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

October 8, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old and wearing his very first Halloween costume! Mattie did not like anything touching him that was rough or would make him itch. Not to mention clothes that felt tight! So this soft pumpkin sweat suit worked perfectly. But the reason I snapped this photo was because of Mattie's smile in front of the TV. Mattie NEVER sat still to watch TV. He was always multi-tasking and doing something in the background. But in this particular instance, something on the screen caught his attention and he was transfixed. That did not happen often. The one thing that usually produced this type of reaction was Elmo on Sesame Street. 

Quote of the day: Living the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way. ~ Edna Ferber

In a way tonight's quote is appropriate for my experience today. One of the things I continue to do since Mattie died, is head our DC licensure board. The board regulates the practice of counseling in the District of Columbia. I have done this for over a decade, and it is an appointed position by the Mayor.

Years ago when I was a graduate student, I became involved in a professional organization called the DC Mental Health Counselors Association (DCMHCA). When I started with the organization, it did not even have a logo. I changed that. With Peter's help we designed the logo you see here with the Capitol building and flag. The flag has a shape on it that looks like a diamond. It is the logo of our parent organization, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). In fact, right before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer, I was elected the president of AMHCA, which has 6,000 members across the USA. I was the youngest president to be elected. However, I never filled my terms effectively since Mattie got cancer. 

Prior to my election into AMHCA, I served in various leadership roles within DCMHCA. From president to executive director. For two years now, DCMHCA has invited back to their annual conference to talk to attendees about licensure in the District of Columbia. In a way it is hard to go back, because being involved in counselor organizations, academia, and all things associated with mental health were things I did pre-cancer! It almost feels like I was another person then. Or I did this in another life. But as my role as licensure board chair it is important to interact with licensees and the public, so I do migrate out of my comfort zone. Mind you I still know MANY of the people who attend the conference!

After presenting today for an hour, I was given this lovely glass plaque. I love the stars and how it lights up! It literally changes colors, like the rainbow. 

Peter picked me up from the conference and we went out for an early dinner. We went to one of Mattie's favorite restaurants that has a working train that circulates around the ceiling of the restaurant. Given that it was a grey and rainy day, getting out was welcomed. 

October 7, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old. When Mattie came around, our plant stand was transformed. We dedicated one shelf just for Patches the cat. Patches wanted a place free from Mattie and his noise and running around. However, you can see that as Mattie got older, he was taller and could reach up to touch her! Patches was a great cat and understood that Mattie was important to the family and therefore no hissing or scratching was allowed. 

The Mattie tell tale sign was in this photo too.... his sippy cup filled with milk. Linus had his blanket and Mattie had his sippy cup! That cup went with us everywhere! You can also see the pumpkins that we collected from each of the fall festivals we attended with Mattie that year. 

Quote of the day: A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. ~ Amelia Earhart

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Director of Technology at Mattie's school. I had interacted with Richard before since he encourages his students to participate in our Annual Foundation Walk. However, I never met Richard in person until today. Richard's life has been personally touched by cancer as his dad recently died from colon cancer. 

When Richard wrote to me a few weeks ago, he told me that he has a class that is learning about 3-D printing. He wants to add an entrepreneurial component to his class this year and has selected Mattie Miracle to benefit from this project. The class is tasked to design something, print it through their 3-D printers and then sell it at the campus bookstore. All proceeds going to Mattie Miracle. However, this is only one of Richard's ideas. I mentioned to Richard that I would love the opportunity to interact with his students and to learn more about the projects they wanted to design for this Mattie Miracle project. 

With that, Richard explained that he would like to educate his students on childhood cancer and encourage them to use their engineering skills to design and build something that will be of use to children in the hospital and their parents. Basically to create an object that has practical use and can enhance quality of life. I thought this was an excellent idea, since I think bringing awareness to teens about childhood cancer is important. We talked about bringing in guest speakers to the classroom so that the students could get ideas and insights on what object should be designed for this population. I am thinking of inviting a child life specialist, a caregiver, and childhood cancer survivor. 

