A PARADISE FOR MY CINDY GIRL

Cindy

    For the last 18 years, I have been the luckiest man alive, truly blessed! I had been given the opportunity to share my life with the most loving, caring, wonderful woman anyone could ever meet. She was so much more than words can explain. I can’t even begin to describe the depth of her love for others. She was on a level all her own, and I’ve never met anyone even close. This is not an exaggeration! When she said that she loved you, and she said that to so many people, she truly meant it! She wasn’t fake in any way, and she had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen!

     I feel that I’ve been the most fortunate of all, because I received an extra dose of the abundant love she shared with the world. She was my lover, my confidant, my trusted ally, my best friend. And she stated many times that she just knew that we were soul mates and I agree. She loved our story so much and thought it was so unique that she had actually started writing a book about us a few years ago. The title she gave the book was “Timing”. Her reasoning for that title was that even though we had met each other in the third grade and were soul mates destined to be together, we were not meant to be together early on, because there were 7 wonderful children (my 5 and her 2) that needed to come into this world first.

As I previously stated, we met in the third grade at school # 62 in Indianapolis. Cindy told me that she remembers one event where our coats were hanging in the coat room next to each other and we both reached for them at the same time. We looked at each other and our eyes were close together and I said “hi Cindy”. From that one brief moment in time, I became very special to her, and she said that she just knew that I was going to be a good friend forever. My family moved away right after that school year and I didn’t see her again until we were in the 8th grade when our schools competed in basketball at the old gymnasium at Howe H.S.

    Cindy was in her green and white cheerleading outfit and was wearing a cast running the full length of one of her legs. I walked up to her and she reached out to give me a hug and said “it’s my good friend George”. She then explained to me that she and a cousin were doing dishes and her cousin flipped a towel at her, and as she spun around to avoid it, she fell and her leg broke. Cindy had always been very petite, kind of small boned and somewhat fragile. But nothing, including a broken leg was going to stop her from cheering at those exciting Saturday morning games!

   Our first date took place during the “summer of 76” right after high school graduation. A few buddies and I went to the East Gate Cinema where unbeknownst to me Cindy was working. She saw me right away and we had a chance to get caught up. I asked her if she was seeing anyone and if she would go to a Beach Boys concert with me at Market Square arena. She agreed without hesitation and I began the countdown to the date of the concert. We had good seats and had a great time listening to all the old favorites. After the concert, I drove her home, walked her to her door, and asked if she’d be interested in going out again. She said that she was just getting ready to start college and didn’t want to get serious. So, being the sensitive young man that I was, I took that to mean she wasn’t interested, and I didn’t ask her out again. She had since then told me many times that she didn’t mean that she wasn’t interested, it was that she wasn’t sure if she would have the time for a steady boyfriend.

Through the next several years, we would continue to run into each other on many different occasions, much more than anyone else we went to school with. I remember one night I had caught sight of Cindy at a club out by the airport called Quincy’s. She was there with some girlfriends and I think they were celebrating a birthday. She told me that she was married, and I told her I was still single. She said to me as we parted ways that “whoever you end up with will be a very lucky girl.” Years later she told me that a girlfriend she was with said she thought that Cindy was flirting with me, but I knew that was just Cindy being her wonderful self.

Late In the year 2000, I ran into her again while she was waitressing at Applebee’s. While sitting at the bar, I saw Cindy at a distance, and when my date left for the restroom, (it was a first date), I nodded Cindy’s direction and asked the bartender if that waitress’s name was Cindy. He said “yeah, but we call her Teach”. She was also a second grade school teacher. He saw the big smile and asked me how I knew her. When I told him that we had gone to school together he then leaned in close and said “and I think she’s available!” I found out later that we both had gone through a divorce at virtually the same time. I didn’t speak to her that night, but I began making regular trips to the east side of Indy to visit my now favorite restaurant hoping to see her.

