and never once complained.
I wanted to meet her in Ohio. We even had a place picked out to meet but, through a calamity of errors, it never transpired. If I recall, that was the summer of 2011.
Not too long after I made my acquaintance with Dee, I was introduced to Michael Phelps through a mutual writing friend.
Mike is an author who lives in Florida, a veteran of Vietnam – not the Olympic swimmer who has graced the covers of magazines. Mike has worked in security, has been a criminal investigator and worn other hats throughout the years.
Like Dee, Mike is an avid fan of my writing – a surprise for him since he seldom picked up a book if there was any type of romance involved.
Now, he looks forward to each new release. He can't post reviews on Amazon any longer, though, because I wrote a forward for one of his David Janssen: Our Conversations books, but that's okay. He can still enjoy the stories and leave his reviews on other sites like Goodreads.
Just as I listened to Dee, I listened to Mike as he shared with me about his battles with Cancer and then the problems he was having with his left leg. We built a solid friendship through those times and there were moments his battle weighed heavily upon my heart. At times, I felt like his battles had become my own.
It was an absolute pleasure to fly to Florida to meet him face-to-face in April, 2015, before Nevaeh turned two-years-old. It was an enjoyable trip all the way around.
Now April is approaching once again and I've been doing a lot of thinking, especially after reading a book titled, Code Name: Papa - My Extraordinary Life while Hiding in Plain Sight. I read it at the end of 2016 but it has stayed with me.
What only a few people know is that I followed the story of one character in particular who had symptoms I was experiencing. In the book, she had died from Ovarian Cancer.
As soon as I finished reading it, I looked up signs and symptoms for Ovarian Cancer and realized I had SEVEN of the TEN symptoms.
Being me, I knew those same symptoms could very well line up with something else but, in the back of my mind, I wondered about it, especially with my symptoms worsening. I decided it was time to get a check-up.
By the time an ultrasound was ordered a few weeks later, the number of symptoms I had had grown to NINE! The only thing I was not suffering from was weight loss. In fact, I seemed to be gaining weight instead.
During that time, I was optimistic, yet thinking. Chances were I could have Ovarian Cancer, but chances were it was something else entirely. Even so, I imagined how I would feel if I learned that I DID have it and there was nothing that could be done for me.
Right away, I thought about Peter, my kids and grandkids – wondered how they would go on without me. I wondered how my absence would affect them years into the future. I thought about my grandkids growing up and likely forgetting about me because their memories of me would become so distant.
I thought about my son growing up as a teenager without me helping him along, with me not being around to see him graduate, get married, become a parent and so on.
I thought about my girls being young mothers and wondered how their lives would turn out, whether they would meet life partners who would treat them and their children with love and respect.
I thought about Peter who seems so tough on the outside, as though he could conquer anything life threw at him, and wondered how he would handle such news. What the world doesn't witness is the side of him that I see, a tender, loving side – a protective side – a man who hates to see me in any type of pain.
I thought about possibly passing on before my parents and wondered how they would take it. It was never something I thought about – until then – and I didn't like the feeling, though I don't want to ever have to bury them either.
I thought about Kim (Swan) and I knew I was nowhere near prepared to have her say goodbye to me for the rest of her time on this earth. She is only a couple of years older than me and I wanted to spend plenty of time with her in the future.
I thought about Mike and Dee, wondered if I would ever see Mike again and whether I would ever get to talk to Dee face-to-face. I wondered what they would do if I wasn't around for them to talk to when going through another difficult time in their lives. I know God always provides someone in our times of need but, still, the thought of not being around for them any more, for any of the people I love, made me want to cry.
So ... I made up my mind in that moment that I would live as many dreams as I could while the opportunity presented itself. It does not appear that I have any type of Cancer, though there are issues which can be resolved without worrying about life and death situations.
As I mentioned earlier, April is just around the corner and I've been thinking about taking another trip to see my three babies in Winnipeg – well, my oldest baby (Kelsey) and my two oldest grandkids, Connor and Nevaeh.
I had hoped with all of my might that I would be able to get a trip out on Aeroplan points – and it worked out. I was so happy not to have to pay even the seat sale rate because that money could go toward something else during my trip.
I didn't want to stay in Winnipeg for the entire 9 nights/10 days I would be out on vacation, but wanted to spend as much time as I could with Kel, Connor and Nevaeh.
I had thought about taking Connor and Nevaeh out of daycare for a week and taking a little road trip with them for a few days, but that would leave me not seeing Kel a whole lot during the trip, which didn't seem fair. Besides, Tuesday, the 25th of April, is Nevaeh's birthday and we all want to be together for part of that day. It would be wrong for Kel not to see her on her birthday, even if the two kids were having fun with me somewhere.
At the same time, I've been wishing for a while that I could see Mike in Florida. I've been wanting to see Dee, too, but she lives in Ohio. We had planned to take a road trip together, at some point, but the logistics are becoming harder to work out each year.
I knew there wasn't enough time to visit both Mike and Dee and it seemed like a long commute to fly to Ohio for a night, then fly to Florida the following day, only to fly back to Winnipeg a day later – with a 10-month-old baby. I would have done it, but knew I wouldn't be able to spend much quality time with Dee or Mike with that itinerary. There was also another aspect to the trip: Sarah would be going with me. It would not even be up for debate. Either she went with me, or neither of us made the trip.
An idea crossed my mind but the ultimate decision would not be up to me. I looked up airfares/itineraries before saying a word to anyone and then asked Dee if she would be interested in taking a two day trip to Florida with me, told her that we could share a hotel room.
Of course, I sent this message through Facebook and she wasn't online at the time, so I was trying not to get excited because she could very well decide not to come. I knew she went through some medical issues over the past winter, and I knew she wasn't a seasoned traveler and preferred not to stray too far from home - and that was a couple of years ago.
Meanwhile, I e-mailed Mike and told him I wanted to fly down for a couple of days but wondered if the timing was right because of circumstances in his own life. He said not to worry, that it would be great to see me again and to meet Sarah. I told him that I was working on a surprise but couldn't confirm anything so didn't want to say anything at that point.
Then, Dee got back to me and, after getting in touch with her son, she agreed to make the trip! It was everything I could do not to jump, shout and dance for joy. I booked my ticket first, then booked hers a short while later.
I booked it so I would fly down from Canada and meet Dee for the second leg of her flight. We will have a conversation for the first time face-to-face, then board the same flight to embark on a mini-vacation together.
Then I caught up with Mike on Skype and told him that Dee was coming to Florida with me, that she was the surprise I had referred to earlier. He was happy to hear that he would see me again and meet Dee and Sarah for the first time. (I had introduced Mike and Dee on Facebook a couple of years, or so, ago.)
Then it was time to figure out which hotel to stay in and, after debating for a couple of hours – wanting to size up the location, the pools, the amenities, views and rooms - I booked and paid for us to stay at one of the hotels in Fort Lauderdale.
We are all excited and the best part is this: I will have carried out one of my long held dreams of sitting in the same room with Mike and Dee.
In addition, I get to spend a few days with Kel, Connor and Nevaeh before leaving for Florida and then I get to spend the whole weekend with all three of them (after school and daycare commitments have been made for the week) before Sarah and I fly back home the following Monday.
God is good and life just seems to get better and better.
If you've ever had the opportunity to meet one of your online friends for the first time, share with us and tell us how it went. Was it everything you expected? Was it better or worse than you imagined?
If you would care to share, feel free to leave your comments below. We hope to hear from you.