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

July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. This was my last birthday with Mattie. Linda, Mattie's child life specialist, wanted to make sure that Mattie was able to celebrate my birthday. So she got him a cake to give me. Mattie enjoyed celebrating birthdays, and for Peter's birthday he always helped me bake a cake. The funny part about this was Mattie wasn't into eating cakes nor did he love sugary products. But he did like the notion of fun and celebrating. 






Quote of the day: For some moments in life there are no words.  ~ David Seltzer



Cards mean a lot to me and I enjoy receiving them. This colorful array are the cards I have received for my birthday. It is very special to me when I receive a card filled with sentiments that someone took the time to share, to reflect upon, and send. To me the gift of words matter. I know people are busy today and prefer to text or email, so therefore when friends and family members take the time to think and write something thoughtful, meaningful, and heartfelt, that captures my attention and it makes me feel special! 

This morning, out of no where, Peter started singing, "Baby Mine" from Dumbo. Of course he was doing it subconsciously and he did not even know what he was singing. He stopped and had to ask me, what melody he was humming. When I told him, he wondered where on earth this came from. After all this isn't something he typically sings. I knew right away what he was singing because this was a song I used to sing to Mattie when he was a baby. Then as he got older, and we watched the Disney movie Dumbo together, we would watch the particular scene which is linked below in which Dumbo's mom was deemed dangerous and gets quarantined and separated from Dumbo. Timothy the mouse reunites them briefly and during this reunion, this song plays in the background. It is a very touching moment between mother and son. 

As Peter was humming this song today out of the blue, my conclusion was this was Mattie somehow delivering a message to me through Peter. 

Baby Mine from Dumbo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=calHOKucYMw


Before we headed to dinner tonight, Peter snapped a photo of me. 




















We went to a restaurant called 2941 to celebrate my birthday. It is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the metropolitan area. The restaurant is nestled in the heart of Falls Church, VA surrounded by lush landscaping, koi ponds, waterfalls, world-class artwork, and a lakeside view. The funny part is it maybe the "most celebrated" but I never heard of it until my friend Dawnee told me about it!

The setting for the restaurant is simply lovely! It is like visiting a secluded home in the woods, with a lake, a koi pond, and the delight of no congestion. But a lot of greenery. 








The inside of the restaurant
is bright, airy, and filled with natural light. You can see the trees and the lake. To me it is an ideal setting to dine by. 








This is what the lake looks like with a fountain in the middle!













I typically do not order a five course tasting menu, but tonight this is what we did! I thoroughly enjoyed every course. I not only had the dessert that came with the tasting menu, but they then brought me out this cute like birthday mousse cake! 

July 24, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. I recently found this photo on the blog and downloaded it back into my electronic files. I am so happy I have the blog, because for some reason there are several photos I have just lost track of during Mattie illness and I can't seem to find them anywhere. Except on the blog. Every photo to me is special, which is why the blog is so important. It is like a documentary of Mattie's battle and then our subsequent journey trying to cope with life without Mattie. 

This photo features Mattie and Whitney on our couch. Whitney was a child life intern at the Hospital and one of Mattie's favorites. Whitney and her buddy Lesley, were one of the first two child life interns Mattie worked with at Georgetown, and this twosome became an instant hit with Mattie. Once Whitney's internship ended, she occasionally came over to visit Mattie and play with him so I could catch up on the world falling all around me at home.


Quote of the day: Unable are the loved to die.  For love is immortality.  ~ Emily Dickinson


Today I had the opportunity to leave work behind, as well as my computer and was treated to lunch with a friend. My friend Dawnee took me to a Washington classic in Great Falls, VA called L'Auberge Chez François. I have always wanted to try this restaurant, but it is a bit of a journey. So one needs a special occasion and time to get there. 

It was the perfect weather day for this restaurant. The sun was out, but it wasn't hot and humid. Just delightful to sit outside. This is the outside of the restaurant, and as you can see it has an old world charm! Since it is in Great Falls, driving to it, is very peaceful and scenic!

