In January 2008, Amy Stoen and her husband, Randy, noticed a cyst inside their 3-year-old daughter's nose. Doctors in their small Minnesota community were unable to determine a cause, so they referred Madelaine and her parents to the Mayo Clinic, an internationally renowned medical center.
Less than two months later, doctors diagnosed Madelaine with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that had spread to the left side of her face. To try to save her life, doctors started chemotherapy right away. "It's hard because I can't do anything for her to take that pain away," Amy says. "She's going to have to do this for a year, and it's going to be a long year."
To get the treatments she needs to survive, Madelaine's parents drive her more than 100 miles a day to Saint Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Amy says her daughter has already lost almost 10 pounds since her diagnosis. The side effects of the chemo are also starting to show. Madelaine is now losing her hair. "Once she loses her hair, it's really going to set in that she has cancer," Amy says.
Amy can barely discuss her daughter's diagnosis without crying. Now, in addition to the emotional toll, the Stoen family is also facing a financial crisis.
Both parents used to bring home paychecks, but these days, they spend every moment caring for Madelaine. "The house payment is sitting there and the medical bills on top of that," Amy says. "We're only three weeks into it. We have 41 weeks to go. … My job covers the insurance, and his paycheck covers the mortgage. We want at least one parent here, so that means we only have one paycheck coming in versus two."
Randy and Amy say they're desperate to find a way to stay with their daughter during treatments without losing their home. "Our main priority is making sure that she gets the medical care she needs to get over this cancer and to be cured," Amy says.
Wanting to get into the giving spirit, Simon has a surprise for Randy and Amy.
"I didn't know what to do in this situation other than to do something which I hope will help," Simon says. "I know that you're having trouble with your mortgage. And as of this afternoon, [it] is being paid off."
Simon says writing a $162,000 personal check won't be the end of his involvement with Amy, Randy and Madelaine. "It doesn't stop there," he says. "If there's any problem, I'm her guardian angel now."
Last season, American Idol hosted a celebrity telethon called "Idol Gives Back"…and they raised more than $70 million for disadvantaged children around the world!
"It was so good, we're going to do it again," Simon says.
On this year's show, look for performances by current and former Idol contestants and winners. Celebrities like Bono, Brad Pitt and Miley Cyrus are scheduled to appear, too. "It'll be a big, big night," Simon says.
Simon says he's only just learned about the joy of giving.
"I didn't realize that. It's taken me 48 years," he says. "It's going to catch
on, this, because it is a very, very good feeling."
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