Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 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: 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

July 9, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2004. Mattie was two years old and this was his second trip to the beach. Mattie handled the second trip better than the first, but was still intimidated by the ocean and sand! This photo was classic Mattie.... his arms and hands were always moving and he never traveled anywhere without a sippy cup of milk.

Quote of the day: As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat. ~ Ellen Perry Berkeley

Well we were reminded once again that tonight's quote is SO TRUE about cats. NO one owns a cat. They have a mind of their own, as we have found out at 2am. Last night, Indie was wide awake and hyperalert starting at 2am. She literally was running all over the place, jumping all over us, and doing a meow howl! I think between her young age and being confined for so long, her hyperactivity have to come out somewhere. Without a doubt we saw it last night. 

Peter and I are both out of it today. She honestly looked like a possessed cat last night and there is nothing more eerie to see glowing green eyes staring at you in the middle of the night!

 I have an extensive history with cats (Minx, Cinnamon, Rusty, Whiskers, Allie, Tiglet, and Patches), but out of all the cats I have known, ONLY Patches was truly nocturnal. She was up throughout the night and didn't meow, but MOANED. Moaned loud, which is why I always suspected that her previous owner tossed her out on the streets of DC. They couldn't take her night time ritual. 

I really thought that the night time howling was unique to Patches since none of our other cats ever did this. But I can see I was mistaken. 
To try to address this nocturnal hyperactivity, we are making sure she is played with and active by day. This isn't easy since she is still very cautious with us and likes to hide for most of the day. By 4:30pm however, she seems to break through her shell and wants to interact and play. Though she has access to all of our home, she chooses to stay in Mattie's room. 

I bought Indie this chipmunk toy earlier in the week. I was drawn to it because Patches loved playing with the same one!
Is this not the ultimate curious cat?! Indie has been very interested in Mattie's bed and today she popped up on it and approached Mattie's albino stuffed animal snake on his bed. It is the yellow thing you see on the left hand side of the photo! Of course once she popped up to look at Sunshine (the snake), she then saw the window, which clearly caught her undivided attention. 

To me, this photo should be entitled.... "caught in the act!" I am not sure what she finds more fascinating..... the trinkets on top of the bureau or looking at herself in the mirror!

July 8, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in November of 2008. Mattie was home after his second limb salvaging surgery. Home to recover before heading back for more chemotherapy. What I LOVE about this photo was our cat Patches jumped on Mattie's hospital bed to keep him company. We had a hospital bed in our living room and Patches was very intuitive. She understood that Mattie was ill and that she needed to look after him. Not unlike what she would do with me when I wasn't feeling well. Which was why I nicknamed Patches.... Nurse Patches!

Quote of the day: If purring could be encapsulated, it'd be the most powerful anti-depressant on the pharmaceutical market. ~ Alexis F. Hope

I had my monthly licensure meeting today. While I was at the meeting, Peter drove back to Ellicott City (75 minutes away from DC) to pick up Indie the tortoise shell cat. 

Indie has spent most of her life (and we believe she is under two years old) caged or isolated in one room. So we were prepared to deal with anxiousness today. In fact, because we heard she preferred safe and enclosed spaces, we got her a cat perch and placed it on top of my desk facing the window. 

As you can see, she jumped inside the perch and literally spent the majority of the day there!!!
This is a close up of Indie's paws. They are spotted and even her nails are fascinating. Some nails are clear and others are black. 
Indie is a VERY curious cat! As the day progressed she began to get more comfortable and would poke her head out of her perch. 
She even began to play! Peter is very good with cats. I call him the cat whisperer. They really respond to him. Indie is super affectionate, wants to be played with, eager to be petted, and given attention. Which is a complete 180 from our dear Patches. Patches was very independent and truly did not like to be touched. But given Patches first year of life living on the streets of DC and being shot with a BB gun in the leg, I think it is understandable. 

After dinner, Indie got her courage on! She decided to take a room by room tour of our entire home. She even jumped in our bathroom sink! But check out where she made herself comfortable...... right on our bed. 

So you may be asking yourself, what is up with her name? Indie stands for Independence Day! The day we realized we were going to adopt her. Poor Indie.... this is her third name in such a short lifetime. In the kill shelter they called her Jerri, then her name was changed to Hazel when fostered, and now her third and final name is Indie!