This is what the technology classroom looks like! It is very hands on, visually appealing, and it draws you in because you want to touch all the gadgets. In reality it reminds me of the "shop" class I had to take when I was in high school. Of course NOW everything is with technology and not hand tools. 

These three machines are 
3-D printers. It is hard to believe that something so small can produce all sorts of 3-D objects. 
All the objects on these shelves were designed by students and printed through their printers. This may sound easy, but basically the student have to design the computer programs that direct the printers to create the objects. 

Students work independently and each of them designs an object. But naturally when we create something, we create it with ourselves in mind. If you want to sell a product though, more than one mindset is needed! The beauty of the class is that students share their thoughts and ideas and the other students give feedback. In many cases the feedback received helps to alter the object's design to make it more useful and applicable to others. In a way, it is like working in the real world, where you consult with others and test your product. 

Richard sent me home with these 3-D objects today. All these objects were made by Richard's students. 

The most intricate object is in the shape of a heart. But this is NO ordinary heart. It moves, rotates, almost like a rubic cube! You can turn each of the parts and it changes the shape from a heart to something else. 

The second object is a bracelet that says "saints," which is the school's mascot, and the third object that is white is a chess piece, the castle. The final object in grey is an i-phone cord holder. It wraps the cord neatly so the cord will never fray. 

Close up of the heart! See how each piece almost looks like a gear. 
When you take a part each of the gears of the heart, this is what it looks like. 

I reached out to Georgetown University Hospital this afternoon to see if they would be interested in this class project. I would love the hospital's buy in so that they can help give the students some input on a potential object that needs to be created. Richard has even offered to take the 3-D printers to the hospital, so children in the hospital can see how this process works, and even given feedback on the objects created! 

October 6, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old and as you can see at a petting zoo. I think this photo of Mattie and the sheep was priceless. We have a couple of photos with Mattie and barnyard animals and I love each one of them. What gets me about this was the sheep was fascinated by Mattie and Mattie was fascinated by the sheep!

Quote of the day: To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles.T.F. Hodge

Today was a complete day of frustration! When we adopted Sunny, we knew he tested positive for heartworm. That could be a show stopper for many adopting parents, but we decided to stay committed to Sunny. The rescue organization is willing to pay for the treatment but you have to use their appointed vet. Given the costly nature of the treatment (today's bill was over $400, and Sunny needs three of these visits) and the fact that the shelter was irresponsible not to give Sunny his monthly heartworm preventatives, we decided to hold the rescue organization responsible for the treatment. 

The shelter's vet is in Northeast DC. You might ask.... how difficult could that be to commute from Northwest DC to Northeast today? The answer is VERY difficult! I could have driven to New York in the amount of time it took me round trip today. Without traffic the vet should only be 20 minutes away from our home. But they required me to get Sunny to them by 8:30am and to pick him up at 5pm (he needed to be there all day for observation). These commuting times were right in the midst of rush hour. Each trip took me over an hour, and keep in mind I had to drive there and back TWICE today!!!! Being in DC traffic felt beyond stressful and then when picking Sunny up, I could see he wasn't himself. 

The vet kept Sunny in a cage all day for observation!  Sunny doesn't like cages and I have no doubt that was traumatizing on top of getting a deep inter- muscular shot. These shots are serious business and dogs can have reactions to them. Which is why observation is needed. 

Below you will find out more about heartworm, in case you are interested! I have been reading about it for weeks because I needed to know what would be going on! We even had Sunny genetically tested because some collies have a genetic mutation that makes heartworm preventative treatments deadly. Fortunately Sunny doesn't have this mutation. 

So how did Sunny contract heartworm?

Only by the bite of an infected mosquito. There’s no other way dogs get heartworms and there’s no way to tell if a mosquito is infected. That’s why monthly prevention is so important. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states, and the bite of just one mosquito infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease.

