MATTIE MIRACLE VIRTUAL WALK WAS AN $110,000 SUCCESS!

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: www.mattiemiracle.com 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

May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008, a month before Mattie developed cancer. We took Mattie to Roosevelt Island, where we loved to operate his remote controlled boat. Mattie loved boats and if you asked him what he was saving his money for, his answer would be.... for a boat. Not a toy boat, but a real one. For his 6th birthday that year, one of the gifts we gave him was the boat in this picture. This boat brought him much happiness! When he first got it, he drove it in the tub. But that was too small of a space, and I could see he needed a bigger body of water to be the captain of his ship. So I suggested Roosevelt Island, and he absolutely loved it! Roosevelt Island was and is a special place for us, because it was on this Island where Mattie had many discoveries and adventures.


Quote of the day: Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. ~ Groucho Marx



Last night was challenging for both of us since I was running an 102 fever all night. I was too out of it to be concerned by that, but Peter wasn't happy with what he was seeing. Mainly because based on all my symptoms, it looked like my body was shutting down. I most likely would have been more in a panic if I did not have a prescription for antibiotics. Needless to say, I did absolutely nothing today but rest. I followed no schedule or agenda, and this is what I need in order to recover.

It was a beautiful day by the beach. I did not walk to the beach, but I can see it from Ellen's house, and periodically I sat in the sun and got fresh air. For the hours I was up, I sat in front of the TV and watched the 1970's series Upstairs Downstairs. I purchased it for our trip because it is something I have always wanted to see, and since I am a Downton Abbey fan (the current number one PBS mini-series), I figured I would see many similarities in the plot.

I am signing off for today, but we want to wish our readers a happy Memorial Day weekend. May we always remember those who have served our Country to insure and secure our freedom, security, and way of life.  

May 25, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2008. The boxed structure next to Mattie was built by him in construction club. Construction club was taught after school by his kindergarten teacher and he absolutely loved it. Basically he got to design and build things out of everyday materials. There was NO limit to his creativity. I credit this club to inspiring Mattie and the skills he developed in this club became life saving tools during his battle with cancer.  Everyone in the hospital knew that shipping boxes had to be saved for Mattie, because they knew all the great things he would transform the boxes into. For example, one large box, became an apartment building, with an actual elevator. He built the elevator out of wheels and string he found in clinic. After building, he would then play with the structures, and this helped pass time when confined for days and weeks in a small hospital room.

Quote of the day: Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Peter and I arrived safely to our local beach destination. While driving today, I got an email from my friend Tina. Tina wanted to know if I was feeling any better. I emailed her back and told her that I wasn't doing better and probably needed antibiotics. Within seconds, she looked up a local CVS for me and gave me the number and address. Tina actually inspired me to be pro-active with getting a prescription before getting to the beach. So Tina got me the pharmacy connection, and next I needed a doctor. I could have called my primary care doctor, but most likely she would have given me a hard time and would have wanted to see me. Which of course wasn't possible, since I was traveling in a car. So I decided to text message, Bob. Bob is Ann's husband and Mattie's surgeon. I try not to bother Bob, unless I have a problem! Today, I deemed myself as physically failing, and I knew I needed antibiotics.

Naturally Bob helped me, we discussed antibiotic choices, and then he called in a prescription for me. Fortunately he did, because I have a raging fever now, am completely wiped out, and look and sound horrible. So I am signing off for tonight in hopes that I can get sleep and feel slightly better tomorrow.

May 24, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. A month before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. He was posing for a picture between his two close kindergarten buddies, Charlotte and Campbell. The event they attended  was their end of the year kindergarten party at a local park. By that point, these three were inseparable and got along beautifully as a twosome or a threesome. I think it was rather ironic, that as our children became friends, so did the moms. Ellen is Charlotte's mom and Christine is Campbell's mom, and these two moms remain in my life as friends and Mattie Miracle supporters.


Quote of the day: As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy


I said my good-byes to my parents today, and then ran around doing chores. Most likely this was not a smart decision, since I am feeling very sick.... feverish, congestion, or in other words, flu like symptoms. Peter and I are scheduled to go to the beach tomorrow and stay at our friend Ellen's home for a week. I need to get away from work to regain strength, energy, and health. At the moment, I am feeling absolutely miserable. I would like to share six more pictures with you tonight from the Foundation's Third Annual Walk.


