Tucked inside the One Wells Fargo Center in uptown Charlotte, you’ll find our next featured “Portrait of Courage”. She’ll be perched with a smile behind the register — and firmly in command — at the Omnibus Gift Shop. Her name is Kelly LaFlash — known to her family and friends as “Fuzzy”. She works hard each week managing all aspects of this cards and sundries outfit and serving her long-time customer base. And while she does that job really well, she is also on an important mission each day that’s very close to her heart.
When I sat down with Fuzzy it was instantly clear that she was on a mission. She wore a childhood cancer awareness sweatshirt adorned with gold ribbon pins and cancer buttons. Her wrists were covered in silicone bracelets sporting messages of hope and healing. There was no mistaking her billboard of passion for childhood cancer awareness. Why so visual, you ask?
Fuzzy was diagnosed with metastatic Rhabdomyosarcoma at the tender age of 14, after some persistent nosebleeds, coughing, and colds. She also had a lump on the side of her neck. It was during a related tonsil and adenoid surgery that the surgeon discovered a tumor in her nasopharynx. An intense chemotherapy and radiation treatment schedule followed, which led her family to give her the nickname “Fuzzy” (like the nursery rhyme Fuzzy Wuzzy) as her long locks fell out.
It is truly miraculous and joyful knowing that Fuzzy is with us today as a 34-year survivor. WOW! And with that incredible statistic comes some important life lessons that she’d like to share with all of us.
Childhood cancer research receives very little funding, so all of us can do our part to make a critical difference. I know firsthand that every penny does count! Fuzzy maintains a donation jar on her checkout counter at Omnibus, and her loyal customer base throws in a bit of change here and there for whatever the current fundraiser is (She raises money at any given time for CureSearch, the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, Still Brave Cancer Foundation, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Isabella Santos Foundation, Claire’s Army, Kick-it for Kids’ Cancer, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, and the Paula Takacs Foundation). These random money tosses into her jar have resulted in approximately $6,000 in donations to these nonprofits over the last 5 years! Simply remarkable!
- As a childhood cancer survivor, I’ve learned along the way to try to conquer my fears and to never lose my sense of humor! Fuzzy admits that anxiety and fear can easily become your steady sidekick – as fallouts from being a long-time survivor. She tells me she is much more confident many decades later and is most proud of pushing herself to learn how to drive, take to the dance floor, and ride in a helicopter in her thirties. She also reminds kids to find joy in their sense of humor throughout their cancer journey. “Most people have one of those days. I have one of those lives,” she says with a wink, but then quickly adds this quote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” — Vivian Greene
- The most significant life lesson I can convey is that I choose to live this life of mine with a positive attitude. This quotes says it perfectly, and it has literally changed my life: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home.The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way…we cannot change the inevitable.The only thing we can do is to play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you; we are in charge of our attitudes.” — Chuck Swindoll
So I hope you’ll drop by the Omnibus Gift Shop and see Fuzzy one of these days. Drop a coin in the jar, give her a hug, and tell her that she is an amazing Portrait of Courage.