Monthly Preventative treatments (which Sunny did not receive, which explains why he contracted the disease after being infected)

For less than the cost of going to Starbucks for a weekly coffee, you can prevent heartworm disease in your dog. There are monthly pills, monthly topicals that you put on the skin, and there’s also a six-month injectable product. The damage that’s done to the dog and the cost of the treatment is way more than the cost to prevent heartworm disease. A year’s supply of heartworm preventative will cost about $35 to $80, depending on a dog’s weight.

How common is heartworm in shelters?

It’s a very common problem in animal shelters today, and public shelters rarely have the money to treat heartworm disease. It’s perfectly acceptable to adopt a dog with heartworms, but you have to be dedicated to having the disease treated appropriately, because it’s a horrible disease that can lead to a dog’s death if left untreated.

What does the treatment entail?

The drug that you treat with is called Immiticide. It’s an injectable, arsenic-based product. The dog is given two or three injections that will kill the adult heartworms in the blood vessels of the heart.

The safest way to treat heartworms includes an extensive pre-treatment workup, including X-rays, blood work, and all the tests needed to establish how serious the infection is. Then the dog is given the injections. With all the prep work, it can run up to $1,000. 

What happens after the shots?

After treatment, the worms begin to die. As they die, they break up into pieces, which can cause a blockage of the pulmonary vessels and cause death. That’s why dogs have to be kept quiet during the treatment and then for several months afterward. Studies have shown that most of the dogs that die after heartworm treatment do so because the owners let them exercise. It’s not due to the drug itself.

What you may see after treatment...

May see pain, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site or reluctance to move due to pain at injection site. May also see coughing, gagging, depression, lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, lung congestion, and vomiting. Less commonly seen are excessive drooling, panting, diarrhea, coughing up blood, abnormal heart rhythms, and death. The dog must be kept quiet (cage rest) for 4-6 weeks after treatment to help decrease the risk of pulmonary embolism.

At the moment Sunny seems miserable. I can't administer his pain meds or anti-inflammatory because he refuses ALL food and snacks. I already wrote to my vet with CONCERNS. The photo above with the dog shows where the shot is administered. In the back, at the site of the infection, which helps to explain why Sunny's fur is significantly shaved in that area! 

October 5, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. To me this was a priceless photo. We took Mattie to a petting zoo within a Fall Festival. As you can see we came across a hog. Mattie was intrigued but unsure how to interact with this pig. I think Mattie's facial expression says it all. 

Quote of the day: Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection - or compassionate action. Daniel Goleman

I was getting ready this morning and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang on our deck. Fortunately Sunny or Indie weren't outside. I opened the window and looked out. This is what I saw..... a construction helmet from above came flying down onto our deck. 

That may not sound like a big deal, but it was the last straw! I literally called my complex to file another compliant against the State Department. The State Department shares a common wall with me. For the past TWO YEARS the State Department has been repointing the bricks on their walls. Last year they absolutely ruined our summer and fall. They had scaffolding all over our deck for months, and our plants and fountains needed to be removed, and the amount of dust, debris, and noise I dealt with daily was over the top. Not to mention having workmen staring into my windows! The beauty of all of this, is the State Department doesn't care, nor did they have the courtesy to let us know they were taking over our outdoor space last summer or NOW for that matter. 

I thought I was done after last summer's ordeal, but they are back doing MORE work for the past month. Literally our deck looks like the desert, covered in a gray sand/dust. It is absolutely pervasive and you can't sweep enough. The particles are so fine, the only way to manage this is power washing each day! This gray stuff is all over our plants, the deck, and our furniture. I honestly can't stand it and it makes our outdoor space unusable. 
Later in the day, I took Sunny out for another walk. Sunny literally jumped into the bushes to chase a squirrel up a tree. When Sunny is in pursuit of a squirrel he won't move. He sits like this for minutes! I had several people walk passed me and started chatting with me, because the natural question is..... what is he looking at?! I can't go a day without someone telling me how beautiful Sunny is and everyone thinks he is a GIRL! 