In this picture from left to right is: Virginia (Vicki's mom), Maya (Mattie's good friend from the Lombardi Clinic), Adina (Maya's mom), and Vicki. Mattie wasn't looking to establish friendships within the hospital. Yet there were three kids/teens he allowed into his life. One was Brandon, the second was Jocelyn, and the third was Maya. Maya was the only kid close to Mattie's age that he related to. I will never forget how they became friends. It all happened around the art table in clinic. Maya was getting an IV treatment and while she was sitting with other kids doing art around the table, she expressed how she did not like needles. Out of NO where, Mattie responded to her comment and said he could relate. From that point on, they became close buddies and if they were in the clinic at the same time, rest assured they were playing together. They painted a rainbow on a clinic ceiling tile together. That rainbow still exists in the clinic today. They also acted out many space alien plays together, several of which I caught on video.


Pictured here are Bridget and Brandon. Bridget is a Hotchkins Lymphoma Survivor, and still battling with the active disease. Brandon is a Lymphoma survivor and Mattie's big buddy. Both Bridget and Brandon fought cancer at the same time Mattie did. I had the pleasure of getting to know both families while living in the hospital and I only wish it was under better circumstances that we were united together.


Pictured from left to right are Cathy (Bridget's mom), Bridget, George (Bridget's dad), Brandon, and Toni (Brandon's mom).

Pictured from left to right are Austin (Christine's son), Vicki, Jocelyn (an osteosarcoma survivor and a good buddy to Mattie), and Brian (Jocelyn's husband). Jocelyn helped Mattie during very difficult adjustment points in his treatment. She understood what it meant to have limb salvaging surgery and the struggle to regain strength and to become rehabilitated. Mattie related to Jocelyn's honesty and perspective, and he appreciated that he wasn't alone in his battle with the disease.

This is a picture of Tricia's family. Tricia was one of Mattie's favorite HEM/ONC nurses and she and her family support us in extraordinary ways. They follow us through the blog, Facebook, and have attended every single Walk. From left to right is Vicki, Nicole, Peter, Tricia, Kyle, and Kellie.

This picture was actually one of the very last pictures I took at the Walk. This is a picture of Karen and me. As my faithful readers know, Karen and I have been friends since I was 11 years old. Karen worked the entire day and night right along side us and we needed all the extra physical and emotional support we could get.

May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. A month before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. I went with Mattie and Peter in a kayak on the Potomac River that weekend. Naturally despite being on the water, I brought my camera with me, and snapped a picture of Mattie in action. At first I thought maybe Peter took this photo, but upon closer inspection of this photo, I can see my finger on Mattie's back, and realize that it was definitely me capturing that wonderful smile.  


Quote of the day: A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes. ~ Mahatma Gandhi


Today was the last full day I had with my parents before they return to Los Angeles on Thursday. One of the things we did today was visit Becca Jacks, the executive chef at Clyde's of Tyson's Corner. Becca donated and cooked all the food served at the Foundation Walk. She is a very thoughtful, generous, and giving individual. I admire her passion to want to help us, and I especially love her "can do" attitude. It was wonderful to see Becca today, and chat with her for a while over lunch. I love getting to know her, and I can safely conclude she is beautiful both inside and out!



Despite an amazing down pour this evening, my mom and I drove to Alexandria to attend a ballet recital. My friend Mary, invited us to see her daughters, Abby and Emily, perform. My mom and I love the ballet, and to some extent tonight's performance brought us back in time. Because when I was Abby and Emily's age, I too was in recitals and my mom was right along side me. Abby and Emily did a beautiful job this evening. They are lovely dancers and have a spirit, smile, and energy about them that captures your attention when they are on the stage. Emily was in the black and white costume and Abby was in the red costume. The recital paid tribute to dolls from different cultures.... Hungarian, Chinese, Viennese, etc... Emily's dance class performed as "Italian dolls" and they danced the tarantella using colorful tambourines and Abby's dance class performed as "Spanish dolls," which featured dancing with beautiful fans. It was very nice to be included in such a family event.


I would like to share five pictures from the Foundation Walk with you tonight! This was one of the pictures of our Raffle tent. We featured 13 amazing raffle baskets and sold over 1500 raffle tickets! Peter and I are deeply grateful to our raffle chair and friend Carolyn. Carolyn and I are a great team, and the funny part is she emailed me today to say she was going through raffle withdrawal. I totally relate to her feelings, since we have been working diligently on this for months! It isn't only the working toward a goal that I miss, but it is the wonderful opportunity to be connected with a friend on a daily basis.

