Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 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

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

December 21, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2004. Before Mattie was born, Peter and I used to decorate our home for Christmas both inside and outside. I am not sure why we did this since we were rarely home for the holidays. We usually were traveling to see family which is sadly why Peter and I really do not have our own Christmas traditions. Nonetheless, I love antique Christmas ornaments. Not the ornaments you get in Target or most stores. I would literally go to antique shops and buy ornaments over the years. So really we have many vintage ornaments which are beautiful. When Mattie came into our lives, he enjoyed our ornaments as well (and though I loved my ornaments, that did not prevent me from having Mattie touch them and play with them, and YES several broke!). However, Mattie added a wonderful dimension to our tree with his many hand crafted ornaments which provided a sweet and childlike feeling to our tree. The last time we had a Christmas tree in our home was 2007. Tonight's photo was featured on the cover of our Christmas 2004 card!  

Quote of the day: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. ~ Albert Einstein


I started the day by decorating my parent's house for Christmas. There is no way I would do this in my own home, but it seems more manageable here. As I sit here tonight writing the blog, I can see Christmas lights on the tree and the boughs on the banister. It is very peaceful to look at and now I can relate to why Peter and Mattie always loved putting up lights together. As I was stringing lights today, I thought of both of them. 

This afternoon I went to visit two friends of my parents. Though they haven't seen me in years, they are both contributors to Mattie Miracle. Our Foundation has support from wonderful individuals all over the Country. My visit was to drop off a tray of cookies that I baked yesterday. Needless to say the cookies were a hit and it is nice to know that I shared them with a fellow sweet tooth! 

Peter and I text messaged back and forth today and despite being on opposite coasts we keep very connected. Also another by-product of losing Mattie. Any case Peter wanted me to see something posted on Facebook, but I was in the car and unable to view it. But the conversation became absolutely hysterical. Because Peter has had it with my Blackberry loyalty and made it clear that if I had an iphone I would easily be able to access the Foundation's Facebook page. I am not doing his humor justice. But basically Peter is giving me a countdown to the new year in which he will be tossing the Blackberry and bringing me into the 21st century. Needless to say these kind of changes do not go over well with me. I associate my Blackberry with the time period Mattie was battling cancer. In fact, I got my first Blackberry around the time of Mattie's diagnosis and in so many ways I couldn't have managed his care without it. It became my security blanket and to this day my Blackberry goes everywhere with me! I mean everywhere and it sits on my bed stand at night. So parting with this device seems symbolic for me, saying goodbye to another item or remembrance from when Mattie was alive. I am sure that sounds ridiculous, after all this is ONLY a phone. But I have found after such a traumatic loss, things have become my lifesaver and also enable me to feel closer to the Mattie in some way.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2003. The process we went through to capture this photo is beyond memorable. Mattie was an active one year old and there was NO way he was going to sit still and take a Christmas photo. So I had the brilliant idea of taking him to Home Depot and Lowes. Mattie seemed to like these stores, though he wasn't wild about sitting in a shopping cart. During the holiday season, these stores are filled with lights and all sorts of decorations which captured Mattie's attention. So literally Peter and I entered Home Depot first, took Mattie's coat off, and started walking around the aisles until we found a good back drop. However, our Home Depot photos came out awful. So we put Mattie back in the car and drove to Lowes. We did the same thing at Lowes, we got Mattie out of the car, into a shopping cart, removed his coat, and started strolling around the holiday aisles. Here was one of the photos we captured and was featured on the front cover of our Christmas 2003 card!

Quote of the day: Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. ~ Hippocrates

It if funny, Los Angeles is only three hours behind East Coast time and yet for some reason the initial days here are always an adjustment. I was up at 4am, which is unheard of for me. I attempted to go back to sleep but by 6am, I got out of bed and decided to bake cookies. My mom had asked me to put a couple of cookie trays together for friends and I figured there was no time like the present. 

I remember when Peter and I used to take Mattie to Los Angeles as a toddler. Mattie had an awful time adjusting to the time difference. Literally for days Mattie would wake us up at 4am and be totally on and ready for a FULL day of activities. When I look back at those days, I thought they were challenging but in all reality they were a cake walk in comparison to managing Mattie's cancer. It is interesting how life experiences but other issues into context.

Neither of my parents are feeling well at the moment and therefore from my perspective I came to visit at the right time. Though I have no holiday decorations in our home in Washington, DC, I do try to decorate things within my parent's house for Christmas. One could try to analyze why this happens....  why it is easier for me to do this here than at home? I am not sure I have any real answers to this predicament, other than escaping DC and my own environment can serve as a temporary diversion. 

