"He's my hero," Amanda Jones tells PEOPLE of the singer

Former American Idol contestant Elliott Yamin helped one special fan’s dream come true over the weekend.

The singer, who was the third runner-up in the most recent season, spent time backstage in Richmond, Va., during the “American Idols Live” tour with Amanda Jones, a die-hard fan who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Jones, 19, from Jonesboro, Ark., tells PEOPLE that when she received her diagnosis just two weeks ago, she had two questions for her doctors: 1. Is the disease curable? 2. Could she go to Richmond to see the “American Idols Live” tour?

“I had to see my Idol in his hometown,” says Jones, referring to Yamin, a Richmond native.

Not only did she make it to Richmond on Saturday night, but thanks to a connection through a Yamin fan forum, she snagged a backstage pass from a friend of Yamin’s who’d heard about Jones’s leukemia diagnosis.

“He is, by far, one of the sweetest people I ever met,” says Jones. “He was rubbing my back and told me not to worry and that everything would be okay.”

Jones is such a big fan of Yamin’s that, in May, she camped out at Graceland in Memphis to catch a glimpse of him when the top Idol contenders visited Elvis’s former home.

Now, she says, “He’s my hero. He went through so much in his childhood, struggled through so much, and in the end, he came out on top. That’s what I pray and hope I can do.”

Yamin, 28, suffers from Type 1 diabetes and is 90 percent deaf in his right ear. After a series of childhood ear infections and ear-drum replacement surgery at 13, “it just hasn’t worked right,” he told PEOPLE in March. As for being able to sing in spite of that, “I don’t know how to explain it, because I’m not a religious person. It’s a gift.”

Backstage, Yamin signed Jones’s program, writing: “Amanda, thank you for all your support. I thank you for driving a long way to see us. God bless you, sweetheart.” In return, Jones gave him a card and a LiveStrong bracelet.

As she turned to leave, Yamin hugged her one more time. “That just boosted me up,” Jones tells PEOPLE. “I forgot I was the kid with leukemia.”