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

March 21, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. For Mattie, physical therapy sessions were never boring! Anna (on the right), Mattie's physical therapist, learned quickly that to have Mattie as a patient meant one had to think outside the box. You had to engage Mattie mentally but in a creative way, otherwise, he would not buy into the therapy process. Especially when the process was painful and required him to expend energy he did not have. Anna rose to the challenge and was an outstanding therapist and match for our family. On the left, was Meg. Meg was a child life intern at the hospital. When I first met Meg, she was different from the other child life interns I had come to know. Mainly because she has a more bold and take charge kind of attitude, and she has the spirit and determination that enabled her to figure out a way to relate to Mattie (by March, Mattie was distrusting of most hospital staff and really did not allow many people into his life). Meg became Mattie's physical therapy racing partner. Meg would compete against Mattie and egg him on, in order to motivate him to get up and do his exercises and participate in therapy. She was very effective and I was grateful because I needed whatever help I could get to encourage and inspire Mattie. 


Quote of the day: If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. ~ Anne Bradstreet


Peter and I went to visit Mattie's tree on his school campus today. We wanted to decorate it for his upcoming 13th birthday on April 4. If you look closely you will notice that the bulbs we planted in the Fall are now blooming at the base of the tree! 

I removed the winter themed ribbon I tied around the tree and replaced it with a springy yellow butterfly today in remembrance of Mattie. In addition, we also placed three decorative birds on the tree and an orange wind chime!









If you look closely at the tree, you maybe able to see the orange, green, and purple birds that we added to the tree today. The orange chimes, look like bells hanging beneath the orange bird!







A close up of the crocuses blooming underneath Mattie's tree. 












Mean while at home, in our memory garden for Mattie, our crocuses have sprouted up and are blooming too! So this is a sign that spring has sprung. I have no idea how given that we had snow flurries yesterday, but it has happened! 

In the midst of these natural wonders, I received three text messages out of the blue today from friends. All connected to us through Mattie. Needless to say, I went from having a non-social Sunday scheduled to one in which I am now going out to brunch and dinner. 



March 20, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. A month before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. At that moment in time we had absolutely no idea that anything was wrong with Mattie. Our world looked completely different back then. We had no idea about childhood cancer or how profoundly one's world could be changed in an instant. As you can see Mattie was trying to bond with Patches and feed her. Of course Patches wasn't a cuddly type of cat, nonetheless, she tolerated the attention and understood that Mattie was an important part of the household. She was one smart cat!



Quote of the day: No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove her fur from your couch. ~ Leo Dworken


Two years ago today, Peter and I had to put Patches, our calico cat, to sleep. Patches developed bone cancer and was really struggling toward the end. Before her situation became even more painful, we had to do the humane thing. Poor Patches was unable to truly eat or drink fluids and was becoming disoriented and we suspect was dealing with pain. We certainly weren't going to prolong her life, when she had no quality of living. 

Patches came into our lives in February of 1997. She was basically one year old when she was abandoned on the streets of DC, with a BB gun bullet in her leg and in terrible shape. Patches was in our commons area screaming her head off for attention and a home, but no one was paying any attention to her. Well except for me. After dinner one evening, I brought the dishes into the kitchen and as I was looking out the window I was startled because staring back at me through the window were two big cat eyes. Patches had jumped up on our window sill to look inside. At that point, I sent Peter outside with our dinner scraps for her to eat. The irony is that from that moment on, Patches bonded with Peter. She always had a great affection for him. She was truly HIS cat. Yet if I was sick, "Nurse Patches," as I called her, took over. At that point, I apparently became a very important person to her and she stayed close by my side until I got better. I discovered this one year when I was in graduate school. Peter was at work, and I was feeling very ill. I had a very high fever, over 102 degrees. Patches did not leave my side until Peter came home and that wasn't an isolated incident. It was each time I was sick. Yet despite being close to Peter, she did not do this with him when he got sick.  