July 7, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007. We took Mattie to Roosevelt Island that particular weekend and Peter encouraged Mattie to walk out with him on a log into the woods. Which meant they would go off the boardwalk. As you can see, I stayed on the boardwalk and photographed these two in action. Mattie was like Peter in that sense. They both like adventure, experiencing new things, and exploring. Of course, I am a bit different, but people like me are needed, because I was the family photographer. Capturing all these adventurous moments!

Quote of the day: I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. Gilda Radner

So last night, Peter and I met with the home inspector from the adoption agency. Needless to say we passed the visit with flying colors. I figure if we had Mattie in our home and knew how to keep him safe, how much more complicated could it be for a cat and a dog? I certainly understand the need to be cautious when giving people cats and dogs to rescue, mainly because these animals are already traumatized, but I assure you the process is JUST not easy. 

I thought it was only me who felt this way, but then Peter was talking to people in his office who had the same experience. So much so, that they gave up on the rescue option and opted to seek a breeder to purchase a dog. Which is really a shame, because so many animals need to be rescued. There needs to be a happy medium here, where adopters are assessed but that the process is streamlined and less complex. I should also mention that I filed MANY applications with different rescue groups since February! Unfortunately what I found is they really did not want to deal with me because I live in Washington, DC, rather than a suburb of the city. One agency even said to me..... "well the dogs may not like city sounds, and therefore will go with other people living outside the city first!"

In order to rescue a cat and a dog, or either animal for that matter, I had to fill out an EXTENSIVE application for each. I had to supply the name of three non-related people to me, who could be contacted to write a letter of reference! They then wanted to talk to our complex personnel to make sure I was allowed animals in our home, and finally they also spoke to our vet. To learn about our history with animals. Once those hurdles were met, then a home visit was scheduled! 

We learned last night we passed inspection but then more still needed to be done. There were handbooks to read, contracts (I mean very legal ones!!) to be signed and initialed, not to mention paying the adoption fees for each animal. I have been working on these things all day. The condition of adopting the dog is that we have to foster him first for a week, before officially adopting him and we have to attend a training class on Sunday. Are you getting the picture?

The funny thing is today I met up with two women for lunch. What I quickly assessed is having a dog gives you a whole other topic of conversation. Conversations that can go on for hours. It is like people talking about their children! I really had no idea! Cat parents are not like this at all! Now why is that???? I guess I will find out soon.  

July 6, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2004. I remember capturing this photo of Mattie. We were playing with his "Mr. Potato Head" toy and in Mattie's usual fashion he decided to be different. So he put on Mr. Potato Head's glasses. Upside down NO LESS! We would occasionally do spoofy things like this together and get a good old laugh at of it! Sometimes we did things like this just to see how funny the other thought it was. 

Quote of the day: Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. ~ Karl A. Menniger

The art of listening to what someone is saying is not exactly easy. It isn't easy because sometimes when in a crisis you are not even sure how to communicate your needs fully. You are not sure people will be listening, whether it is worth expending the energy to convey how you are feeling and then you think.... what is the point? Only you are going through this crisis and therefore shutting out others may appear to be a viable option.

Last night I received a blog posting written by a young adult who has been quite ill for several months. It isn't my story, so I don't plan on discussing it. But the reason I am mentioning this is because as I read her words, I understood how confused, frustrated, helpless and hopeless she was feeling because to date there have been NO medical answers or explanations. I know full well that most doctors really practice medicine as a reaction to data. What do the scans say? What are the blood results? In absence of hard facts, guess what? Medicine is at a loss, despite the fact that patients may still be quite ill. Naturally I feel for the mom of this girl because I know how difficult it is to be a caregiver to a child who isn't getting better but seems to be transforming right before your eyes. 

Because this family is friends of ours and on the blog the young lady encourages help, answers, and to share her writings, I did JUST that. When I have issues that come up that appear cancer related, I immediately text message Aziza Shad. Aziza used to be the director of the pediatric oncology program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Now she is the chief of pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore, MD. Though Aziza wasn't Mattie's oncologist, she did work with us on occasion and was the attending physician who was on call during Mattie's death. What makes Aziza so unusual is not just her competence, but it is her competence mixed with compassion. If you are her patient, you can literally text message her at ANY hour of day or night and she returns in within minutes. She doesn't even have to be in the US, she can be abroad, and you get the same response time. Amazing, NO?!

