Re-uniting with family, thanks to the Internet

For those who have lost contact with family members or friends, do not give up.  The Internet is a vehicle which facilitates re-uniting, no matter how long ago you last heard or seen any of the family. 

Before exiting from this “tear valley and laughing hill” called planet Earth, (I am 87), I wish to include in my blog just such experiences – re-uniting with family members via the Internet.

For many years, as long as I can remember, I have led a nomadic life.  Natasha is also a ‘nomad’ at heart, and together we travelled around the world – always on a shoestring – or did housesitting.   We rarely had one address for more than a few months or couple of years.  And so contact was lost with many people. 

But, within the past ten years, a number of kin showed up. 

First, a son of my late sister, my nephew, Walter Harder.  Walter’s wife, Ingrid, had been searching on the Internet and came across my website.  She was pretty sure I was Walter’s “long-lost uncle”, and so they sent us an email. 

The wheel was set in motion for many years of correspondence, all by email, and the occasional phone call.  Walter and Ingrid reside in a part of the Netherlands called Flevoland.  That’s the region which was once part of the Zuiderzee.  When I was a boy, Flevoland did not exist.  The Netherlanders transformed the sea into land, for cultivation and for housing.   

We never met in person, until last year, when Walter overcame his fear of flying, and travelled here to Victoria with Ingrid. Together we had a memorable visit and of course we continue to stay in contact by email.

 Henri with long-lost nephew Walter and Walter's wife Ingrid at Cowichan Bay, BC
Walter aboard BC Ferry, southern Gulf Islands

Then, I learned my daughter Maya and my ex-wife Kaye live in northern British Columbia.  Here is a picture of Maya with her horse.
My daughter, Maya

Maya has two grown daughters,, Kayla, and Marlee.  Kayla has three children, my great-granddaughters -- all girls!  Here they are:  
My great-granddaughters:  Claire, Faith and Ali

So, within a short space of time, I went from little or no family contact, to contact not only with my daughter and ex-wife, but two granddaughters (Kayla who is 24 and Marlee, 19), and three great-granddaughters -- Claire (8), Ali (6) and Faith (4).   

 My granddaughter, Kayla, with husband Dakota, and the "Three Graces"
Kayla is married to a young man who is First Nations. His people have lived in that region for thousands of years. 

 My glamorous granddaughter, Marlee

Maya, my ex-wife, Maya's daughters and my great-granddaughters all live close to the Great Bear Rainforest.  Natasha and I visited the clan in August, 2015. It was also my 85th birthday.  Another memorable experience.   

Next, one day we received an email out of the blue from my long-lost cousin who I hadn't seen since the 1950's.  She lives in the Canary Islands, part of Spain. She had also discovered me via the Internet, like my nephew Walter, and we are now in contact regularly.  She is the young age of 93. Here is a photo.
My long-lost cousin, who is 93 years young

And now, only four days ago, I heard from my other nephew, Ruud, in the Netherlands. I hadn’t seen him for fifty years.  He is the second son of my late sister Wilma. Ruud and his wife Mina live in Amsterdam.   They have their own radio station and this week I listened – again via the Internet – to his live radio show, where he played two songs I had requested the day before. It was 10 am here and 19h00 in Amsterdam. Those two songs had been favourites of my father (Ruud’s grandfather). 

My second long-lost nephew, Ruud, who has his own Radio Station, with his wife Mina
Ruud's wife, Mina

So it’s a global village after all, and the Internet is proving to be way of enabling these reunions to be possible.



Henri van Bentum with the Trilogy -- three children's fables created and published in five months. Illustrations by PJ Heyliger.

"The Misadventures of Rexie the Damselfish is the latest in a Trilogy of children's fables written by Henri van Bentum and illustrated by PJ Heyliger. In this latest book, we visit the realm of coral reefs and little Rexie, a Damselfish, who lives among the Sea Anemones. A whimsical and delightful tale, brilliantly illustrated, filled with suspense and adventure."

