Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

October 21, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007. Mattie was five years old and given the month, we were at a Fall Festival. In a way, it was our family tradition on the Fall weekends. As you can see we were on a hay wagon ride, which had taken us out to a pumpkin patch. Mattie loved picking pumpkins off the vine, but I would say he LOVED everything pumpkin. From bread to pies! In fact, until I had Mattie, I must admit I wasn't a big pumpkin fan. But since Mattie loved it, I did a lot of baking with pumpkin and grew to love it too. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,312,109
  • number of people who died from the virus: 221,694

I would say Peter and I have been through our fair share of stressors and life adjustments. Naturally during COVID, everyone is frustrated, anxious, and at times depressed. I feel like I could do a "how to" manual, about how to survive the impossible. I am kidding of course, because anyone who knows me knows I am not a firm believer of these how to lists. As if everyone manages or experiences things the same way??? They don't!

But for us, we are dealing with COVID lock downs, Peter's job search, and concerns about the health of our parents. Seems to me any one of these things is stress provoking, but in totality, it feels overwhelming. Oh and I forgot to mention, that Peter is balancing being our neighbor's executor of his will. Which has its own complications as the executors appointed by our neighbor refused to do the role! So our neighbor's family appointed Peter. Not a simple request, as it has to go through the DC courts, which are moving in slow motion thanks to COVID. 

With all these different stressors, I feel like they have triggered intense migraines. But I am not just dealing with your average migraine, I have a cluster headache. I have only had one other cluster headache in my life. They are awful, they last months, and are very debilitating. So far I am on week two of dealing with this pain, and I must admit it is exhausting, irritating, and makes it hard to focus on anything. My neurologist says the best treatment for this is steroids, but I refuse to take them. 

So what's the difference between a migraine and a cluster headache? Well an individual with chronic migraines might think they are experiencing cluster headaches, but the symptoms of the two are unique. In addition to headaches, people with migraines tend to feel nauseous, see auras, and be sensitive to light. Cluster headaches are more likely to cause sinus issues such as runny noses or watery eyes. They can also come on suddenly, while migraines tend to develop more slowly. Alongside the debilitating pain, several common signs and symptoms come with cluster headaches. The headache will generally affect only one side of the face, with pain targeted around that eye. The eye might also appear red or weepy, swell, or droop.

October 20, 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 -- Mattie died 577 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. That weekend we took Mattie to a fall festival. One of the fun activities at the event was a corn maze. As you can see, Mattie was smiling from ear to ear in front of the corn. Happiness from successfully completing the maze! Mattie introduced me to so many new events and activities. It was wonderful to be able to experience these adventures through Mattie's eyes, commentary, and feelings. Something, now 11 years later, we still miss. As there is nothing like experiencing the world through a child's eyes. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,258,568
  • number of people who died from the virus: 220,806

In August of 2019, I went with my parents on a Canadian Cruise. One of our stops was to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Specifically to the Anne of Green Gables Museum. As you can see they had a girl with a red wig dressed up as Anne and she greeted guests and took photos with us. Unlike many of the people on tour, I had never read the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. But it was clear that Lucy was LOVED and she helped to put PEI on the map. I heard many women around me oohing and aahing over the books about Anne and the wonderful, heartwarming stories, her mature, yet full of imaginative personality. I absorbed what they were saying, but I couldn't quite appreciate it because I was truly unfamiliar with Anne of Green Gables. 

When my mom and I visited the Museum, there were many tourists from Japan visiting. Apparently Japan LOVES Anne. There is even a replica of Anne's house in Hokkaido, Japan. The love began just before the outbreak of the Second World War, when a Canadian missionary gave her student Hanako Muraoka a copy of the book, Anne of Green Gables. It continues to this day with an anime series, comics and several Japanese movies inspired by the story.

Why am I reliving my trip to the Museum, because I am now watching a Netflix series called Anne with an E. It is basically bringing Lucy Maud Montgomery's book to life. As I am watching this coming of age period drama, I am transported back to my visit to PEI. I just wish I read the book before visiting the Museum. But now I have much greater insight into why there is a cult following. In a way, Lucy Maud Montgomery was able to capture the complexities of adolescence, the challenges of being a woman, the importance of imagination, making the best out of a bad situation, and to appreciate the beauty around you. Both Peter and I are loving this series. In fact, I can't get through even one episode without a tear. The writing is beautiful, each episode is heartwarming, and the characters in this story have a way of weaving their way into your heart. 