Our second date was 25 years after our first on Feb 7, 2001. We then began to meet every Wednesday evening for several months on what we called our eastside restaurant tour, and thus began our lives together. When I first informed her that I had 5 children, I didn’t get the typical response of squealing tires and tail lights. Instead, I got a sincere level of excitement and “I can’t wait to meet them!” The best way for you to understand how she interacted with my children, is to picture Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” And I confirmed this just recently with all my now adult children, that in 18 years of being a “step mother” to my children, there was not a single argument with any of them. Not one. Ever! What an amazing woman.

We were engaged on Christmas day 2006. I was down on one knee and when she said yes with tears in her eyes, all my children who were hiding on the staircase jumped out and dropped confetti on us both. She always loved that memory and would bring it up almost every Christmas!

Marry MeEven though we never actually married, we were a very loving committed couple. We talked many times about marriage but there were many issues that we both felt were more important, (like getting our children raised), and we didn’t want to cause more problems than we might be solving. We were both very content in our relationship and had total and complete trust in each other. We both lived in our own homes, raising our children, and continued our lives together by simply continuing to date. We were together every weekend and once or twice during the week almost every week without fail. We talked every night and texted several times a day. She would always start out with “hi my sweet man,” and I would just call her “sexy”. She said many times that some of her friends and co-workers would say they were a little jealous, because it seemed like the perfect scenario, and for us it was. After all those years together we both would still get that little tingle when we would see that the call or text coming in was from each other, like when you first start dating. And that’s after being together for 18 years. Totally blessed! We so much enjoyed waking up together on the weekends, drinking big cups of coffee in bed with all the pillows stacked up behind us and just talk. We would talk for hours and it seemed that time always got away from us.

Christmas 2007

To give you an understanding of my life with Cindy, I would be remiss to not include her health issues. Early on in our relationship she had been tested and diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. This is a disease that effects the inner intestinal walls. and majorly compromises the immune system. Cindy’s Crohn’s doctor recommended a treatment with a drug that was supposed to ease the symptoms. Cindy and I went to the web to research it. We found that one of the side effects was possible breast cancer. However, she did what most people would do and took the advice of her doctor and started treatment.

Several years later Cindy was diagnosed with the beginning stages of breast cancer. We never pointed the finger at the drug taken for the Crohn’s treatment, because we really didn’t know the cause, but it did create questions in our minds. So, we began searching, wanting to look at all the options both natural and allopathic. You will find on every website that gives reference to chemotherapy that chemo weakens the immune system. This is without question. While researching all the options available, we came across an independent research group that had a long running study, investigating the longevity of life for cancer patients that have a compromised immune system. They compared the life span after treatment of those who took chemotherapy compared to those who didn’t. The findings showed that those with impaired immunity, (like Cindy), who did take chemotherapy had an average life span of 2.1 years after treatment. Those who didn’t take the chemotherapy had a life span 8.3 years. Knowing that these were just statistics, but also understanding that she did have a weakened immune system, Cindy decided not to take the chemotherapy treatments. Her decision was derived through many hours and days of research and statistical logic. She said quote “I’ll take the 8 years.” That was around 12 years ago! She chose the statistical favorite and she did beat the odds. She also began to change her diet and stepping up her vitamin and mineral intake including vitamin b17.  About 6 months later she got the all clear from her oncologist and he said to her “I don’t know what you’re doing but whatever it is, keep it up”.

As years passed, she became less concerned about the cancer returning, as we all would do and lived her daily life as usual. The breast cancer, after quite a few years, did eventually return around Jan 2015, but it wasn’t spotted as early as the first time. Cindy wanted to repeat the same process as years prior, but the cancer was further advanced and wasn’t responding as well. Her oncologist recommended radiation treatments along with chemotherapy. Cindy this time, agreed to the radiation treatment but still believed that she couldn’t handle the chemotherapy. She knew that the radiation alone was going to do a lot of damage to her already compromised immune system. She always told everyone that she was tough, and she was right. After the treatments her energy level was down for some time, and she lost some weight, but she did start coming back, and came back strong. After several months had passed, you would never guess by looking at her that she had gone through what she did. Except for the neuropathy in her right arm that was caused by the radiation, her health was about as normal as it had been before the second cancer diagnosis.