When Mattie developed cancer in July of 2008, Nurse Patches was there to help us when ever we were home. Which wasn't often. We tried to keep Patches home with us for as long as possible, but as Mattie got sicker, we eventually had to board Patches at the vet full time for many, many months. This was hard on our whole family. We all missed her, and I am sure she missed us. But we were not around to care for her and address her medical needs, of which she had many. Yet in the beginning right after Mattie's surgeries, Patches was up on Mattie's hospital bed along side him. Providing company and attention! A true spirit and nurse! Not to be forgotten. 

After Mattie died, Patches grieved right along side us. If you think animals don't grieve, you are WRONG! Patches was depressed and it was easy to see. She spent a lot of time in Mattie's room. On his bed and on his things. This is NOT something she would have normally done. Patches was important for Peter and me. She gave us something to care for, nurture, and love and did make our home seem less lonely. Because the isolation, pain, and depression of losing a child to cancer wrecks havoc on a home. 

As tonight's quote points out.... NO AMOUNT OF TIME can erase the memory of a good cat. That is certainly true with regard to Nurse Patches and I would concur that I still find Patches' fur in all sorts of places in our home even today. On Mattie's memory shelf in our living room, also sits Patches ashes. Two classics featured on one shelf. It is my hope that where ever they are, they have found each other and have reunited. 

March 19, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. We were taking Mattie for a walk around the DC National Mall. Of course on any walk, Mattie always seemed to find a stick along the way to carry with him. In fact for the longest time, we had quite the stick collection in our commons area. Sticks that were brought back from every walk over the years and that were added to our garden collection. We had so many, it looked like we had a sculpture garden made out of wood in the making. 


Quote of the day: Being passionate about something is the most beautiful characteristic you can develop. ~ Charlotte Eriksson

I would say that Peter and I are quite passionate about the importance of psychosocial care for children with cancer and their families, yet it can be discouraging at times because despite how much sense this makes to us and how much evidence is being accumulated about the importance of this care, it is not always the MOST popular position to take within the cancer community. Advocacy groups are comprised of individuals with their own focus, lens, and mind set of what constitutes a priority. Yet it some times catches me off guard when I find that those who have experienced childhood cancer first hand, just like us, do not consider psychosocial care a priority and do not view it as a crucial part of the treatment process. It can be very challenging at times to work each day and to be advocating for a position that is not understood and valued by the majority. Some days I put it into context and it motivates me further and some days it just makes me upset and causes me to wonder if I am doing all of this for naught. After all it is hard to change a system and mind set that just doesn't want to be changed. But then I think of the reason we are doing this.... Mattie! What he suffered can never be forgotten and this forces me to press on. Mattie's issues were FAR more than medical and even if we can't change a system over night, the system is still going to hear from us. 

This evening while working on my computer, I happened to be looking out the window and saw our resident Jack Russell Terrier, JJ. Mattie grew up with JJ, and they were very close with each other. In fact, I would say that when Mattie died, JJ got very depressed and wouldn't eat. He even slept with Mattie's sandals for the longest time. Any case, JJ came onto my deck to visit with me and he perked up the day!

March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. Mattie was in the process of getting a bone scan. In order to prepare for such a scan, he could not eat or drink anything for 12 hours. Needless to say when you can't eat something, that is typically when you WANT to! As the scan was finishing Mattie eagerly started eating a vanilla frosted Dunkin Donut, his favorite at the time! The joke back then was "one donut a day and everything will be okay!" As you can see Mattie was literally eating while still on the scanning table! However, I will never forget this day because the radiologist who was reading his bone scan was having issues with what he was seeing. To him Mattie's cancer looked like it was progressing, but in reality what he was seeing was Mattie's prosthetics. Nonetheless, until I got face to face with this doctor and asked him what the problem was, Mattie was literally being held up in this scanning machine for more testing unnecessarily. Mattie was starving and really couldn't sit still for one more minute! Linda, Mattie's child life specialist, knew I was getting anxious and found a way for me to speak with the radiologist. Thankfully! We put an end to the ordeal and Mattie got his donut!