In my parent's neighborhood there is NO mistaking that it is the Christmas season. Many of the houses display a HUGE star on their front lawn. I mean HUGE. Each has to be 5 or 6 feet tall and it signifies the fact that the community is high up in the hills, close to the stars. I suppose one could even say these man made stars light the way, as a symbolic gesture of the bright star that guided the Wise Men when Christ was born. I can see lights everywhere, unlike where we live in DC. In our DC complex, very few people decorate and therefore it is much harder to develop holiday community spirit. 

Certainly one shouldn't need community direction and energy to feel the spirit of Christmas. However, I do find that now that Mattie is gone, I need more incentives, prodding, and energy from those around me to inspire me to want to engage in the holidays. Perhaps on some level when people encourage me to participate in things for the holidays, it gives me the permission to allow Christmas in. I say permission because no matter how many years go by there is a level of guilt and sadness that is ever present when you know you have outlived your child. I am not sure one ever gets over that feeling and instead the feelings become much more pronounced when holidays approach. Perhaps they become more pronounced too because if we do not focus on Mattie's memory, what he meant to us, and what we lost, who else will? My responsibility now as Mattie's mom is to keep his memory alive and I take that role very seriously from blog writing to running his Foundation. Losing a child to cancer is a journey that I wouldn't wish upon any parent because it is a true testament of resilience and survival.

December 19, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken on December 5th of 2002. Mattie was eight months old. I can still recall snapping this photo. I wanted that year to capture the "perfect" photo of Mattie, since this was his first Christmas with us. Nature was on my side, since we had a dusting of snow that morning. The snow inspired me. So I dressed Mattie up in his Santa outfit, threw a Christmassy blanket over his entertainment saucer, and literally we brought Mattie outside on our deck and started taking photos. The series of photos we captured was beyond charming. But this was the actual photo used on the front cover of our Christmas card in 2002!


Quote of the day: Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Tonight I am writing to you from Los Angeles. It has been a whirlwind. Peter got back from his business trip to Louisiana at 11:30pm on Wednesday, and then Peter got up and out and drove me to the airport today. My flight boarded at 7:15am. Peter's trip back home was eventful because his Delta flight was grounded in Louisiana due to mechanical failure. I thought I would not see Peter before I left for LA, but he found a way to get home by switching airlines. 

How I got to the airport this morning is a feat in and of itself because I am tired. However, after I boarded the plane, the pilot let us know that our plane was having issues. NOT what to tell a person like myself who already doesn't like to fly. There was a water leak in the back of the plane. Fortunately it was resolved and our delay was only an hour. Yet the interior of the plane this morning was freezing! Normally I do not like when the passenger next to me crowds me in my seat and rubs arms with me. But interestingly enough today I welcomed the body heat from my seat mate.

Once I landed in LA, I found that both of my parents are sick with what looks like a flu and bronchitis. So I spent some time cooking chicken soup and other things that I know I appreciate when I am not feeling well. It was a grey, damp, and rainy day in Los Angeles, so being inside was the best alternative. In addition to soup, I also baked coconut macaroons. This was a first for me. I have heard so many people tell me how difficult they are to bake, but all I know is I was able to pull this off one, two, three. I credit the success to the recipe on the shredded coconut bag. I have seen other macaroon recipes that intuitively make no sense to me, so when I spotted this one in the grocery store today, I figured it was worth a try. I love eating cookies but when home alone, I am not as inspired to bake. Mattie was always our excuse to take on these sweet projects. Not because he liked sweets, he actually hated them, but he loved the cooking and concocting process. So in essence he brought life and energy to everything we did.
 

December 18, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken on December 5 of 2002. I recall this day as if it were yesterday. It was our first snowfall that year and it inspired me to take a Christmas photo of Mattie for our annual holiday card cover. Since it was Mattie's first Christmas with us, I wanted the photo to be special. Poor Mattie did not know what was happening. I dressed him in his Santa suit and dragged his entertainment saucer out on our deck. I draped a plaid blanket over the sauce and plunked Mattie inside of it. Literally Peter must have snapped 30 or more photos of Mattie with this backdrop. This was not the final shot we selected for the card. That one I will feature later in the week. But to me this one was also priceless. It captured Mattie's desire to move around!!! 