I was able to capture this picture of Peter with a couple of our volunteers. The Foundation is lucky to have incredibly dedicated individuals who freely give up their entire Sunday to help us and our cause. Not only do they give up their Sunday, but they also work hard at planning and coordinating kid friendly activities weeks before the Walk. From left to right are: Peter, Michael (Ann's son), Ann, Debbie, and Sue. Debbie and Sue are two of our Children's Program Coordinators at the Walk. Debbie has served in this role for three straight years. Our working styles are similar and she is yet another person I will miss connecting with now that the Walk is complete.

I am pictured with Susan and Margaret in this photo. These two ladies run our Foundation area at the Walk. They answer questions and help process donations on site. Susan is a former student of mine and now a colleague and friend and Margaret is Mattie's preschool teacher and our friend. This year with a Foundation on-site donation, a contributor could receive a wristband, Mattie Miracle pens, water bottles, or Mr. Sun cards (featuring Mattie's painting).

This is Ellie! Ellie is nine years old and one of our featured kid/teen vendors at the Walk. Ellie worked for weeks on designing 100 beautiful head bands to sell at the Walk. In fact, the orange butterfly headband I wore at the Walk, was an Ellie original. Ellie did a fantastic job displaying and selling her merchandise at her table entitled, "Bands for Hope." Bands for Hope was a success and I do believe our guest speaker from last year's Walk, Lauren Chelenza (a 14 year old Osteosarcoma survivor and creator of Bows for Hope) inspired Ellie. Ellie took that inspiration and her creativity, and the rest is history.

Featured at this teen vendor table is Isabel and her friend, Ella. Isabel worked for weeks on hand designing bottle cap magnets. The magnets featured Mattie Miracle logos on it and other Mattie related items such as cupcakes, bugs, the Red Sox, Elmo, etc... The magnets were very popular and it is actually Isabel who I have to thank for giving me the notion of having an all kid/teen vendor table area this year at the Walk. This vendor idea was VERY successful and ironically more profitable than if I brought in vendors from the community to sell their wears.

May 22, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 -- Mattie died 141 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. A month before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. To me Mattie looks like the picture of perfect health, and there was absolutely NO sign that he was ill or any of his bones were bothering him. In front of Mattie in this photo was a science experiment in the making. Mattie loved the whole scientific hands on process, and it wasn't unusual for us to have all sorts of projects occurring in our home simultaneously.





Quote of the day: The power of God is capable of finding hope where hope no longer exists, and a way where the way is impossible. ~ St. Gregory of Nyssa

As I continue to highlight the Foundation's third annual Walk, I would like to share the greeting I delivered to our attendees. I have received positive feedback from attendees about my honesty, sincerity, and ability to capture each person's attention in the audience. In fact, after the Walk, my family and Peter's family went out to dinner. At the restaurant, we actually sat near several Walk attendees (they had their Mattie Miracle shirts on!!). Before they left the restaurant, they made a point to come over to me, to give me a hug and even kiss me. They said our story moved them and they plan on attending our Walk next year and supporting our cause. Hearing that we touched the hearts and minds of complete strangers, allowed me to see that it was a very successful event.


Vicki's May 20th Greeting

When you think of the theme Love of Family, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the traditional family unit..... mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Certainly as the Eichner family has illustrated to us today, the biological family unit is a crucial component to surviving and thriving with childhood cancer. However, for many of us battling childhood cancer, we learn that family becomes more broadly defined. In fact, people who are not even related to you at all, suddenly become vital parts of your life and probably will always REMAIN vital parts of your life because of the life altering things you experienced together. For Peter and I, our family grew in 2008 when our only child Mattie was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Suddenly we had a team of doctors, nurses, a child life specialist, and social support staff who walked every month by month, day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute with us. These people saw us living under the worst of conditions and also helped us face life's greatest tragedy. Many of these special individuals are here at the walk with us today, and remain committed parts of our family. These are women from Georgetown University Hospital who came into our lives because of their profession, but remain in our lives because of our emotional bonds and connections. They are with us in our grief and continue to walk this journey with us. If this isn't the definition of family, I am not sure what is.