Here is the story line...............
In 1896, elderly brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (who live together as they never married) decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out around their ancestral farm of Green Gables, on the outskirts of the Canadian town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When Matthew goes to pick the child up at the railway station, he finds 13-year-old Anne Shirley, an imaginative, bright, high-spirited, and talkative girl, instead (an orphan since her parents died when she was a few months old, Anne lived as a servant in various households before being placed in an orphanage).

While Matthew decides he would like for her to stay, Marilla does not trust Anne, given her status as an unknown orphan and the perceived uselessness of a young girl. Her distrust appears confirmed when Marilla cannot locate a brooch, thus leading her to believe that Anne is a thief. The Cuthberts send her away, thus "returning" her to the orphanage. While she does arrive back at the orphanage, she is terrified to enter, haunted by bullying she had endured there and returns to the train station. Meanwhile, Marilla discovers that the brooch had been misplaced rather than lost and that prejudice had led her to believe Anne was a thief. Matthew consequently finds Anne and convinces her to return to Green Gables, where she is officially made part of their family. However, Anne continues to face bullying from students in the Avonlea school and class based discrimination from Diana's parents and others in Avonlea. Anne once again returns to her survival mechanisms of imagination, intelligence and problem-solving abilities that eventually lead to her acceptance by the rest of the community.

October 19, 2020

Monday, October 19, 2020

Monday, October 19, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. That weekend we took Mattie for a day trip to Maryland, to ride on the Walkersville Southern Railroad. It is an experience as the railroad was built in 1872, you can ride vintage passenger cars from the 1920s, and you pass an 100-year-old lime kiln and picturesque Maryland farm country. It was a cool day and the rest of us sat inside the train cars. Not Peter and Mattie! They were out in the elements enjoying the views. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,202,679
  • number of people who died from the virus: 220,046

I had a phone call this afternoon from a friend and fellow mom, whose son is a five time survivor of childhood cancer. I met this special mom, when Mattie was in treatment. We have remained connected all these years and she is also very generous with Mattie Miracle. She called to tell me about the memoir book she is writing and was hoping I would write a submission for her to include in her book. 

Naturally I am very honored that she would consider me, and I am beyond impressed that she has the focus and the courage to put her family's story down in print. Having the desire to do this myself, I am well aware of the complexities of doing this. As it is an emotional task of grand proportion.

While talking to my friend, she mentioned that Peter and I are the perfect examples of "post-traumatic growth." I have to admit that this is not the first time I have been told this. I hear this from colleagues (who know what the term means) and our Foundation's researchers. Yet despite this being a psychological term, despite being a licensed mental health professional, and despite being an educator I do not like this term. It doesn't resonate with me at all. 

So what is post-traumatic growth (PTG)? It is a theory that explains transformation following trauma. It was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the mid-1990s, and holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward. In fact, many people who have survived trauma, have found positive change as well—a new appreciation for life, a newfound sense of personal strength and a new focus on helping others.

To evaluate whether and to what extent someone has achieved growth after a trauma, psychologists look for positive responses in five areas:

1: Appreciation of life

2: Relationships with others

3: New possibilities in life

4: Personal strength

5: Spiritual change

Do I think growth can happen after a trauma? YES! But I don't like the notion that one has to experience a trauma, that this trauma is necessary in order for a profound "psychological seismic" transformation to result in growth. I strongly believe that I always had an appreciation for life and helping others WAY BEFORE Mattie was diagnosed with cancer and then died. I just don't like associating growth with Mattie's death. It strikes me the wrong way, just like the crazy term "new normal." I neither asked for my "new" life, nor did I wish for this form of "growth." 

I can with confidence say that I would prefer the term post-traumatic meaning. That doesn't have such a happy go lucky positive spin to what I view as a catastrophe in my life. Through Mattie's cancer journey and death, I have had to find meaning to what happened to him and to us, and to use that knowledge to find a way forward to re-engage with the world. That doesn't mean I feel like I have grown, that I have made it through the trauma and found joy and happiness (two more words I dislike intensely) in my world. Because I am not sure I have or ever will. 