François Haeringer, the founder of L’Auberge Chez François in Great Falls, Virginia, was a pioneer when he opened the original Chez François in the heart of Washington DC in 1954. Haeringer’s goal was to operate a restaurant with “a nice ambiance and good honest food at affordable prices.” The restaurant’s enduring popularity is a testimony to his success with this approach.

In 1975, the Claridge Hotel, which housed Chez François, was sold to make room for an office building. Instead of retiring at age 57, Haeringer decided to fulfill his dream of opening an “auberge” – a family inn prevalent in his native Alsatian countryside. After finding the perfect six acres of rolling green hills in Great Falls, L’Auberge Chez François opened in 1976, and became a family business. Eldest son Jacques, by then a chef in his own right, became Chef de Cuisine. The dining rooms are filled with Haeringer family heirlooms and murals depicting scenes of Haeringer’s place of birth, Obernai, France.


The restaurant has this stunning outdoor patio! Featuring beautiful red themed furniture and plantings. It resonated with me since my favorite color and Mattie's is red! The red against the beautiful green garden was just stunning! 
As we were eating butterflies were fluttering by as well as birds.



Surrounding the tables above are gardens all around. Even a fountain is part of the gardens. It has to be on of the most charming patio dining areas in the Washington, DC area I have come across. To me it is worth the trip to Great Falls, and I am so happy I know about this gem and was able to spend the day here.  


July 23, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015 -- the seventh anniversary of Mattie's cancer diagnosis

Tonight's picture was taken around July 23, 2008, the day Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. When you look at this photo, it may seem very confusing to you. After all, we are outside in short sleeves and there are plants in the flower boxes. However, there are also Christmas lights on display. So what is up with that? Well Mattie requested that we take out all the Christmas displays and put them up. I think on some level he knew that something scary and anxiety provoking was happening and he wanted the lights. I am not really sure why. I was too out of it myself to dig deeper and find out. But the distraction and keeping busy seemed like a good plan at the time. Putting up these Christmas displays was something he and Peter used to do together the day after Thanksgiving in our complex commons area. But since it was July we kept the displays to our deck. The fact that Mattie, at age six, jumped in my lap for this photo was a tell tale sign that he was scared. This was his scared position!


Quote of the day: If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died--you're not reminding them. They didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift. ~ Elizabeth Edwards




In honor of Mattie's memory, Peter and I have been working around the clock to design and launch the new Mattie Miracle website today. I have wanted the Foundation's website to have a whole new look for a while, but just did not know how to do this. Certainly we could pay a web developer to do this, but that is costly and then I would be right back in the same boat I was in with our old site. With a website that I couldn't access and maintain. 

Fortunately with new technology, the average person can design their own website! I say this, but it takes a lot of time and patience! A lot of patience to get the look and feel that you want. You have to play around with formatting, words, and photos. That is just cosmetic part. Then of course you have to worry about the content! My biggest complaint about our old website was it was stagnant and no one could find information about the programmatic work we were doing much less about our achievements. With the new site, everything is housed in one place and the goal is to showcase our work as well as archive our newsletters and materials. We also tried to integrate out taglines ("it's not just about the medicine," and "spreading hope through psychosocial support") throughout and make it clear that our mission is about psychosocial support. Though it is a content rich site, we also felt it was important to integrate photos of Mattie into the site, photos of his treatment team and current Foundation photos! So you will see all sorts of photos on the website because they document how Mattie Miracle became who it is today. At the core it is always about Mattie, he keeps us grounded. 


This photo was taken during the first week that Mattie was diagnosed. Mattie was in Georgetown's clinic and we wanted to explain to him what was going on with him, and why his arm was in pain. I told Mattie's art therapists about his love for bugs. So Jenny and Jessie creatively made a "bone bug" out of model magic. Now clearly, there are NO BUGs in bone cancer, but it made for a helpful visual to explain cancer to Mattie. Mattie visualized bone bugs in his body and that the chemotherapy was going to zap out the bugs. He got the notion right away! So here you can see his foot was smashing down on the bone bug, reminiscent of what we hoped the chemo would do. 


