Indiana teen "finally free" after months-long cancer fight
An Indiana teenager celebrated a big milestone in her fight against cancer with a surprise party.
Imagine sneezing and cracking a rib. That's how 19-year-old Maddy Helpling's 29-week odyssey began. She would lose some friends and gain some new ones - it's all part of the fight against cancer.
To celebrate the end of her treatment, Helpling's family and staff at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital secretly planned a bash.
"It looks beautiful. I think it's going to be perfect," said one of the decorators on the third floor of the hospital.
"We are going to celebrate Maddy's last chemo treatment," said the girl's grandmother, Debbie Stansberry.
"She has no idea," said another party planner. "This is everything to us. For it to finally be over and make a celebration of it. It's been everything."
Maddy knew nothing about the party, she was just looking forward to pizza with her mom.
"Surprise!" the room exclaimed as Helpling opened the door to the family room.
"Thank you for coming and for being my support team," she said.
They are all there because they wanted to be.
"When we were tired and getting frustrated, we would look at her and be, like, 'We can do this. If she can do this, we can do this'," Maddy's mother, Heather Borst revealed.
Maddy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer just after her high school graduation last June. Two of her team members, Matt Overton and Pat McAfee, from the Indianapolis Colts accompanied her back to Elwood when she crowned her Homecoming queen successor.
"Matt was here earlier. Brought me some nice flowers," Maddy told McAfee.
"Did you forget?" she adds.
"They are on the way," McAfee plays along.
We first caught up with Maddy last October when Peyton Manning gave her a quick phone call the week the Broncos came to town to play the Colts. It's little wonder. The Peyton Manning room has been her home away from home at the hospital for the past 29 weeks.
About an hour after her party started applause broke out again. This time it was not a surprise. Her very last chemo treatment had just ended. She was, as her mother so aptly put it, "finally free."
"She is one of the most motivating and inspiring people I have ever been around. She will do more for me than any of us will ever do for her," McAfee told those gathered in the room.
"That they can draw from her some inspiration to give them strength is just, as a parent, makes me feel like a million bucks. Because that is my child," Maddy's father Steve Helpling said.
Maddy does seem to have the uncanny ability to make those around her better. Which is why she spends time with other patients and is planning on pursuing a degree in nursing.
"Focus on school, focus on getting better, getting my energy back. Pretty tired. My body is pretty worn out," Maddy said in a voice that drives home the point.
It's understandable. It's been a grind, but her 29-week "season" is coming to an end and most importantly, her team won. She's finally free.
Maddy is expected to walk out of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital for the very last time on Sunday.