Quote of the day: I've pursued dreams and achieved them, but I don't think anybody should think their life is incomplete if they don't follow some dream. Happiness doesn't come from achievements, or money, or any sort of treasure. Happiness is a frame of mind, not a destination. It's appreciating what you've got and building relationships with those around you. Janette Rallison



The weather in Washington, DC went from spring like warm yesterday to cooler today. The irony is they are predicting snow for later in the week. When temperatures change suddenly, some how that triggers one of my least favorite residents to surface.... our falcon! He is one large and ominous  looking creature. I snapped this photo from the window in Mattie's bedroom!



As the day passed along, this falcon came back and forth to visit. At one point, he perched himself on top of my garden hooks where we hang the bird feeders. He was hoping to pluck a sparrow for a snack. The beauty though is by moving the feeders closer to the shrubs this year, these birds of prey have a much harder time capturing the sparrows. The sparrows hide within the shrubs and I have no idea, but for some reason it makes it harder for them to be captured. When the feeders were out and exposed on our deck, hawks would swoop down often and kill the sparrows. But this isn't happening in the new location! 






While this was happening in my world, my good friend Mary Ann sent me photos from near her home today. She sent me several, but I was partial to the snowman
bird feeder! I can only imagine how my sparrows would react to this type of feeder.






When Mary Ann showed me this photo, it made me chuckle. Some child got out the side walk chalk and wrote, "spring is here." If it were ONLY true! I won't believe it until I officially see some consistent temperatures! 




March 17, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 -- Mattie died 288 weeks ago today. 


Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009, around St. Patrick's Day. Mattie received many wonderful holiday items from his care community and as you can see he decided to put all of them on and wear them to his hospital appointment. To me this is the quintessential St. Patrick's Day photo, which is why I typically post it on March 17th.  






Quote of the day: I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again. Elie Wiesel


I was invited to Mattie's school today to give a Mattie Miracle presentation to the fifth grade Daisy Girl Scout troop. The troop has selected the Foundation as their project in order to achieve their bronze award. This award is the highest leadership honor that a girl scout junior can achieve. Earning the Girl Scout Bronze Award involves a suggested minimum of 20 hours building a team, exploring the community, choosing a project, planning it, putting a plan in motion, and spreading the word about the project. 

There are many non-profits out there that this troop could have selected, so how did they come to choose Mattie Miracle? Well a major reason Mattie Miracle was selected is due to a young girl in the troop named Livi. Livi is Campbell's sister, and Campbell was one of Mattie's closest friends in kindergarten. Livi advocated our cause and the Foundation with her troop, and she clearly did a great job! We are very grateful for her courage and for giving childhood cancer a voice! Her decision was supported by the troop leader, Sue. One of Sue's daughters is in seventh grade, the same grade Mattie would have been in if he were alive today. Though Sue's daughter and Mattie were not in the same kindergarten classroom, they did know each other. Since Mattie's death, Sue has always supported the Foundation EVERY single year. Her girl scouts raise money through cookie sales and then donate this money to the Foundation in order for us to buy a Lego Raffle basket which is featured each year at our Walk. The girl scouts (different troops, but all led by Sue) have done this for the past four years! In addition, Sue also encourages the girls to visit Mattie's memorial tree on campus and to also make decorations for it especially during the Christmas season. One year they made decorative pine cone ornaments for the tree which were just glorious and special to see. Though Sue did not know Mattie, she is instrumental at helping us keep his memory alive in young minds and hearts. 