It was also during Mattie's battle that we witnessed our communities coming together to form what we called, Team Mattie. Team Mattie was comprised of faculty and families at Resurrection Children's Center (Mattie's preschool), faculty, staff, and families at the St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School, Peter's place of employment, Voxiva, and his former place of employment, Arthur Andersen, and my place of employment, The George Washington University. There was nothing too great for Team Mattie to accomplish. From meals planned and delivered to us every day for 15 months straight, to toy and video tape deliveries, and play dates for Mattie on demand. This group also planned in 2009, the Mattie March. Which was a family fun day, not unlike today, in which Mattie was the guest of honor. The Foundation is continuing the tradition of an annual walk that was established for us by our Team Mattie family. The point of me telling you all of this is that Mattie has been gone from our lives for two and a half years, and yet these families he created for us remain in our lives today.

Surviving childhood cancer takes much more than chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries. In a way the treatment is such a small component of the battle, and the true test of survival, if you ask any parent, is the day to day living, working through the fears, isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, loss, and sadness. Solutions to these real psychological and socio-emotional problems are not found in medicine, instead they can only be found through human connections or in other words.... within the LOVE OF FAMILY. It is through our experiences, that the mission of the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was born and continues to evolve. Mattie Miracle is dedicated to advocating, educating, and enhancing the psychological and emotional support and services offered to children and their families battling childhood cancer.

This leads me to our 2011-2012 Foundation accomplishments. Mattie Miracle has had an extremely busy and productive year. It is thanks to your contributions and support we have accomplished the following:
1. We have helped to fund and keep stocked a free Snack Cart for children and their families who are inpatient at Georgetown University Hospital.

2. Three successful drives, generating hundreds of items such as Kcups, bandaids, crayons, construction paper, kid video tapes/DVDs, and basically a year's supply of chocolate for Georgetown University Hospital.

3. We served as a community based learning project for two Georgetown University Business School classes this year. We exposed young minds to the facts and psychological consequences of childhood cancer, and had these students tour the pediatric in-patient units and meet many of the children. The classes had the opportunity to use their learned skills to help our non-profit continue to grow and develop.

4. Mattie Miracle worked with Girl Scout Troop 3989, and as a result the girls built and delivered 100 Build-a-Bear teddy bears, distributed valentine's cards, and hosted a successful Easter Egg Hunt for in-patient children and their siblings at Georgetown University Hospital.

5. Mattie Miracle was instrumental in generating and contributing to three forms of legislation: HR 262, HR 3015, S1613, all focused on the psychosocial needs and concerns associated with childhood cancer.

6. Mattie Miracle hosted the first ever Psychosocial Symposium on Capitol Hill. There were 85 participants, from 12 different states in attendance, and 4 congressional members greeted our participants and also received a Mattie Miracle award.

7. Established a Nurse's support group at Georgetown University Hospital. Nurses serve on the front line of managing patients' needs, concerns, and fears. Therefore, providing nurses with an outlet to express their feelings and challenges, and discuss positive coping strategies to effectively work with children and their families will only enhance the patient/family experience.

8. In 2011, we endowed the Mattie Miracle Child Life Program Fund at Georgetown University Hospital. This helps to pay the salary of Jess Abrams, a Child Life Specialist dedicated to working with children on scan and procedure days. Days which are very scary and stressful for children and families. With Jess' presence, support, and psycho-educational techniques, 20% of children are now able to undergo procedures without sedation. The funds generated from the Foundation's 2012 Walk, will pay Jess' salary for another year.  

As I come to a conclusion, I wanted to say that being on this track is special to me. Maybe it is special, because only three years ago Mattie was standing right here besides me as I was talking to all of you. In so many ways, this is hallowed ground.
I realize we all come here today for various reasons. However, it is my hope that as you walk around the track today, you check out the posters you will be passing.

Linda Kim, Mattie's child life specialist, and I asked 12 families at Georgetown Hospital to create a poster that displays what love of family looks like to them as they battle childhood cancer.

So today we are celebrating families and how the power and connections of these bonds can help us survive one of life's greatest challenges, childhood cancer.

May 21, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in May of 2008, two months before Mattie was diagnosed with childhood cancer. I can't think of the month of May without being reminded of tent moth caterpillars. Something Mattie loved collecting. In fact, in this picture, Mattie was holding one of the jars we used together to house caterpillars. In fact, the jar Mattie was holding was filled with caterpillars. We would clean out the jar daily and make sure the caterpillars always had fresh oak leaves to eat. I can't tell you the numerous moth release ceremonies we had on our deck. I would say at least two dozen moths! In fact, when I see a moth fly into our deck space now, I always wonder if this was a moth we had released. Despite the fact that adult moths do not live more than days, each moth I see still reminds me of my time with Mattie and his love for nature and how he enjoyed the process of helping these caterpillars along until they became moths.