Quote of the day: Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself. ~ Unknown

I started my day off at the dentist office. I know going to the dentist can be an unpleasant experience for people. However the beauty of this particular office is they try to set a peaceful tone as soon as you get off the elevator. The office has candles, a huge picture window and a computer generated fish tank. I have had the same dental hygienist for years and Libby understands that I have certain sensory issues and if you clean my teeth the wrong way it will be less than pleasant for both of us. Over the years I have come to know my dentist too. My dentist has bone marrow cancer and as he explained to me today what that means is that he has to be on oral chemotherapy for the rest of his life. In addition to that, he also had hip surgery and because of the nature of his cancer, he is having trouble walking again. This is a person who loved to run and now he is walking around either with a walker or wheelchair. He told me about his frustrations and how he feels unable to do his share of things at home. Needless to say he knows about Mattie and as he said we have big crosses to bear! We commiserated together.

Later in the day I went through our mail. A couple of days ago I posted on the blog about my feelings regarding Christmas cards. Typically I do not talk about cards but that day I had read my friend Annie's blog and it was the push I needed to address the topic. As I mentioned a few days ago, Peter and I used to receive hundreds of Christmas cards while Mattie was alive. However, once Mattie died, I am sure people were torn as to what to do. Send a card or not send a card? Especially when these cards tend to have happy photos of children and families. I must admit those cards are still hard to receive. It is a constant struggle as a mom who lost her only child to cancer. I want to be happy for my friends and share in their lives, and yet their lives are way too much for me. So I shut down. It isn't just me who shuts down, other parents who lost children do the same thing. It is some sort of self protection. Yet at the end of the day, this self protection is also hurtful because it cuts us out of the real world. 

Any case as I wrote about a couple of days ago, I have a friend who sends me a Christmas card each year. This card doesn't feature photos but it is a card that is personalized to us and our situation. This card means a lot to me! I received that card today and it always makes me smile. It makes me smile because what my friend is acknowledging is that Christmas isn't the same for us and she also remembers Mattie. Yet in addition to this card, I received a second card just like it this year from another good friend. She explained in the card that she read the blog and was so happy I expressed what I needed at this time of year. This card was a great gift to me because my friend took the time to read the blog, absorbed what I was saying, and then execute on the sentiments. At times I feel like I am writing into a deep abyss and not sure if I am getting my thoughts and messages across. Today's card was a wake up call to me that I am.     

In addition to working on all sorts of Foundation things today, I also took a break and worked on my first crocheted scarf. My friend Helen, who was visiting from Boston recently, showed me how to create a scarf. I never held a crochet needle in my life, but she and my friend Ann changed all that. They got me yarn and a needle and I guess the rest is history!

I am signing off for now, and hopefully will be writing to you tomorrow from Los Angeles. 

December 17, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 -- Mattie died 222 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. This was Mattie's first Christmas with us. The highchair wasn't actually one of Mattie's favorite places to hang out. Nor did he particularly care about eating. I think part of the reason he did not care for either option was because it entailed sitting still and being confined in place. Nonetheless, we learned quickly the types of foods Mattie enjoyed and with these foods he would put up with the chair for small bits of time. A baby's first Christmas I think is more exciting for the parents than the child, since the concept of the holiday doesn't form for many years down the line. Yet I am happy we captured these moments with Mattie, so we can reflect upon them now and into the future.

Quote of the day: It deeply saddens me that we live in a world where grievers have to defend their right to grieve. The only thing it does is create more grief. ~ Angie Cartwrite

Peter is back on travel again and left for Louisiana today. He is safely on the ground and when he returns late Wednesday night, I will be leaving for Los Angeles on Thursday. That is way too much plane travel for me to absorb this week.

This afternoon, I met my friend for lunch at Mattie's favorite restaurant. Peter and I typically go to this restaurant on the weekends. But when I entered the restaurant today, I saw our buddy Mike. Mike manages the front desk of the restaurant during the weekdays and I haven't seen him in a while. When Mattie was healthy, my parents and I would take Mattie often to this restaurant after preschool. It was a place we all could agree on food wise and Mattie knew if he went to this restaurant Mike would give him a big greeting and also give him some sort of toy car or plane to play with. Since Mattie loved anything with wheels, that was the highlight of his visit. Mike saw Mattie grow up from a preschooler to an elementary school student, and then unfortunately while battling cancer. Mike would push Mattie's wheelchair for us, make a fuss over him, but yet treat him as if he was still Mattie. Not SICK Mattie. Mike holds a special place in our hearts even after all these years. But that is the beauty of emotional connections. At the end of the day that is what we remember..... how people make us feel!