Anyone who has gone through the horrible ordeal of cancer treatments or have been close to someone that has, will know that it can be a very difficult time for the patient. Your heart goes out to them and you really want to help them in any way possible. I had explained to Cindy that after witnessing what she had to go through, I wanted to do something special for her. My first thought was a nice vacation, but I wanted to step it up somehow. I thought that maybe there was a place where she could go and be treated like a queen. A place that would be like paradise, uplifting, and relaxing, where she would be given special care. My search came up empty.

After having no success in finding such a place, I told Cindy what I had attempted to surprise her with and then made the comment that I would be willing to create a scenario like that for her. “I could get a princess carriage, a couple of hunky cabana guys to fan you and feed you grapes, like a queen”. She laughed at the idea and thanked me for thinking about her in such a loving way. I then told her that I know that I can make it happen and I really wanted to do this for her. She sat there for a few minutes, smiled and said “that is really sweet that you would do that for me, but to be honest, I would feel embarrassed. I’m not a queen and I don’t want people thinking that I think I’m special.” But I knew that she was special, and I wanted to show it. So, I said after thinking it through, “what if I were to invite a small group of breast cancer survivors to go also, and then you and the whole group would be treated like queens?” Cindy smiled really big and said, “now that would be amazing! We could make it like a queen’s paradise, with massages, and facials, and deluxe everything. It would be so inspiring for those women who have been through so much!” Of course, Cindy sprang to life with this idea because it was no longer about her receiving this gift, but more about her being able to help uplift and encourage the other women that would be coming to this unique event!

Thus, began our planning. We needed to first find a location that would meet all the criteria that would be required for a possible paradise. We both agreed that a tropical beach environment would be a most likely candidate, so we had a blast traveling to several locations in the Caribbean looking for possible resorts including Grand Cayman, and Cancun. We finally concluded that not all women would be willing to travel outside the U.S. to attend, so we narrowed our search to a warm climate in the states and found a perfect match for us in southern Florida. The Pink Shell Resort on Estero Island is a fabulous resort that has previously been rated one of the best resorts in all of Florida. Cindy and I vacationed there several times before we decided to make our choice to set up paradise.

Grand Cayman 2017

During this time, I have never seen Cindy so happy and excited. This was not work, this was pure joy for both of us. She loved taking notes, drawing sketches, acting out the scenes and just being a part of this whole concept. This was a wonderful way for her to just be herself by showing that she cared a lot for others.

     The ideas on how to make the original concept better kept coming, and the project kept expanding until we had created a full cancer retreat complete with many unique amenities including cabana boys and a health and longevity seminar. We decided to name the retreat Pampered in Paradise and Cindy thought that was the perfect name. She said that “we will make it like paradise with all the pampering!” After more than 2 years in the planning, we finally had our first retreat scheduled for Aug 23rd thru the 26th 2018. We had purchased 2 princess carriages, but they had to be special ordered because we were not going to be using horses, we were going to have real manpower to pull them! There were so many details to work out but with Cindy and all the kids helping me, we all worked together to get everything ready, always enjoying every step along the way. I was also excited about the date we had set because on the very first retreat, I had scheduled the sunset dinner cruise on that Saturday evening the 25th of August which was on Cindy’s birthday! I thought it was the perfect plan and couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. Cindy was going to be the guest of honor at the first Pampered in Paradise retreat and have a birthday celebration on the final evening of the event while on a luxury yacht at sunset! It was the perfect storyline for my Cinderella. But, alas, not all plans work out as scheduled. In late July, we were informed of a red tide situation in the south Florida region that had caused a natural disaster to the coastline. This situation had created a large amount of dead sea life washing up on the shore line for more than 100 miles. This was the worst red tide event that had ever happened in that area. So, we had to postpone and then reschedule the retreat. To make sure we were well past the effects of the red tide, and that there were rooms available at the resort, we had to move the date to Jan 3, thru 6th, 2019.