Quote of the day: What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. ~ C.S. Lewis

Peter, Karen, and myself were up to close to 2am trying to manage Walk materials, finances, and get things sorted and reorganized from the day's event. In fact, it takes me about two weeks or so, to shut down all walk related tasks. Peter, Karen, and I have this post-walk clean up down to a science, since we have done it together for three years now. Needless to say, we are all still exhausted today. Besides the physical toll of the Walk, there is a huge emotional component to planning and hosting the Walk.

Over the next few days, I will share some of the photos I took at the Walk as well as photos sent to me by friends. We did have two professional photographers at the event, who offered their services to us PRO-BONO!!!, and when I receive their photos, I will be posting several of them on the blog as well.



At 2pm, we had a 30 minute ceremony on the day of the Walk. The ceremony was comprised of a greeting from Peter, and then we had a family who survived Leukemia, share with the audience their reflections on their battle and how it impacted every member of their family. After the Eichner's spoke, I then gave a greeting in which I invited attendees to think of family more broadly then just one's biological family. When battling cancer, we can learn that people who are not even related to us can rise to the occasion and become vital parts of our lives and care team. After the ceremony, we officially began the Walk. Our special guests held our banner as we began walking around the track. Many of the special guests with us in this picture are survivors of childhood cancer and having them participate with us in the day is a very powerful force for Peter and I, as well as for the attendees. 

 

There are many special people in this picture, and I am so happy our friend captured the moment. The man in the picture with the sunglasses is Nelson. Nelson is the Fox 5 cameraman who worked with Beth Parker to cover our news story last week. After we were interviewed, Nelson said he wanted to come to the Walk. Not only did he attend, but he brought his daughter with him and they walked together. We were very touched by his presence. In the background (with the green shorts) is Meredith. Meredith befriended Mattie after he was diagnosed with cancer, and she and her sister Louise, had many special play dates with Mattie and they appreciated his wit and creativity. So much so, that they created the infamous character Matticus Brownus! The two teenage girls in the right hand part of this photo are Ella and Isabel. Isabel (with the sunglasses) is the 14 year old girl who created wonderful magnetic bottle caps with logos and images that meant something to Mattie and the Foundation. Isabel was one of our teen vendors at the Walk and her friend Ella assisted her as she sold her merchandise. Ella selected to do a service learning project on Mattie Miracle and the Walk and I look forward to seeing pictures of her poster presentation.

 
I snapped a picture of my dad with Katie (a child life specialist at Georgetown University Hospital), and Brandon (Mattie's big buddy). Katie manned a Georgetown table at the Walk and at the table kids got to see xrays, play with stethoscopes, and create their own buttons.

I also captured a picture of my Mom and Donna. Donna is the kindergarten teacher at Mattie's school who has invited me to her classroom two years in a row to do a Picasso and Matisse lecture series. My mom and Donna hit it off and they had a good time at the kid and teen vendor tables! There was great creativity in that area, and I am truly impressed with what the kids designed and SOLD! They helped generate together over $500 in sales. Very impressive!!!


We captured a picture of Peter's family all together (though we are missing Peter's dad in this photo). From left to right are: Vicki, Chris (Peter's brother), Nat (our nephew), Sydney (our niece), Peter, Will (our nephew), Lisa (our sister-in-law), and Barbara (Peter's mom).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. Mattie was four years old and went to visit his babysitter's apartment. While there, Emily snapped a picture of Mattie having a great time. You can see the brightness, energy, and happiness in his eyes.


Quote of the day: A goal without a plan is just a wish. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery


The third annual Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Walk was a huge success. A success in which we met our financial goal. A goal that will help pay the salary of Georgetown University Hospital's newest Child Life Specialist, Jess Abrams.

Peter and I have been up since 5am today, worked a full day, and by this hour, I am too tired to string many sentences together. We have spent several hours digging out of the walk tonight. Peter was processing funds, my friend Karen was sorting through t-shirts and reorganizing them for storage, and I was busy trying to put away ALL walk materials. It took us hours, and I still have a way to go.