That said, I do know that Mattie's cancer journey showed me many things such as the amazing connections and community we have in our lives. A network of incredible friends who dropped everything during our 15 month journey to meet Mattie's every need. Not to mention our own. I am not sure I would have seen or felt this overwhelming beauty and spirit in people if I did not live through a crisis. Is this growth within me? Again, I would say no! Instead it is the meaning I gained from the trauma that remains inside me. It guides my relationships with people and it also guides the mission and objectives of Mattie's Foundation. 

Needless to say, as I write a passage for my friend's book, I will NOT be focusing on Post Traumatic Growth. A concept that I believe the psychological community  coined to help clinicians find purpose, direction, and hope within their therapy sessions with survivors of trauma. Instead, I will remain true to myself, my principles and feelings, and focus on MEANING. The meaning of this trauma and how it is my compass in my personal life and Foundation work.  

October 18, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2005. This was a typical scene within our living room. Mattie loved to paint with his feet. I have no idea why, but the tactile feeling it provided was right up his alley. Mattie created some wonderful prints of his feet and plenty of creative note cards. Despite the mess this created, Mattie had the where with all not to run around our home with painted feet. When he was done, he'd lift his arms up, which meant that he was ready to be carried to the sink to get cleaned up. The beauty of Mattie! He was born with a understanding and sensitivity beyond his years. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,140,728
  • number of people who died from the virus: 219,599

Last night we attended a gathering for our friends Mary and Mike who sold their home and are moving to Ohio. Despite the chilly temperatures outside, I think everyone was thrilled to be able to reconnect, converse, and share in the excitement of our friends' new chapter in their lives. Of course saying good-bye is never an easy thing to do. Perhaps I am jaded from moving around, but I know what geographical distance can do to relationships. But then again when you say good-bye to friends, it makes me pause and also realize how life is about constant change. Nothing stays the same. Yet there is something to be said to consistency. Some of us actually crave it and it helps provide balance to our lives. As you can see, Mary's move has brought up many issues for me. 

We took Sunny on a new trail today at Turkey Run park. It was a beautiful fall day, and Sunny loves new adventures. We walked about 2.5 miles with him, but we traversed an elevation of over 110 feet. So we had quite the climb to get down and back from the Potomac River. 

We met several people and dogs along the way. As the outdoors is the only place right now where any of feel at peace. 
We walked down an 110 foot elevation to get to this spot. It was very tranquil and I loved the clouds dotting the blue sky. 
Peter and Sunny! Sunny was all business, as he wanted to keep moving to continue the exploration. 

October 17, 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and we were on a preschool trip to a pumpkin patch. This is not a preschool I discuss often, because the school was poorly run and Mattie was asked to leave after only a month of enrollment. The director was unstable and Mattie lashed out at her and even bit another student. The director led me to believe that Mattie had a profound problem and her school couldn't handle him. I will never forget the day she called me and said she wanted my permission to put soap in Mattie's mouth. She felt that would stop him from biting. Needless to say, she did not get my permission. The problem wasn't Mattie, it was the director. Pictured with Mattie was Elizabeth, the only lovely individual who worked in the school. Note that the director fired Elizabeth shortly after this photo was taken. It was the preschool from hell. Any case, any field trips that the school took, I always went along to supervise. This is the only photo I have with Mattie and Elizabeth.

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins.

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,086,780
  • number of people who died from the virus: 218,980

This evening friends are getting together to say good-bye to our mutual friend, Mary, who is moving out of the area with her family. I met Mary when Mattie was in preschool. Not the first preschool I discussed above, but Resurrection Children's Center. A preschool Mattie loved and thrived in. So in reality we have known each other 14 years. It is never easy losing a friend geographically, and we certainly want her to know how much she will be missed. I am bringing several things to the outdoor party. Starting with Fall flowers. 

I haven't made this cream cheese torte in YEARS. Probably the last time was when I was in graduate school. However, back then, this recipe was always a hit. It is easy to make and it is a combination of cream cheese, pesto, and sun dried tomatoes.

Given that it will be cold this evening, the host of the party asked me to make chili. So I decided to make a turkey chili rather than with beef. In addition, I added some new things to our recipe. Such as corn cut off the cob, bay leaves, and red wine.
It is hard to know what pairs well with chili. So I settled on an autumn themed salad. Starting with delicata squash. Ever tried them? To me, it tastes like pumpkin. But you cook them with their skin on and the skin is edible! 
The recipe also called for pomegranate seeds. A tasty but very messy fruit. We had red juice all over the kitchen!
The final product! With maple balsamic dressing. 

