Three weeks after lending her cheeky grin as "chubbiest baby" for the 2014 Pear Blossom Baby Contest, 9-month-old Madison Coache-Powell was diagnosed with a rare cancer that caused a tumor the size of a baseball in her liver.
She was an otherwise healthy infant until this month, say her parents, Joseph Powell and Jewel Coache, of Medford.
Smithfields Restaurant and Bar, 36 S. Second St., Ashland, plans a five-course brewmaster dinner on June 11. Hop Valley Brewing of Eugene will donate drinks for the event and 100 percent of proceeds will be given to the Coache-Powell family (see www.smithfieldsashland.com).
Salon Spark, 126 E. Main St., Medford, will host a three-part event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 24, with haircuts, barbecue meals and car washes. For details, call 541-531-6925.
The Whiskey Room, 31 Grape St., Medford, will donate proceeds from part of a comedy night event from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday, May 27. Tickets are $10 (www.whiskeyroommedford.com).
For updates on Madison or to donate online, visit https://www.facebook.com/helpbabymadison
"Everything seemed just fine," Powell says. "She was the Pear Blossom's chubbiest baby ... never any issues, never even really got sick."
Madison's parents found a bulge on Madison's stomach near the end of April.
"Her mom was feeding her, so she was lying on her lap and looking over at me when her mom noticed her tummy was bulging out," Powell said.
"So I checked her out and our assumption was her liver was swollen, so we took her into the hospital, and our fears were not only proven, but it was much worse."
Madison was diagnosed with Stage IV hepatoblastoma, a rare cancer that starts by forming tumors inside the liver in children younger than 3. The cancer had already begun to spread into Madison's lungs.
Madison has been at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel in Portland since April 29. She has endured a painful biopsy, a medically induced coma to protect her from the effects of the biopsy and constant nausea and stomach pain from both her condition and resulting therapy. She started chemotherapy on May 6. Powell says she has a 30 percent to 50 percent chance of surviving, depending on how successful the first two cycles of chemotherapy are.
Even in pain, Madison smiles for her parents and keeps up her "big girl" habits of drinking water from a regular cup — never a bottle — and carefully inspecting her surroundings using her pointer finger, Powell says.
While Powell and Coache have insurance coverage for Madison, Powell says their meager savings likely will last only four to six weeks covering living expenses while they care for Madison through this crisis.
"Jewel and I have been staying in the room with her, sleeping, when we can, on a pull-out bench every night," Powell says. "Neither one of us can leave because every 20 to 30 minutes Madison is either in pain and needs to be consoled, needs a diaper changing, is throwing up or just plain old wanting her parents."
Powell says he had to quit his job in order to care for Madison.
"I need to be working so I can support my family, but it's so hard to leave when taking care of Madison is a full-time job for two, maybe even three, people right now. And it's hard to even take on any work when I don't know when I'll be able to show up if something happens and Madison needs me."
Neil Clooney, owner of Smithfields Restaurant and Bar in Ashland and one of a half dozen local residents putting on fundraising efforts for Madison's family, says the baby's diagnosis hit close to home.
"It's just such a tragic story and so sad for anyone, but especially for a baby to have to face this," Clooney says. "I have a baby who is 10 months old, just a month older than Madison, so I can't even imagine what they're going through. My wife is brought to tears whenever she talks about it. Anything anyone can do to help this family out is amazing. Hopefully everything will be OK for this family."
Powell says friends, family and even strangers have stepped up to help, easing some of the family's stress. Powell says the encouragement and emotional support is just as important as the donations.
"I've got to be honest, it feels really weird saying, 'Hey, everybody, donate money because my daughter's having a hard time,' but I'm actually really scared about financially being able to make it through," he says.
"I always thought all these nonprofits come through and help families get through something like this, but there's actually not as much help as most people would think. We're not asking for anyone to help pay for any luxury items, we just want to make sure we have a secure home to go back to and food on the table.
"It's scary to think that families go through something like this and they have that worry in the back of their mind about whether or not they'll still have a home to go back to."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at email@example.com.