See earlier posts for information about the first and second books.

Here are the links to order a copy of "The Misadventures of Rexie the Damselfish":




A Third Children's Fable - On Its Way Soon

 One of the illustrations by PJ Heyliger 
from our forthcoming children's fable, 
"The Misadventures of Rexie the Damselfish".  
Here we see Mr. Mox the Moray Eel with Tilda the Spanish Dancer.

With all the inescapable ‘Trump noise’ going around, I am pleased to trumpet the positive news that soon, a third fable of mine will be published -- making a Trilogy.

This time we return to the realm of the first book, the Coral Reefs, with a suspense story, a “whodunit’ drama.

Just like the previous two books, this one is vividly illustrated by PJ Heyliger, a former student and friend. The title is
"The Misadventures of Rexie the Damselfish".

The new fable will be – we hope – another keeper.  Above is a sample of one of the illustrations by PJ.

To visit the other two books, recently published, here are the links:

Stay tuned for the release date of the new book.

p.s.  Here's the link to a story published this week in "Victoria News" about the recent books. 

And the February edition of James Bay Beacon featured an article about "King Neptune's Jewels with Tails and Fins".


Our second children's fable has just been published - a collaboration with PJ Heyliger, illustrator

 Back Cover (left) and Front Cover (right) Illustrations by PJ Heyliger

"Nimbert and Tirwinkle 
in an Enchanted Flower Garden"
Illustrations by PJ Heyliger
Story by Henri van Bentum

We’re pleased to announce the birth of our second children’s fable, a printed book.

In tandem with artist PJ Heyliger, who also did the illustrations for our previous book (please see post of January 18, below), “Nimbert and Tirwinkle in an Enchanted Garden” is about an encounter between me and a Gnome. 

Nimbert, the Gnome, reveals why Flowers are here with us today. In my early boyhood, some 85 years ago, I was fortunate to have a maternal grandfather and a loving mother who were both masters at telling stories. 

My maternal grandfather, Antonis Johannes Alberse, also had a beautiful garden and won many awards for his Dahlias. I’ve dedicated the book to him.


There are others who helped with production of the book. A labour of love, Natasha van Bentum looked after logistics and liaised with the graphic designer, and “CreateSpace”.

I write these fairy tales not only for the young, but to re-kindle the youngsters in us all. Fairy tales or fables reflect eternal archetypes of the human family.  If, somehow one day, all the existing fairy tales in the world were to disappear, soon new fables and tales would appear since their themes are universal.

Take a peek inside the book:

Link to our page on Amazon.ca (Canada)


Link to Amazon.com (USA)



My children's fable has been published, with illustrations by PJ Heyliger

"King Neptune's Jewels with Tails and Fins"
Illustrations by PJ Heyliger
Story by Henri van Bentum
A visit to the realm of tropical fish in a coral reef

King Neptune's Jewels with Tails and Fins is a whimsical and delightful visit to the realm of tropical fish in a coral reef, complete with King Neptune, mermaids, Moray eels, nudibranches, parrotfish, seahorses, and many other creatures. Written by Henri van Bentum and illustrated by PJ Heyliger.

Henri with book, "hot off the press" at Printorium (Island Blue)

One reviewer summed it up in a word:  "Fintastic!".

Now available on Amazon.com and on Amazon.ca, and soon in Europe, Japan and Australia.

Direct link to Amazon.com:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1541005589
Direct link to Amazon.ca:  https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1541005589


Surviving Bladder Cancer -- So Far, So Good. And appreciation for the many good wishes from friends

Less than two years ago, instead of Champagne-coloured, my urine showed red. 

After seeing our family doctor, who then sent me to a urologist, Dr. J. Paul Whelan -- the first step was an Ultrasound to see “what could be seen”. But the ultrasound couldn’t reveal enough information. 