October 16, 2020

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday, October 16, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old. It was a tradition for us to go to every fall festival in our area with Mattie. Frankly this is not something I ever did growing up and since Mattie died, we haven't been back! Mattie loved being outside and he enjoyed picking pumpkins and checking out the hay lofts, the corn mazes, and other fall themed activities. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,039,642
  • number of people who died from the virus: 218,448

I never expected to see this in my email inbox today! A message from Shutterfly. Certainly I use Shutterfly and have stored many photos of Mattie on their website over the years. However, I never remember receiving "memory" emails like the one I got today. Needless to say it was a surprise. The message highlighted our life 14 years ago. I am quite certain back then I did not even know children were diagnosed with cancer, much less could die from the disease. 

The message highlighted photos from one of our fall festival weekend trips in 2006! It was a fall tradition, and I think it is ironic that this series of photos would be sent to me today. As I have never received memory emails from Shutterfly before. I am sure there is a logical explanation for the message, but to me, it's a sign from Mattie. 

Meanwhile the highlight of our day was a walk on Roosevelt Island. There is always some wonder of nature to see on the Island. Here is the resident Great Blue Heron. 
Sunny always hears the deer before we see them!
A mother deer and her baby! A sighting Mattie would have absolutely loved. Of course, whenever I see animals with their young now, what pops  into my head is Mattie's reaction! He would always say.... they are just like us

October 15, 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old. As you can see, he was intrigued by Patches, our cat. He wanted to pet Patches and play with her on his terms. Mattie learned over time that his approach did not work with Patches. Like any cat, you have to approach them on their own terms. Back then, we tried to give Patches a place to escape, so she did not get touched by Mattie. We landed up placing her pouch high up on the plant stand. It worked out well, because Mattie wouldn't reach her, and yet Patches could still be in and amongst our activity. Which she liked. Also notice all the pumpkins. Mattie loved to bring pumpkins home from Fall Festivals, and no picture would be complete without Mattie's sippy cup of milk. Given how much milk Mattie consumed, I always thought he'd have the strongest bones around. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins.

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 7,966,634
  • number of people who died from the virus: 217,601

The last time I went to our Department of Motor Vehicles, Mattie was alive. In fact, I remember walking with Mattie to Georgetown, and waiting for hours to get my driver's license renewed. Back then the lines and waiting times were ridiculous. However, due to COVID, you can only renew your license by appointment! My license expired this year on my birthday, in July. I tried to renew my license in June, but was turned away from the DMV and was quoted the new policy to make an appointment. So naturally back in June, I went on the DMV website to make an appointment. The first appointment I could obtain was TODAY, four months later. I even checked available appointment times in every DMV in Washington, DC. Needless to say, I made the appointment for today! The photo you see here, was how the DMV used to look. Today it was a ghost town, with only six of us renewing are license at one time. 

This was my license from years ago! I preferred this license as it was in color and it looked less like an institutional photo! I showed up at the DMV on time and had all the necessary paperwork in hand to get my renewal and Real ID. The person working with me was quiet but lovely. In any case, as she was processing my paperwork, she saw a discrepancy in my name. So she asked for my marriage license! I literally said... you have to be kidding. Since I have been married for 25 years and this isn't a new change, I did not understand why my marriage license was needed. Nor had I brought it with me! So my representative went back to talk to her manager. What was the confusion? NOT my married name, but my first name. 

When I got my license in DC years ago, they couldn't fit Victoria A Sardi-Brown on one line. So instead, they cut off the A in Victoria. So my license listed my name as 
Victori  A Sardi-Brown. For years I have been Victori! I had gotten used to it, but today, the manager corrected my name in the system to reflect my LEGAL name. Hurray!!!
This was today's photo! Mind you it is on a folded piece of paper. As it is a print out of my temporary license until the real one comes in the mail 7-10 days from now. The photo was taken in a very darkly lit part of the DMV. Not my favorite photo, but I got the process over with. 

While I was there, I met two other people applying for licenses. One woman told us she was 48 years old and was not married. She proceeded to say that she always wanted to get married but hadn't found the right person. She said she wanted to marry for love, not just for the sake of getting married. I honestly felt for her but it wasn't the right place to tell her that it is never too late. To keep the faith that there is someone out there for her.......but she hasn't met that person yet. The other person getting his license was there to retake the written test as he was arrested for a DUI. As I am intrigued by people and their stories, waiting to get my license today was both interesting and productive.