RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond woman behind a masterpiece on display at Regency Square Mall is coming to terms with a recent terminal cancer diagnosis. Unable to make the piece herself, artists from around the world came to her aid.
Flowers, squirrels, turtles beneath trees, and so many hidden gems. This inflated wonderland is the brainchild of Deb Fellman a.k.a. the Balloon Lady, the best balloon twister in Virginia.
"Landed clients like Coca-Cola and Walmart. I do all of the Walmart grand openings and remodels in the state of Virginia," said Fellman.
Last fall, the Balloon Lady filled her heart with the most flattering gig to date.
"I even landed a style shoot and had my work featured in Richmond Bride, which is really hard to get into! That was always a bucket list thing, to have a professional photo of my work in an upscale publication," said Fellman.
But the Balloon Lady wasn't feeling well, so she went to the doctor and had a biopsy.
"He just told me, 'I'm so sorry.' No false hope," said Fellman.
She has endometrial cancer. Stage 4.
"And I sat there thinking about the next call I had to make and wondering how in this world I was going to tell my mom, that her daughter was dying," said Fellman.
Before she could dial her mother, the phone rang and she answered.
"It was Richmond Bride magazine, and I thought 'oh hell, what now' and I answered it, and that's when they said 'congratulations, we loved your photos, you're going to be in the December edition.' I just thought, why couldn't this phone call have come yesterday? Why couldn't I have had one happy, triumphant day?"
Soon after, she knew she could still have her triumphant day - if she picked herself up and pushed ahead.
"I've always wanted to do a big balloon build. I've always wanted to give that to Richmond, to show Richmond what I can do."
Now bound to a chair, the Balloon Lady is too weak to twist balloons the way she used to.
"My friends said, 'well, what's stopping you?' And I said I can't do it, and they said 'well, what's stopping us?'"
Some 30 fellow balloon artists from around the world used donated balloons to create one of the Balloon Lady's favorite Richmond spots: Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. In just two days.
"It blows your mind! And that's the great thing about what we do, is that we don't ever stop getting delighted," said Fellman.
The artists say the display will stay up for three or four more days, but they might get a few more days out of it, if people keep their hands off of the balloons.
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