I had the opportunity to talk with 18 fifth grade girls today. I have never presented to a group this YOUNG before. Clearly I did not want to scare them, but instead I wanted to partially educate them and motivate them to want to participate in our upcoming Walk. Before I shared my PowerPoint slides with the girls, I started my talk by acknowledging that I knew that childhood cancer is a scary and sad topic. But I wanted to encourage them to look at this more broadly. I let them know that in life each of us is tested, challenged, and is faced with something personally very difficult. A crisis if you will. My crisis was childhood cancer. Each person's will be different. Unlike some people who believe things happen for a reason, or that we are only given things that we can handle, I told them outright that I do not subscribe to this philosophy. Instead, I said that sometimes things just happen. They aren't fair and they don't make sense. In a way they are out of our control. Yet it is under these most difficult times that we can also learn many things about ourselves and we find inner resources we did not know we have. I wanted them to know that they had such resources within themselves. I told them that through my story and photos today, they would hopefully see two things. These two things have enabled me to manage through very difficult times and it is my hope that they take these insights to heart and that it helps them in some way in the future. 

The two things that helped me through such a crisis is 1) community and friendship and 2) being able to help others. I explained to the girls that in times of great sadness and distress, that looking beyond one's self and reaching out and helping others can be very life affirming. 


I shared some basic cancer facts with the girls today. But the majority of my presentation involved a great deal of visuals. I figured this would be a more meaningful and less threatening way to cover material. But it was also a great way to capture our Foundation's activities. I started out with a slide depicting Mattie as a fellow "Saint." "Saint" being the school's mascot. I wanted the girls to know that Mattie experienced many of the things they did at the School and basically he was just like one of them. 


Then I created another slide that illustrated how childhood cancer impacts a whole community, not just one person or one family for that matter. All of Mattie's communities were touched by his cancer..... his preschool, his elementary school, his family and friends, Peter's work, and my work setting. What I wanted the girls to know was that cancer united ALL these communities together for a cause. Communities that normally wouldn't have associated with each other. Many of the people who met each other back in 2008, and were united by Mattie, still are friends with each other today. Even though they now have to cross communities to see each other!


I did not posted all of my presentation slides in the blog, I am only giving you a sample of them. I wanted the girls to understand some of the activities the Foundation is involved in and particularly what donor contributions directly support. Therefore, I highlighted the child life specialist position at Georgetown University Hospital that we have funded for four years, the free snack cart we offer in-patient families at the hospital, the item drives we run twice a year, the monthly nurse support group luncheons we have funded over the last three years, and our awareness work with school groups. This of course only focuses on our local work. 


Then I discussed with the girls how we raise the money in order to be able to accomplish all the things that we do to support children with cancer and their families. That led to a conversation about our annual Walk and all the activities associated with this event. We then discussed ways for the troop to get involved at the Walk and overall with the Foundation. 




I ended the presentation with taking a photo of the troop with our Foundation banner. This troop photo will be featured in our upcoming March newsletter. I also baked cupcakes for the girls. Cupcakes were Mattie's favorites! They were something he absolutely loved and when he was in the hospital, I used them as incentives to get him to participate in physical therapy. Though I did not share that story with the girls today, Mattie was well represented at this meeting through the cupcakes. 

The presentation was held in the school's library. I haven't been in that library since Mattie was alive. I used to volunteer in the library every other week when Mattie was in kindergarten. The librarians used to love me. Mainly because I was super retentive about cataloging and I could do it FAST. As I was in that space again today, it was as if I was transported back to 2007, when I had no idea what childhood cancer was much less what osteosarcoma was..... and I can assure you the world looked so much better through those glasses. 

March 16, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. Mattie was outside the child life playroom at the Hospital and getting ready to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony. When Mattie first arrived at the Hospital in July of 2008, there was NO child life playroom. Over the course of his treatment this wonderful space was built. This space became vital to our existence. Therefore when this special ceremony occurred, Linda (Mattie's child life specialist) invited Mattie to be one of the special ribbon cutters. Of course Mattie jumped at the chance. Linda knew Mattie LOVED a good task! 