Any case, I wrote to Aziza about this young girl, shared the blog with her, and this morning within an hour's time, I connected her to the girl's mom and they have an appointment together in a week or so. Not that this will solve this young girl's problems, but I know first hand how crucial it is to have someone to confide in, someone who is willing to acknowledge that there is a real problem and someone who is willing to search for medical answers and a solution. So what I am saying is the art of medicine SHOULD involve LISTENING!!!! Somehow that skill got pushed to the back of the line in medical school and in practice. But I suspect if MORE listening was being done, patient needs and issues would get resolved much quicker. 

This evening Peter and I await the person from the pet adoption agency who will be inspecting our home. If we don't meet inspection (and I have NO idea what the criteria for this is), then we don't get Indie the cat or Sunny the dog. Signing off for today, but I will fill you in on this tomorrow. 

July 5, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016 -- Mattie died 355 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on July 4, 2006. Mattie was four years old and we were invited on our friend's boat to see the fireworks over the Potomac River. This was a first for all of us. Mattie loved boats and he was thrilled to be sharing the holiday with his closest preschool buddy, Zachary (whose parents owned the boat). I must admit seeing the fireworks from the water is a memorable sight, because literally they appear to be right on top of you. So much so that when the fireworks come cascading down, you see the full effect. 

Quote of the day: A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. Ernest Hemingway 

The controversy today all over the news in DC, were our fireworks on the Washington Mall last night. I never thought about this, until I shared photos of the National Capital Firework Display on Facebook and my long time friend Mary Ann wrote to me and said.... this is NOT what I saw on TV! That was my first clue. July 4th this year was a total rain out. It had been raining all day and the cloud cover was awful. In theory the show should have been postponed until today. That I know full well this would have great financial costs to the District who blocks off roads, has extra emergency management personnel on hand, and so forth. So the show went on as planned. The only problem with last night's fireworks is ...... YOU COULDN'T see them!!!! Between clouds and drizzling rain, it made it impossible!

Yet when PBS aired the Capital Fourth fireworks, there appeared to be beautiful clear skies over DC and stellar fireworks! How did that happen? It happened with some creative editing and splicing in firework displays from previous years. Most likely because they knew full well that NO ONE would stay tuned to watch a dull and lack luster show on TV. I totally understand their dilemma, but I think a note to viewers would have been a nice and professional thing to do. Especially if you want to keep your viewers' trust. Below is a link to an article written in the NY Times about this, but literally this controversy was just about everywhere today. Note to self..... the fireworks last night looked nothing like this!

PBS Admits Using Old Fireworks Footage in Fourth of July Broadcast:

Instead, this is what we saw last night! I entitle this one... Red Sky! In all reality the display had its own impressionistic beauty last night, but it definitely wasn't seen the way its creators had planned!

 The circle.
Usually these remind me of a large mum in bloom. But it was hard to see the full effect. 

 Get the picture!?
I entitle this, "Starry Night." Mind you we had three cameras taking photos last night. Only one of our three cameras was able to capture anything in the sky!
The smiley face!

July 4, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2003. Mattie was 15 months old and it was his first trip to the beach. Mattie did not know what to make out of all this sand and the roaring of the Atlantic Ocean. It was too much for him that first year. Mattie's hands were like little antennae. His fingers will twirl around almost as if they were helping him take in the world and information around him.

In this particular photo, Mattie's twirled his fingers around and it ended in a big fist. Information came in, and clearly Mattie did not like what he received. As the fist says it all! But we kept at it with Mattie and introduced him to the beach for several more summers, and then of course in time, Mattie loved the beach.... particularly the sand!

Quote of the day: Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. ~Louis D. Brandeis

How we go from the photo up above to a where we are today...... in a way defies understanding! Parents who lose a child to cancer, are always asking the unanswerable question.... why my child? Why did this happen to our family?! In all reality there are NO answers and please don't tell me you are turning to science for them. If you are, you may be waiting a while!!! In my opinion science is more confused than ever, and they provide few explanations or viable solutions to deal with this crisis affecting so many children in the US and around the world. Certainly science has come a long way to help with some lymphomas and leukemias, but even with those cancers that have a higher five year survival rate, the psychosocial consequences are enormous. This is an area of care that science refuses to acknowledge, accept, talk about, and to share the research stage with psycho-oncologists. 

Knowing the cancer landscape for what it is and having lost a child to cancer, it does put one's life in perspective. Naturally holidays are always very difficult and if you think it is just the first holiday without a child that is complicated, that would be wrong. In fact, I think it is all subsequent holidays after the firsts that are truly challenging because as time moves on, so do the people in your life. If Peter and I dwell on any of this for too long, this could cause a great downward spiral. So instead we try to do more positive things like run the Foundation, go for nature walks, and now most recently adding another dimension to our lives..... rescuing pets. Fortunately for Peter, we don't live on a farm, because I would be rescuing as many animals as possible! 