So Dr. Whelan scheduled me for a Cystoscopy, which he performed at the Royal Jubilee Hospital -- a thin tube with a camera and light at the end is inserted into the urethra, enabling him to see inside the bladder.  The Cystoscopy does not take long and requires no anaesthetic.  Laying there, I could also see the images on a large computer screen.

Although earlier on, I'd been told by my family doctor that for someone of my age (87 years young), blood in the urine usually means only one thing:  cancer of the bladder.

However, that day during the Cystoscopy -- to my disbelief -- several tumours appeared. I immediately thought of them as “alien stowaways”. 

[We don’t hear much about bladder cancer, yet it’s the fourth most common cancer in men.  Unfortunately, research into this disease lags far behind most other cancers, due to lack of funding.]

The tumours were at such a stage, Dr. Whelan said he needed to get them out quickly, and told me surgery will be necessary. 

There is usually a long wait time, and on top of that it was August -- traditionally a “down-time” -- but luckily for me, he was able to book the operation later that same month.

So I went back to the Royal Jubilee Hospital for the surgery, called a “transurethral resection for bladder tumour” or TURBT.  [This procedure is only effective for early-stage cancer.]

In my case I had a choice between general anaesthetic, or a spinal anaesthetic, and I opted for the latter.

I stayed overnight in hospital. Very early next morning, Dr. Whelan came by and said the surgery went well, and he had the necessary material to have the analysis done. So I was sent home. (continues below . . )

The week after the operation was an awkward and messy one, having to use a catheter -- but necessary.  Slowly but surely. the liquid changed from pale red, to deep orange, then to a normal colour.

Two weeks later we returned to the urologist's office to hear the results of the analysis.  It was a positive report.

That was not the end, however. Next step:  preventative therapy --  Immunotherapy, involving a series of treatments using the “BCG” vaccine. Amazingly, this is actually a form of the tuberculosis vaccine.

BCG stands for “Bacillus Calmette-Guerin”, named after two French scientists who developed the vaccine between 1908 - 1921.

Doctors aren’t 100% sure why it works, but believe it makes the bladder react in a way that triggers the immune system to get rid of cancer cells. 

So it’s not the vaccine itself that gets rid of the cancer cells, but the BCG somehow kick-starts your immune system, and it’s your immune system that fights the cancer cells.

In my case, it was a poignant situation:  after WWII in the Netherlands, I had tuberculosis and spent a few years in a sanatorium. [See my blog post of August 4, 2008 about the Zonnestraal Sanatorium].  So the thing that nearly killed me, now helped to save my life.

The BCG is administered by the urologist's very capable LPN. Since having that first round of BCG, over 6 weeks once a week, I’ve had two other rounds but these were three treatments, also once a week. 

Recently the latest Cystoscopy procedure gave the “all clear”.  Dr. Whelan pronounced my bladder a “work of art”, knowing that I’m an artist, but also meaning he thought his surgery was a work of art too.

Throughout all of this, with support and care from Natasha, my wife, plus many good wishes from friends far and wide, I maintained a positive outlook.  I worked hard on keeping my spirits high and did a lot of meditation and contemplation.

In many ways, I have been very lucky:  being able to see an excellent specialist - urologist Dr. Whelan - relatively quickly (normally long wait times).  Then the urologist getting surgery booking quickly, before the “alien stowaways” as I called them, broke through the protection wall of the bladder.  If that had happened, the whole bladder would have had to be removed – major surgery.

Thankfully, thanks to destiny and my ‘guardian angels’, this was not necessary.

Because bladder cancer has a high recurrence rate, the highest amongst the cancers, it requires “life-long surveillance”. So the doctors keep you on this regimen of having BCG treatments twice a year, plus further Cystoscopies, to monitor things. [This makes it “the most expensive cancer to treat, on a per-patient basis.” ]

I thought to share this personal experience on my blog, at age 87, since to me it is worthwhile communicating to others the importance of taking very seriously any warning signs like I had at the beginning.

Henri van Bentum