Quote of the day: When I dare to be powerful----to use my strength in the service of my mission, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid. ~ Audre Lorde

There was a campaign going around Facebook today in the childhood cancer community called the "NCI Selfie Campaign." Childhood cancer organizations were asked to take part in this campaign to spread the message about the inadequate amount of research funding allocated by the National Cancer Institute (one of the Institutes of the NIH) to childhood cancer. Organizations were asked to take a "selfie" (which is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media) and hold up a flyer that contained a pre-printed message and send it out on Facebook and Twitter. So this morning, both Peter and I staged our own selfies. I did mine in Mattie's bedroom and Peter did his at work. 

I wanted the selfie to be meaningful. But I wasn't sure what I wanted in the backdrop of the photo! Then it dawned on me! What would symbolically convey Mattie's life? Mattie's clothing!!! So I pulled out his beautiful memorial quilt and I hung it on my closet door and then I began to tape photos of Mattie to the quilt. You can see the final product below! Yet for me it was a balancing act to hold my phone in one hand and try to pose for this photo and not move. But I somehow managed! My goal was to be looking at Mattie in the photo! Hopefully that was conveyed! 

When I posted the photos of Peter and me, I also included the following message below on Facebook! Though the nature of the campaign is to raise awareness for funding of medical research, Peter and I think it is always VITAL to spread the message of psychosocial support. Funding needs to be raised for this as well and this type of support much be provided to children and their families in order for an effective health outcome to be achieved. 

What was posted on Facebook.......

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation unites with the cancer community today in support of the position that more must be allocated for childhood cancer research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The current 4% won't do! NCI would argue that "the 4% statistic does not reflect its entire contribution to understanding and treating childhood cancer and that the NCI invests nearly half of its $5 Billion budget for cancer research that is not specific to any type, but includes many that affect children."

However, the facts speak for themselves..... 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer a year, 2000 children die from the disease a year, and there are 300,000 childhood cancer survivors in this Country who are dealing

with late effects (e.g., infertility, heart disease, diabetes, hearing loss, psychosocial issues, and secondary cancers) from the toxic treatments they received. We have to do better for our children and their families.

Pictured with our 4% sign is Mattie's memory quilt. His quilt and memories are all we have left of our son. For us and so many other parent advocates, childhood cancer is very real and deserves more than 4% of National attention and funding. For us childhood cancer is much more than just about the medicine.

March 15, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in March of 2009. As you can see I am holding up a large pretzel. That may not look odd to you but of course there was a story behind the pretzel. That day our friend Ann was coming to visit us. Ann would always ask Mattie what he wanted before she came. That day Mattie said he wanted a large soft pretzel. Kind of like the type of pretzel one would find at a vendor on the streets of NYC, but not as easy to find in Washington, DC. I am not sure how Ann tracked down the pretzel, but as you can see this brought a smile to Mattie's face. Getting Mattie to eat anything was a feat, so when he requested something, those of us who were closest to the situation really jumped through hoops to try to accommodate such a request. 


Quote of the day: The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land. ~ Abraham Lincoln


Peter and I spent the day brainstorming the Foundation's Walk that is coming up on Sunday, May 17th. When we recently met with the Walk planning committee we discussed some changes to the event. So we really have been trying to think these ideas through before I meet with a smaller walk planning group tomorrow to flesh out the details. We have really needed this weekend to recuperate and honestly I have felt a pervasive tiredness that has been lingering for months. I worked through last summer on writing two book chapters and then hit this year hard with Foundation activities. Not having any down time has been very problematic and I can only hope that this summer is different.  

This afternoon, we went out to buy more bird seed..... something that we do each weekend! While walking through Home Depot, I was excited to see that their garden center is coming to life!!!! They were featuring solar garden lights and one that looked like a big orange sun! So we bought it and stuck it in our commons area tonight. It needs to charge tomorrow in the sunlight, but from Mattie's bedroom, I can already see it glowing in the darkness tonight. It seems rather symbolic that this orange globe is sitting in Mattie's memorial garden.