An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Malcolm Bedell | October 18, 2019
Budding singer | City of Hope Chris Baez and his daughter Madison
When Chris Baez was first diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in 2013, he didn’t expect that one of his strongest sources of support and inspiration would come from the familiar voice of his toddler daughter, then-2-year-old Madison.
 
Baez, then 46, was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of colon cancer that had already spread to the lymph nodes, according to Baez, and the doctors at the hospital in Fullerton, California, where he was originally treated were supportive but not optimistic. Even after surgery and chemotherapy, they predicted, he would have just a few years to live.
 
Baez’s initial surgery removed part of his colon, and it was during the following seven months of chemotherapy treatment and recovery that he first discovered Madison’s unique gift. “Madison began playing with toy pianos and instruments when she was just 2 years old. But it was during my recovery that she began to sing to me while I was in the hospital. At first, I just thought it was the cutest thing,” he recalled.
 
After Baez’s first surgery, more bad news came the very next year. His cancer had returned, and further surgeries would be necessary. It was the beginning of a difficult pattern in the Baezes lives. “My cancer has recurred every year, from 2013 until just a few months ago,” Baez explained. “I’ve had three surgeries to remove tumors from my colon, and two from my abdominal wall. Most recently, it has returned in my liver.”
 
For his fifth surgery in 2017, Baez moved his treatment to City of Hope. “From my first consultation,” he said, “I realized that that’s where I should have been from the very beginning.”
 
“The way they were talking to me about my case was immediately different. None of the doctors I had previously were addressing the specifics of my cancer, including the type of cancer, its particular mutations and the types of chemotherapy it was resistant to. At City of Hope, my case never felt like a cookie-cutter condition; it always felt specific to me. I tell people all the time: ‘I don’t care if you have to drive 100 miles. City of Hope. You go to City of Hope.’”

Madison Steps In

The long hospital stays gave Madison an opportunity to develop her singing voice. “Madison would always sing at my bedside, whenever I was in the hospital. During my most recent surgery to remove cancer from my liver, Madison followed the usual routine of singing to me in recovery. This time, all of the nurses on the unit stopped what they were doing to hear her. Some of them were in tears; they weren’t expecting Madison’s voice to sound like that,” Baez said.
 
Even at such a young age, Madison knew that her singing was helping her father. “When I first started singing to him at the hospital,” she said, “I could tell that it was helping. I thought, ‘Wait, this is making my daddy feel better! I wanna keep on doing this!’”
 
While Madison’s aptitude for music was evident early (the tiny prodigy taught herself to read sheet music by the time she was 3 years old, and currently plays six instruments), her father didn’t immediately recognize the unique power in her voice.
 
“I always took video of Madison singing to me,” Baez said. “But it wasn’t until I was watching one of the videos back that I began to realize that something truly special was happening. I started realizing that her gift needed to be shared with the world, even if I might not be around to see it.”

From Bedside Concerts to Explosive Singing Career

During an emotional car ride back from a consultation appointment at City of Hope in 2017, Baez first had the idea to teach Madison, then 7, the national anthem, a notoriously difficult song to perform for even the most seasoned singers. But Baez knew that Madison was ready for it. “I knew the power in her voice,” he explained, “And I knew that even at her young age, she could handle it. She learned the song and recorded it for the first time within 15 minutes.”
 
Baez sent a video of Madison’s singing with a brief history of their story to the L.A. Lakers, almost on a whim. He had no idea if he would receive a response, or if anyone within the organization would ever even see the video. “They must get hundreds and hundreds of submissions per day. I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear anything back,” Baez said.
 
He received a response from the Lakers the very next day.
 
The Lakers organization loved the Baezes’ story, and were amazed at the power of Madison’s voice. Within a few months, Madison had her first official professional gig: singing the national anthem her father had taught her before a big game.
 
While many children (and most adults!) would be wracked by nerves, Madison knew she was ready. “I was a little nervous, because it was my first public performance,” Madison remembered. “I was pretty scared, because there were a lot of people there. But then they handed me the microphone, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute … I’ve got this! Let’s do this!’”
 
A month later, the Harlem Globetrotters reached out to the Baez family and asked Madison to perform. A month after that, the L.A. Galaxy called. Then the L.A. Rams. Eventually, the L.A. Dodgers caught wind of the tiny singing sensation, and asked Madison to perform her rendition of the national anthem at Dodger Stadium in front of a capacity crowd on Father’s Day.
 
From there, Madison’s singing career has exploded. She’s performed at numerous charity events, as well as at the Orange County Fair and a 13-song mini-concert at the L.A. County Fair, the first child act to be given such an extensive opportunity to perform.
 
Explaining that she wants to be “a pop singer and an actress,” Madison has done 10 national commercials over the last year and a half, and is represented by the Buchwald agency, one of the top child talent agencies in the country. She has upcoming appearances scheduled on “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” as well as ongoing talks with “The Ellen Show” and “America’s Got Talent,” and was featured as "Anthem Girl" on "Inside Edition" recently. But her musical career is still managed by her dad. “This has never been about Madison becoming a star,” Baez said. “It’s been about how she’s uplifted me and given me the inspiration to keep fighting, and our desire to share her voice with the world, to let them feel what I’ve been feeling for the last six years. I just want the world to hear her.”

The Road Ahead

Baez’s cancer has returned every six to eight months, and it continues to keep advancing into new areas of his body with each recurrence. His cancer is no longer responsive to chemotherapy, leaving surgery the best option for now. City of Hope has Baez on a program of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) screenings every three months in order to catch any recurrence early, while it can still be treated. But Baez doesn’t let the fear of recurrence dictate his life. “I’m so busy with Madison’s career in my role as her manager, or ‘Dadanger,’” he said. “I’m consumed with helping her get her voice out to the world. I don’t have time to worry if my cancer is coming back or not.”
 
“We had this tragic event happen to our family, but this special gift came out of it.”

Sign up to receive the latest updates on City of Hope news, medical breakthroughs, and prevention tips straight to your email inbox!

*Required Fields