As she walked through the packed crowd at Chase the Ace in Sydney, N.S., Saturday night with a winning ticket in her hand, Angie Willems could feel her shoulders squeezed by hundreds of encouraging Cape Bretoners who were vying for the very prize she was about to win.
"I was shaking like a leaf," she said. "I still don't believe it. I still just — I don't feel like it was a dream, I just feel like it didn't happen — that's it."
But she wasn't the only one on her way to the stage. Chase the Ace organizers said something about another winning ticket.
"My immediate thought was they're going to think I printed this ticket myself. That's what went through my mind," Willems told CBC News.
Another woman named Mary Matthys of River Ryan held a ticket with the same number. Organizers took them aside.
She said the provincial lottery corporation wanted the two women to split the money. But then the charities hosting the event stepped forward.
"It was the charity itself that said that's not fair, [and] 'We'll forgo our 50 split,'" she said.
The women agreed that if given the chance to each have a try for the ace of spades, they would split the jackpot between them. Instead, they were asked to mutually agree on what card to pick.
"By then, we were kind of friends in that short 40 minutes we'd spent together."
'There would have been bedlam'
She says one of the cards they'd almost agreed upon was eventually shown to be the ace.
"There would have been bedlam. I think I would had a heart attack and died right there on the stage," Willems said with a smile and nod.
In the end, Willems and Matthys drew the eight of hearts. They each walked away with a cheque for $229,230 — which would have been less if the charities hadn't given up their profits.
"I'm glad we didn't get the ace. After all the commotion, I don't think I could have taken another shock."
Willems says she's been careful about playing Sydney's Chase the Ace. She watches her pennies. But this past weekend, the spare $20 she had led to more than she could have imagined.
Now she can afford to help pay for her son's wedding, she says, and return to her roots in the U.K. She's not sure about the rest.
"I'm very happy with what I've got. And it will make a difference. Some people might say it's not a life-changing amount, but to me it is."
As for Matthys, whom she'd never met before Saturday, something special is now forged between them.
"She's a nice nice lady, very nice. She is. I think we might have a little bit of a friendship there."