He rented her a wheelchair, took care of her children, made calls to 911 when she collapsed, and spent nearly every moment of their two-year relationship worried it would be their last.
When Rick learned the woman he had wanted to marry had been charged with making fraudulent claims about her terminal illness and collecting donations from the public, he was in shock.
“I had cried 20 times a day not knowing if today was the last day I was ever going to see her,” said Rick, who didn’t want his last name published.
Lana Rovang, 32, has been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of fraud under $5,000, and one count of uttering a forged document. She is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
Police said the single mother of two children allegedly made multiple claims to her employer and people she knew that she had a terminal heart condition and stage-four breast cancer, even providing a fraudulent doctor’s note to her employer. Private fundraisers were held in her honour, raising about $20,000.
But a member of the public became suspicious of the woman’s claims and contacted police in July. An investigation was launched and Rovang was arrested by RCMP in Kelowna, B.C.
“She was very committed to convincing people that she had these conditions,” Const. Patricia Ariss told reporters last week. “She was very committed to her cause.”
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Rovang said she was advised by her lawyer not to speak to reporters.
“I do want to make a comment to the press but I guess it’s not quite the time yet,” Rovang said. “I definitely have a side. My side is definitely not the way that is being portrayed.”
Rick said his ex-girlfriend’s stories were believable, convincing and consistent, and not once did he suspect a thing.
He said they met in 2010 while walking their dogs at Southland Park, now Sue Higgins Park, and started dating that summer shortly after exchanging contact information.
From the beginning, Rick said, Rovang was open about her health issues, that she suffered from a heart condition, arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD, and didn’t have long to live. Medical ports punctured her body leaving marks and scars, he said.
He said she told him her two daughters were at risk of the same disease.
Though he believed their time together would be short, he embraced life with Rovang and cherished moments spent with her and her children, whom he adored, he said.
“We’d even talked about marriage,” he added.
Their fond memories included making bets on who would say “I love you first,” a poem she penned for him, getting engraved rings, and making a garden ornament with their names and the date of their first date etched in cement.
But their years together were also fraught with tense and frightening moments, he said.
Rick recalls the day he panicked when she suddenly slumped over in her wheelchair during a walk in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
“Tears were pouring down my face.... I’m trying to call 911.”
Rick said Rovang was also overtaken by strokes, adding they parted ways shortly after a particularly bad stroke made her lose her memory.
After their breakup, Rick said he remained in touch with Rovang, and continued to help her financially.
“I wasn’t in love with her, but I still loved her. Her fight, her strength,” he said.
By then, he believed she was now battling breast cancer as well, he added.
This past summer, he and several friends helped organize the Love for Lana fundraiser at the Riverstone Pub, the bar he owns with several partners.
About $12,000 was raised from ticket sales and a silent auction, which included some of Rick’s personal items, he said.
The FunFlex Playcare, where Rovang worked, also held several fundraisers, including an event where about a dozen staff members shaved their heads.
Rick said Jan. 7 was the last time he had heard from Rovang. When more than a week had passed without a word, he became worried that she had passed on. Out of the blue, he said, she called him from Kelowna, saying she was ashamed.
He said she then sent him a string of text messages explaining what had happened — that she had spent a week in jail, that she was facing three counts of fraud and 14 years in prison.
With every subsequent text he received, Rick said he started to question everything he thought he knew about Rovang.
“Everything is just going through my mind,” he said. “I need some answers.”
Police have declined to comment on the details of the case.
Rick said some people might snicker at him or question how he could be so naive, how he missed the warning signs. And looking back, he said he sees there were red flags: he never saw any pill bottles bearing her name, and she would never let him accompany her to the hospital for her treatments.
Now, after having spent a few days reflecting on the charges and allegations, Rick said he’s awash with emotion — guilt for roping his friends into the fundraiser, sadness for Rovang’s two children, empathy for Rovang if she had experienced some sort of traumatic experience in the past.
“I’m not going to let it break me. I’m not going to let it change who I am. I’m not going to have distrust of anybody. I’m not losing faith in humanity,” he said.
“I would ask her why. Why would be the only question.”