Later on today, I received an email from my friend Maria. She wanted to share a story with me. She was visiting a store in Arlington, VA and happened to pull out the microfiber cloth we sent our Foundation donors for Christmas in order to wipe the lens of her glasses. When the store owner saw the cloth, he asked Maria how she knew Mattie. Maria was intrigued by the question and wondered how this individual knew of the Foundation. It turns out the store owner came to our Foundation Walk in May and was so impressed with the event that he and his friends are coming back this May. Needless to say, Maria's email was a major gift to me. She did not have to share this story with me but I am SO happy she did. I am thrilled our Foundation holiday gift is being used and also that it caused conversation about Mattie and his Foundation. Music to my ears!

December 16, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. We took Mattie to our sister-in-law's house during the Christmas holiday season. With us in tow was Mattie's jumper! That was another lifesaver. This thing attached to any door jam and enabled Mattie to sit and move around. Mattie loved jumping, swinging, and moving. It gave him instant mobility and freedom at eight months of age. 


Quote of the day: True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable. ~ David Tyson


The highlight of my day today was seeing a good friend of mine who is quite sick. This friend was instrumental to me through Mattie's preschool days and therefore we have known each other a long time and in so many different contexts. While chatting with my friend's daughter, I learned that Mattie's cinnamon dough ornaments that he made for her back in 2007 were up on her Christmas tree. I am not sure why that surprised me given the nature of our friendship, but I have to say hearing this made me very happy. Happy in the sense that a part of Mattie was at my friend's house and she remembered who gave her these ornaments. These ornaments seem like a tangible part of Mattie and therefore through these cinnamon creations Mattie lives on. 

When Mattie died in 2009, my friend gave me a Pandora bracelet with a charm on it. The charm was of the sun. That symbol of the sun has multiple meanings. Mattie's first love of the sun was the result of his preschool. Why? Because the school's logo is a beaming sunshine. From that, Mattie consistently drew and painted the sun into everything he created. But the quintessential sun for us was the incredible painting Mattie did with his kindergarten art teacher in 2008. Needless to say, after Mattie died, the sun was the natural symbol of choice for us to incorporate into the Foundation's logo. Yet when Mattie died I just wasn't sure how to remember Mattie. What could I wear or carry with me to keep him and his memories close to me. My dear friend solved that problem by giving me a bracelet.

For the past several years, I have been adding charms to the bracelet my friend gave me. Unlike other Pandora bracelets which may have flair, color, and style to them, mine is a bit different. It is different because I select charms that represent Mattie, our relationship together, and the memories we shared. Which is why the bracelet has bug charms, lighthouses, flowers, hearts, the initial M, butterflies, and angels. It is my MEMORY bracelet and it would have never dawned on me to do this without the encouragement of my friend. 

Before I left my friend's home today, she gave me a Christmas gift. Given how sick she is, I certainly did not expect her to to give me anything. They say that life's unexpected gifts are the most meaningful, and I would have to say there is a great deal of truth to this. My friend gave me two more charms today, one is of a glimmering angel and another is a heart with a symbol of happiness on it. The charms are beautiful in and of themselves but what captures me is the meaning behind them. My friend felt that I bring her happiness and I am an angel. These are two charms that I will never forget and will hold dear! They are symbols of our special friendship which was created for me by Mattie. 

December 15, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in December of 2002. This was Mattie's first Christmas and probably the only Christmas we really ever celebrated at home. Most Christmases we were traveling to see family. That certainly has its pluses and minuses. But at the end of the day, what this resulted in is very few Vicki and Peter traditions of our own. I am not sure what our holiday times would have evolved into as Mattie got older, but being with family was important to us and therefore we made great efforts to make that happen. 

Quote of the day: People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. ~ Dalai Lama


I spent a good part of today running around doing chores. It is impossible not to see Christmas all around me now. I hear it on the radio, I hear holiday music piped into stores, and of course decorations have practically been up since Halloween. Gone are the days in which Christmas preparations began after Thanksgiving. Now we seem to have bypassed Thanksgiving altogether, and have jumped directly into Christmas. 

In many of the stores I went to, the cashier wished me a happy holiday. I realize that is common courtesy and also good form since this reflects back on the store. Yet these two words can wreak havoc on many of us at this time of year. We may all long for the Norman Rockwell kind of holiday that we have seen depicted in prints, but that isn't always the reality of the situation. That notion alone can bring about sadness, and instead of cheer, this time of year can cause great reflection. Reflection on what is missing in our lives.

All I know is when I came back home after shopping, in which I saw families out and about with their children, I came home in a terrible mood. I practically snapped Peter's head off when I walked in the door. We had talked about going out together for dinner, but I wasn't in the mood to venture back out again today.