It has been RAINING ALL day in DC! Since we knew we were going to be inside all day, we got out in the morning and went for over a three mile walk. Trying to use a car in DC on July 4th is a joke. As you can see many of the streets near us are blocked off. This was a new one for us, I have never seen Route 66 blocked off to traffic using buses. 
Down by the Potomac River, the Stars and Stripes were on display. May we remember all the brave soldiers who keep our country safe so America can continue the very freedom that started 240 years ago.
Along our walk, Peter spotted this wonderful Gold Finch. 
American flags were proudly displayed on boats. 

This to me was a total sight! What is this boat? Well apparently it is a convenience store floating in the water. It sells merchandise from sunscreen to sunglasses and food!
Washington Harbor decorated for the 4th! Because the weather wasn't nice today, there were very few people down by the water. Not great for businesses, but so lovely to walk by the water without tons of people. 

Another spotting along our walk.... a great blue heron. 

July 3, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2007. Mattie was proudly wearing the t-shirt we got him on our trip to Amish Country in Pennsylvania (the month before this photo was taken). But I snapped this photo because I loved the bond between Mattie and Patches. Patches was a very independent sort, did not really like to be touched or petted, but yet she was the best family pet. Very devoted to all of us in her own way! She was extremely bright and knew right away when we brought Mattie home from the hospital after he was born, that she had to be on good behavior with him. I NEVER had to train Patches around Mattie! She just got it right from the beginning, even when he would pull her tail as a toddler. She put up with it, and of course we explained to Mattie that he had to treat Patches nicely. He learned quickly and became a fierce advocate for Patches. If he had a friend come over who wasn't familiar with cats, Mattie would give a tutorial on how to interact with Patches. It was darling to watch. 

Quote of the day: What greater gift than the love of a cat? Charles Dickens

Today we drove to Ellicott City in Maryland, which is about an hour away from where we live, to visit Hazel the cat. Hazel is a cat up for adoption through City Kitties. Hazel is living in a foster care home right now, until she is adopted. So the beauty of City Kitties is their adoptable cats are not caged. 

Hazel has been living in her foster home since February! Now five months later, we learned that NO ONE other than us has come to look at Hazel. Others were interested in her but they did not want to make the car trip to Ellicott City to visit her. Which is a shame because she is a delightful cat, very sweet, curious, and clearly wants affection. Prior to foster care, Hazel spent her first year of life locked in a cage and rather neglected. So it is clear that she is anxious, fearful of people, and prefers being in tight spaces, which makes her feel safe. 

Here is her Facebook description:

At first glance, Hazel is a dark chocolate brownie with Reese’s Pieces. Best of all, she’s every bit as sweet and full of character as she looks. Hazel just lives to be your after-work treat, greeting you with a chirp-like meow and shaking her tail like a maraca. She’ll play with your shoelaces while you settle in, and follow you to the couch for some Netflix and chill lap-time. If you’re busy cooking or at work, Hazel goes into adventure mode, exploring your closet, climbing on a cat tree, and picking out her favorite toys. She's as clever as she is curious, and will play seek if you hide her toys. Hazel is perfectly content to play by herself till you’re ready to play, or she’ll just curl up near a window to watch birds.

This is a close up of Hazel. However, Peter and I have decided to change her name to "Indie." Why? Because we made a decision to adopt her on Independence Day weekend. So she will always be our Independence Puss, or Indie for short!

Indie has beautiful markings and is clearly a tortoise shell type breed. 
What you can't tell here are her amazingly green jade-like eyes! They captivate you as soon as you see her. 
After meeting and playing with Hazel/Indie, we then went for lunch in Columbia, Maryland before heading home. We love the Clyde's food group, so we visited their restaurant in Columbia. A first for us. The restaurant sits overlooking this lovely Lake. 

Later today, we went to Pet Smart to start getting supplies for Sunshine (nickname: Sunny) the dog, who we pick up on July 16. It will be an interesting transition for all of us, since Sunny is coming directly from a shelter in South Carolina. He hasn't been socialized to living in a home, like Indie the cat. 
This is the new arrangement we set up for Indie. She will be sitting near me as I work. We figured she loves looking outside and also likes tight and cozy spaces. This seems ideal! Patches used to love being perched by this window. We never had this type of cat tree for Patches upstairs, but I know she would have LOVED it!