July 22, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007. Mattie was five years old and as you can see was enjoying his time in his pool on our deck. Mattie seemed to get a new kiddie pool each summer and by 2007, the pool was so large it took up about a 1/3 of our deck space. Mattie loved it! It wasn't so much that Mattie loved the notion of cooling off, or even splashing around in the water. What he did enjoy was taking his cars and trucks outside, throwing them in the water, and coming up with all sorts of play scenarios in the pool. 





Quote of the day: When a child dies, a parent loses a part of themselves,” he said. “Your whole world ceases to exist and you’re nothing but a shell of the person you once were. Your mom has dealt with it in her way, me in mine, and you in yours.” He lifted his hand off John’s gravestone and rose. “Your mom hates the world, I avoid it, and you try to save it. ~ Nicole Williams


Tomorrow Peter and I will be launching Mattie Miracle's new website. We have been working on this site for a good chunk of the summer. Peter really wanted the site to go live on Mattie's diagnosis anniversary date, in memory of Mattie. Designing the site, creating the content, and dealing with all the technological issues have been challenging. Challenging because it is us who are basically managing this undertaking. We really needed to create a new website from the ground up in order to reflect our mission and to showcase our objectives and achievements. In the course of designing the website, Peter came up with some infographics. These illustrations never made it to the website, but I still love them and they highlight facts in a plain and simple manner. As they say...... a picture is worth a thousand words! 














































Info for our donors, in which 91 cents of every dollar goes to our programs!

July 21, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 -- Mattie died 306 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007. Mattie was five years old and we were very innocent then.... childhood cancer was not even on our radar scope. That weekend, like so many, we took Mattie for a walk on Roosevelt Island. Mattie loved going to the Island, it was peaceful, there was always something to see, and Mattie could take a fallen branch or rock home with him to add to his collection!


Quote of the day: The anniversary date of a loved one's death is particularly significant. You will have done something you thought was impossible a few months earlier. You will have survived an entire year without someone who was as important to you as life itself. ~ Bob Diets


Tonight's quote is quite interesting. There is some truth to it naturally, but surviving another year without your child provides a certain level of bittersweet feelings and great sadness. This July 23, will mark the seventh anniversary of Mattie's diagnosis with cancer. This is actually a hard number to swallow because this is the exact amount of time that Mattie was alive and present in our lives. It is hard to accept that this diagnosis anniversary equates to the amount of time that Mattie was physically present on this earth. As time moves on, these anniversary numbers will only get bigger, but the amount of time we had with Mattie will seem even shorter than it already felt. Which is why in many ways for parents who lose a child, time doesn't heal all wounds. In a way, time exacerbates the loss. 

July 20, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tonight's picture was sent to me a while ago by Tricia, Mattie's favorite HEM/ONC nurse. Tricia created this beautiful scrap book collage of Mattie all on her own. I had no idea she was doing this, but when she snapped a photo of it and sent it to me, I was deeply touched. You might expect such a collage from a family member or friend, but your nurse? It is lovely to know that Mattie's nurse would want to capture her patient in her scrap book and that his life had great meaning to her. But then again, Mattie and Tricia had a special connection.... which I knew about since he told Tricia one day in the PICU that he "loved" her. Tricia incorporated bugs and touching sentiments into her page, and even used a red background to feature their photo. Red being Mattie's favorite color. 




Quote of the day: On 21 December 1988, a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan American Airlines Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,
killing all on board and 11 on the ground. The 270 Scottish stones which compose this memorial cairn commemorate those who lost their lives in this attack against America.
~ From the Arlington National Cemetery Website