I am ending tonight's blog, with the hopes that over the next few days we will highlight the Walk. We are deeply grateful to our amazing team of volunteers, who worked intensely to set up the event this morning. It couldn't have happened without all of them, and most certainly we couldn't have met our goal without all of you.

I leave you with the speech that was shared today at the Walk by Marilyn Eichner. Marilyn is a mother of a cancer survivor. Marilyn, her daughter Danielle (a leukemia survivor), and Wade (Danielle's brother) were all speakers at the Walk, and highlighted our theme.... Love of Family.


Greetings from Marilyn Eichner--------------------------------

No one is ever prepared to hear that their child has a life-threatening illness.

Imagine for a moment taking your 11 1/2 year old to the pediatrician with a fever, something you thought an antibiotic would surely treat ~ yet ~ ending up in a hospital with that same, supposedly healthy child on life support within the first 72 hrs.

What, what is that you say? Danielle has Leukemia, a type of blood cancer? But she's healthy, she's only 11 1/2, she a swimmer, she's on summer vacation, soon she will be in 6th grade.The emotional trauma that came with that diagnoses would change our lives forever. My name is Marilyn Eichner. My husband, Tom and I lived through this nightmare with our daughter, Danielle, and her 4 siblings. I would like to share with you briefly our story and why it is vital that hospitals/ and treatment centers incorporate and offer psychosocial/psychological support and intervention to families with a childhood cancer diagnoses.

As you now know ~ Danielle presented with fever and received a diagnoses of leukemia. Within the first 3 days our daughter, the sister of Wanda, Christine, Wade, and Rachael, would go through heart surgery, chest tubes, Kidney failure, dialysis, seizures, respiratory failure, placement of a broviac tube to receive chemo therapy, and eventually cranial radiation. Fear of the unknown would be experience by all. We had no control, Danielle had no control, her siblings had no control. People we've never meant were making life and death decisions for our daughter. So, life as we knew it had changed forever.

How would we cope as a family ~ honestly ~ you don't have the time nor the energy to think about the emotional trauma your family will go through, let alone the lifelong affects this trauma will have on our emotional well being and growth. Literally, you and your family are at war. We all will live with trauma, fear, anger, chaos, guilt, sadness, and abandonment for years. It truly does not take a rocket scientist to know that any family embarking on this journey need every means of psychosocial support available. Intervention is needed at the beginning of diagnoses, throughout treatment, when treatment ends and sometimes longer, if needed. As parents our main focus is our sick child, our secondary concerns are the safety of our other children and finding family or friends to clothe, feed, and provide a safe place for them to stay. Without their permission, the siblings lives are changed. Their daily routines are changed, they have no control over where they will sleep, who will tuck them in, when can they go home, and when will things be normal again. When will we be a complete family again? Siblings have every right to ask ~ What about their needs, their loneliness, their fear ~ will I catch cancer? But to the sibling these emotional feelings and thoughts are so insignificant when you're sister is fighting for her life. Please understand emotional growth is a direct result of your environment and their environment is unpredictable and their emotional safety is at stake. Without consistent parental affection children develop feelings of abandonment, and vulnerability, which can follow them for years. Because siblings also experience years of living in chaos many live with Anger not realizing that anger is the emotion that is not vulnerable, so intimidation and anger are often used to keep control. Or you might have the compliant child who learns not to share her fears, her anger, her feelings of abandonment, in order to lessen the pain of the parents. These emotions are stuffed and unbeknownst to their host they will re-surface years later causing more chaos. I've briefly touched on the emotional upheaval the siblings experience and can find themselves living with even years after their sibling treatment has ended.

Could psychosocial/psychological intervention from the beginning have helped ~ I ask ~ what do you think? Lastly ~ The patient ~ the child diagnosed with cancer ~ who are they? (pointedly written by Erma Bombeck) They are children who are poked at, x-rayed, smothered with love, ridiculed, punctured, spoiled, abandoned by friends, pitied, counseled, experimented with, lied to, protected, resented, and stared at. They are children who have been robbed of their innocence and their childhood, neither of which they can ever recapture again. They are children who have been sentenced to a period of uncertainty and pain usually inflicted on the elderly who have lived rich, long lives. They are little people who destiny has tapped on the shoulder and announced, "We interrupt this life to bring you a message of horror." They are children in need of psychosocial/psychological intervention.
All Money raised today, and in the future will help provide the psychosocial/psychological services needed by the whole family because we now know, through our family experience, a diagnoses of childhood cancer affects the whole family.