     In June of 2018, Cindy started complaining of back pain, her voice started changing to a much higher pitch, and she began to have breathing, coughing issues. These all came on simultaneously. When she told me these things, I had trouble seeing the connection between these new symptoms she was now having, and her Crohn’s or breast cancer. She then informed me that she was given a shot by her oncologist about 2 weeks prior for osteoporosis. I said to her that she hadn’t ever been diagnosed with osteoporosis. She said “I know, but they said I’m a candidate for it and this is a preventative”. She told me the name, I looked it up and found that every symptom she was now having was listed as a side effect from this shot, even a FRACTURED SPINE, which an examination later confirmed was the cause of her back pain. She cried in my arms several times afterwards saying she wished she would have never taken that injection. But even more devastating, I found that the drug is also classified as an IMMUNE SUPPRESSANT! And, should not be given to anyone with a compromised immune system, especially intestinal absorption issues. (like Crohn’s disease) It’s clearly stated right on the manufacturer’s web site. It was our opinion, mine and Cindy’s, that due diligence was not administered before giving that shot. Cindy was given an immune suppressant while her immune system was already compromised more than anyone should experience. As I stated before, she was very fragile and needed to very careful about what she allowed in her system. This can be a life-threating situation, because many cancer patients don’t die from cancer, but die from the flu or pneumonia or something their immune system can’t fight off. She said to me, “I know my body, and all this started right after I took that shot”. It’s obvious that there were mistakes made by simply reading the warnings on the manufacturer’s website! She should have never been given that shot!  The side effects she was now experiencing (mainly the fractured spine) had taken away from her any resemblance of a good quality of life.

Cindy became very ill about a week and a half before Christmas of 2018. There was a stomach flu going around our area and it is my belief that she was afflicted by this flu. All signs pointed to this. She was not able to eat anything without vomiting, and she had all the symptoms of a stomach virus. When I picked her up from her mother’s home to take her to my place for the holidays, I found her lying on the bathroom floor in a very weakened condition. I picked her up and took her to my home and began treating her for the flu and nursing her back to health. After four days of intense caring and using natural herbs, vitamins and minerals, her condition greatly improved, and it seemed that all was going to be ok. Some of her family members then visited her at my home and noticed a definite and obvious change for the better. And she was! Her family then requested that she be brought back to her home where they could visit and care for her while I was finalizing plans for the upcoming retreat. But sadly, within a few days her health began to deteriorate again.    

       I spent the last 3 nights of the year at her place, watching over and caring for my Cindy girl during the night shift. I barely slept a wink. By this time, she wasn’t always alert, and was sleeping most of the time. I spent New Year’s eve with her just as I had for the last 18 years. She slept through the new year’s celebration, but awakened around 3:30 am, looked directly at me and smiled. When she smiled at me, I went to her and gave her a big kiss and said Happy New Year babe! She said “oh, I forgot it was New Year’s.” I told her that we were scheduled to leave for Florida tomorrow, but that I wasn’t going. I was going to stay with her to make sure that she would be ok. She motioned with her hand for me to come closer and said, “no…..NO, don’t you dare let those women down and don’t you dare let me down. You go down there, and you do what I know only you can do!” So, I told her this time that I wasn’t going leave unless I was absolutely sure that she was going to be ok..