On Sunday, Peter and I went to Arlington National Cemetery with friends of Peter's from work. They had wanted to tour the Cemetery for a while with us, and Sunday was the day we chose. Of course we never realized that it was going to be about 103 degrees with intense sun. How we toured around the Cemetery for four hours is beyond me, but we were motivated. The Cemetery is a truly incredible, hallowed, and historical ground and arboretum. One of the main sites to see at the Cemetery is the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknowns. This is a ceremony of incredible ritual and meaning and I am so glad Peter video taped a portion of it below. I included some wonderful information about the Cemetery below. While at the Cemetery we also visited my paternal uncle who is buried at Arlington. My uncle was in the honor guard and was one of the sentinels who guarded the tomb of the unknowns. To be a sentinel you have to met certain physical proportions and as we were looking at these men, it was abundantly clear why my uncle fit those requirements. However, what one should also know is this position is a volunteer and prestigious position. One has to be very well versed and tested on all Arlington Cemetery facts. I found the details listed below very informative........

--------------------------------------------------

Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of land that once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. Custis spent his life commemorating Washington and built Arlington House on the 1,100-acre plantation as a memorial to the first president. In 1857, Custis willed the property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee. After the Lee family vacated the property at the onset of the Civil War in 1861, federal troops used the land as a camp and headquarters - beginning on May 24, 1861. As the number of Civil War casualties was outpacing other local Washington, D.C.-based cemeteries, the property became a burial location. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, for Private William Christman. On June 15, the War Department officially set aside approximately 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery. By the end of the war, thousands of service members and former slaves were buried here.

Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each week day and between 6 and 8 services on Saturday. The grounds of Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of 624 acres.



The Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns

The Tomb of the Unknowns is a burial vault containing the remains of three unidentified service members, one each from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.  A white marble sarcophagus sits atop the vaults facing Washington, and is inscribed with three Greek allegorical figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor.  The Unknown Soldier of World War I was interred in the tomb on Armistice Day in 1921 after lying in state beneath the Capitol dome after the arrival of his remains from France.  The Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War were buried on May 30, 1958, after lying in state and each receiving the Medal of Honor.  The Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War, interred and presented with the Medal of Honor in 1984, was subsequently identified as Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie.  In 1998, Lieutenant Blassie’s remains were disinterred from the Tomb of the Unknowns and reinterred near his family’s home in St. Louis.  Since then the Vietnam vault has remained vacant.  The tomb is guarded continuously by the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the oldest active duty infantry unit in the Army, also known as "The Old Guard." The Old Guard is the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it provides security for Washington in times of national emergency or civil disturbance.

To qualify to become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.

After members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment become ceremonially qualified, they are eligible to volunteer for duty as sentinels at the Tomb. If accepted, they are assigned to Company E of The Old Guard. Each soldier must be in superb physical condition, possess an unblemished military record and be between 5 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 4 inches tall, with a proportionate weight and build. An interview and a two-week trial to determine a volunteer's capability to train as a tomb guard is required.

During the trial phase, would-be sentinels memorize seven pages of Arlington National Cemetery history. This information must be recited verbatim in order to earn a "walk." A walk occurs between guard changes. A daytime walk is one-half hour in the summer and one hour in the winter. All night walks are one hour.

If a soldier passes the first training phase, "new-soldier" training begins. New sentinels learn the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the grave locations of nearly 300 veterans. They learn the guard-change ceremony and the manual of arms that takes place during the inspection portion of the Changing of the Guard. Sentinels learn to keep their uniforms and weapons in immaculate condition.

The sentinels will be tested to earn the privilege of wearing the silver Tomb Guard Identification Badge after several months of serving. First, they are tested on their manual of arms, uniform preparation and their walks. Then, the Badge Test is given. The test is 100 randomly selected questions of the 300 items memorized during training on the history of Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The would-be badge holder must get more than 95 percent correct to succeed.

The Tomb Guard Identification Badge is a temporary award until the badge-holding sentinel has honorably served at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for nine months. At that time, the award can be made a permanent badge, which may then be worn for the rest of a military career. The silver badge is an upside-down, laurel-leaf wreath surrounding a depiction of the front face of the Tomb. Peace, Victory and Valor are portrayed as Greek figures. The words "Honor Guard" are shown below the Tomb on the badge.

