It was a dream come true for one young girl when she met Celine Dion in Las Vegas for a preconcert meet-and-greet photo session.
"It was great," said Heather Tanner, a sixth-grader at Grovetown Middle School and a fan of the Canadian pop singer since she was 4. "I loved it."
Heather, now 11, met Dion during a prearranged trip after she won a monthly fan club contest.
"Heather made a wish through Make A Wish in 2001 to meet Celine Dion," said Heather's mother, Calmine Tanner. "Well, Celine was in hiatus and pregnant and they couldn't grant that wish, so we went on a Disney cruise instead."
With her daughter, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 2, still longing to meet the singer, Calmine Tanner signed Heather up for the singer's fan club, hoping to win a monthly contest that gave the winner tickets to the singer's Las Vegas show. After two years of being in the fan club, the Tanners got lucky.
The winning entry was for front row tickets only, but after a little finagling, the Tanners were granted an opportunity to meet the singer backstage before her Aug. 27 concert.
"Celine Dion was really, really nice," Heather said. "When she handed me the rose and I began to cry, she said, 'It's OK' and gave me a hug."
Dion had been versed on Heather's condition, which affects her digestive and respiratory systems, Tanner said.
"She was just really wonderful," Heather's mom said. "I figured she would be nice, but it was like she knew Heather's life."
Heather's life is one that has been riddled with trips to the doctor, hospital stays and constant medication changes.
She has chronic lung and sinus infections and must wear a vest that "beats" her back and keeps her lungs cleared of any excess mucus. Heather has a feeding tube inserted in her stomach and keeps a lot of blisters in her mouth because she has acid reflux. Heather's mother said her daughter has to take sinus medications, enzymes to digest food and undergoes breathing treatments.
"She's actually doing pretty good," Tanner said of her daughter. "I know a lot of kids doing way worse than her."
The Tanners say it's important that Heather not use her illness, for which there is currently no cure, as a crutch.
But the Tanners said it is the deeds of those such as Celine Dion that keep Heather going.
"I've always loved her music," said Heather, adding that her favorite song is My Heart Will Go On from the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic.
The Tanners are planning a return to Las Vegas to see Dion's show later this year, as long as Heather is healthy enough to travel.
"That's not a show she can see just once," Heather's mother said.
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