     So, for the next 4 hours, until around 7:30am, we had the most amazing time together. She was totally coherent, and we talked, reminisced, laughed, and cried. She was again, that wonderful girl I have always known and loved! She said that she might just get out of that bed and go with me. When looking back, I now realize that this special time with her was not only a gift to me, but that she was giving one of her most unselfish acts yet. She was mustering up all she had to convince me that she was going to be ok, and by morning, I really believed she would be. She wanted me to be there for the cancer survivors and to not let them down. I was truly convinced that she would be ok until I returned. When I left that morning, she gave me a real passionate kiss, and said “I love you so, so much. And don’t worry, I’m going to be fine”. I held her tightly, told her how much I loved her, and I’ll see her in a few days.

Our group arrived on the morning of Jan 3rd around 10:00am at the resort and began preparing for the guests. As we came over the bridge entering on to Estero Island, and seeing the beautiful view that lay before me, I broke into tears. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be kicking this event off without my Cindy here with me. We were partners through this whole process and did all the planning for this unique adventure together. My guest of honor was not able to make the trip, and this day was the culmination of years of planning by both of us. My Cindy girl gave it her all but was unable to attend and be the princess that I wanted to pamper. She was determined, and of the mindset that she was still going with me right up until the last few days. Even then, she insisted that I go so that the retreat wasn’t ruined for all the other cancer survivors, as always, putting others first.

      I was on the beach with the cabana guys going over all the details, showing them the path for the carriages, and giving them instructions. I walked away from them when my cellphone rang. At 1:55 pm, I received the call that my Cindy girl had just passed away. It stopped me in my tracks and just fell to my knees in the sand. I began to feel like I could hardly breath. I didn’t want to believe it. All these thoughts began spinning in my head. It was not supposed to be happening this way! She was going to be there when I got back! I would not have left if I would have known! I never gave her that final good bye kiss. Not only wasn’t she with me now, but she wasn’t going to be there when I returned. I had never felt such pain! My heart was shattered into a million pieces.

     I slowly stood back up and everything seemed to be in slow motion. I looked out over the water, and just started walking that direction and then down the beach alone. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this condition and just needed to be by myself. The last time I had walked this stretch of beach, I was hand and hand with my Cindy girl. We were making plans for this event that was now occurring. I walked to the point, on the north end of the island, and sat at the water’s edge for what seemed like hours. My whole world had just been turned upside down and my future torn to shreds. I had never felt so lost, or so alone as I did at that moment. I had no one to go home to, and the future we had planned together was no more.  

    Sometime later, and I’m not sure how long I was there, my son came for me and said “dad we really need your directions with the start up. Do you think you can do it?” I really didn’t know if I could continue with all that needed to be done and keep it together. When I saw the redness in my son’s eyes, I began to realize that I wasn’t the only one hurting. My 5 children were there with me and they just lost the woman who was so much like a mother to them for most of their lives. I knew that I needed to be strong for them. Also, one of the last things Cindy said to me was “don’t let me down”. So, there was no way that I was going to let her or my family down and I did my utmost to pull myself up and do the best I knew how. It was probably the most difficult thing I think I had ever done. Everywhere I looked, everything I did, her fingerprints were all over it. It all felt so surreal.

     This entire project that Cindy and I had been working on for 3 years, and the original concept was meant for Cindy to be the one getting pampered. And she would have, if only we had set the date one month earlier. Or if only the red tide hadn’t happened. Or if only she hadn’t caught that flu. Or if only she hadn’t been given that injection. Who knows? And the timing. What are the odds that she would pass away on the same day of our grand opening? The timing. “Timing” was the title of the book that Cindy was writing about our story. Could all this just be some crazy coincidence? Somehow, I don’t think so!

     I am now, more determined, more driven than ever, to complete our project and make Pampered in Paradise what Cindy and I had envisioned from the beginning. I believe that she is with me in spirit, cheering me on, and directing me with the love, compassion, and inspiration that she had always given. That was her heart, and her love for others was so evident through the entire project. Cindy’s beautiful heart will always and forever be with mine.

     You know, if you stop and think about it, Cindy did make it to paradise on our opening day after all.