There are three reliefs, each having one relief commander and about six sentinels. The three reliefs are divided by height so that those in each guard change ceremony look similar. The sentinels rotate walks every hour in the winter and at night, and every half-hour in the day during the summer. The Tomb Guard Quarters is staffed using a rotating Kelly system. Each relief has the following schedule: first day on, one day off, second day on, one day off, third day on, four days off. Then, their schedule repeats.

July 19, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. This was my last birthday with Mattie. Mattie made me a birthday card with the help of my in-laws. They designed a lighthouse card for me because they all knew how much I love lighthouses. Mattie presented me the card and Peter captured our tender moment together. What you can also clearly see from this photo was how emaciated Mattie was at this point in his treatment. His arms and legs looked more like parts of a skeleton rather than appendages of a growing seven year old boy.  They were visuals to us always that Mattie was very sick and dying.



Quote of the day: Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.  A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh


Last night, my friends Tina and Ann hosted a pre-birthday party for me at Tina's house. This is something they both did for me last year too in which they invite several of our friends to come and celebrate the occasion. The summer is a hard time to gather people because so many go away and have plans, yet despite the season each party had a good turn out. It is lovely to be able to gather with friends and have their support in July. Some may not even be aware of this anymore, but to me July will always be associated with Mattie's diagnosis. Therefore this clouds over my birthday and summer in a way. Mattie was diagnosed with cancer on July 23, and my birthday is on July 25. Yet for other parents who lost only children to cancer, the summer in general is a challenging time. Summer represents a time where families do things together, kids are off from school, and it is impossible not to be cognizant of what is missing from our lives no matter how well grounded we maybe with loss. 

Though it is hot in the summer time, everyone entertains me by having the party outside. I prefer natural air to air conditioning. So to me, having an outdoor party is very much preferred and special. 





Pictured here from left to right are: Grace (a preschool mom), Vicki, Ilona (my friend who also lost a son to cancer), Tina (my first friend I met after Mattie died), and Maria (a friend who works in my complex)!






Tina was one of the hosts of last night's party! The party was held at Tina's house. Tina is not only a friend but a strong supporter of Mattie Miracle. 






I met all of these moms through Resurrection Children's Center, Mattie's preschool. To this day, I am still friends with them. They are all supporters of Mattie Miracle and volunteers as well. 

From left to right are: Dawnee, Tanja, Catherine, Vicki, Jane, Grace, and Ann




Pictured with me are Grace and Ilona.

Grace was one of the very first moms I met at Mattie's preschool. She knew that we had a terrible experience at a former preschool prior to coming to Resurrection Children's Center and I always remember her telling me that things would be different at Resurrection. Her kindness and caring during my first encounter were never forgotten and we have been connected ever since.  

Pictured with me are Leslie and Mike. Leslie was my freshman year roommate in college and Mike is her husband. Mike was our friend in college too, so we all know each other for quite some time. I was Leslie's maid of honor at her wedding and we have stayed connected with each other all these years. Leslie and Mike are also supporters of Mattie Miracle and their daughter has done many service learning projects for the Foundation. 

From left to right are: Darryl (Maria's fiance), Vicki, Mike (Debbi's husband), Maria, and Debbi

Maria is our friend and she is one of our biggest Mattie Miracle fans and supporters. She helps us in numerous ways. The irony is I knew Maria's dad before meeting Maria since her dad wrote my immunology textbook that I used when I was a college student. I was so amazed to actually meet him and be connected with Maria years later. 

Debbi was Mattie's sedation nurse angel. We couldn't have survived in the hospital without her presence. Mattie was so traumatized by all scans and procedures that he literally couldn't have undergone any of them without sedation. Which is how we got to know Debbi so well. Debbi handled Mattie's sedation, but in the process helped Peter and I cope and manage some absolutely horrific experiences on a day to day basis. To this day, our closeness remains.


In lieu of gifts, I asked that my friends consider donating Geurig Kcups and kid bandaids to me last night. All of these items will go to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, to our Foundation's snack and item cart. These items support in-patient families caring for children who are dealing with life threatening or long term illnesses.