Poor Sunny has a rude awakening coming to him tomorrow. He will begin his shot series for heartworm. Dogs get monthly oral heartworm preventatives. Because Sunny wasn't on them at the shelter, he contracted heartworm from a mosquito bite. Once you contract heartworm, it can't be eliminated with oral meds. The dog needs a series of three shots. The shots are supposed to be painful, since they are inter-muscular (so Sunny will need pain meds and anti-inflammatories). In addition, as the heartworms break apart after the shot, the dead worms can circulate in Sunny's body and if he exerts himself they could clot in his lungs or heart and cause death. This is a major problem for me because Sunny is VERY active by day. Curtailing his activity will be like mission impossible. So wish me luck tomorrow. It isn't only ONE day of curtailed activity! We are talking two months at least!!!

Peter and I had a meeting at Georgetown University Hospital today to work out some of the details on the donation we plan on making within the month for a weekend child life position. We have donated a significant amount of money to Georgetown over the last five years, yet as a donor we have expectations in return, such as access to data about the services we provide. Yet this consistently doesn't happen. So we had a serious talk today with philanthropy about poor communication and our disappointment about the lack of outcome data. I felt like we were heard. In addition to the $5,000 that came in yesterday from a donor, we also learned that one of our corporate sponsors wants to help us start another Mattie Miracle snack/item cart at another hospital. So we could potentially be running three carts (all in different hospitals) shortly. I am working out these details. 

October 4, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 -- Mattie died 368 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. Mattie was at preschool and each Monday, the children visited the adjacent residential/ nursing home. The name of the residential community is called Goodwin House. As you can see Mattie was dressed up as a calico cat, in honor of our cat Patches!

Also that year, Mattie and his preschool class went to entertain the seniors. They did their rendition of the Three Little Pigs! However, each Monday, Mattie's class visited this residential room and the residents who wanted to come and interact with the children could. Every Monday, I would come into Mattie's classroom and assist the teachers on their journey to the residential facility. It was a journey, because the children needed to get their coats on and walk across a street to get there. So having extra hands to assist with walking and also with activities at Goodwin House was helpful. I did this for many reasons. First of which was I enjoyed interacting with Mattie and his classmates, but second I wanted to support Mattie's school curriculum which involved inter-generational learning. 

Quote of the day: The surprise is that you continue to be surprised.Jill A. Davis

I went to the Mattie Miracle mail box today and inside of it was a letter from Goodwin House. The same facility I wrote about above. I could see the letter was from the director of chaplaincy. Honestly I had no idea what that was about until I got home and read the letter and saw the attached check. A check for $5,000! Goodwin House has a memorial chapel fund that its congregation contributes to, and the group decided to donate their fund to Mattie Miracle. STUNNED!!! I am so surprised because I am not connected to this organization or any of its residents. The letter SPECIFICALLY said that the group was contributing to us because they value our psychosocial mission and services to children with cancer and their families! 

I am deeply touched by this and immediately wrote an email to the director of chaplaincy to thank him, but to also request a personal meeting. I would love for Mattie Miracle to continue this connection, especially since I feel Mattie was once a part of their community. 

Meanwhile on the home front..... check out this TORTITUDE!!! This is what Indie does when she wants to go out. Mind you it isn't only a visual, there is plenty of vocalizations going on!
Picture this with meowing and chirping. Yes Indie chirps. That is a new one for me. She is the master of vocalization! If Sunny is standing between him and the door, she hisses at him making her dominance known! Don't feel sorry for Indie!!! This girl holds her own. 
See our tight rope artist! She is walking around our deck door! She is wonderfully obedient. I left her alone outside today, and could observe her from the window. I would periodically call her name, and she would respond. She is intrigued with what is over the fence, but not eager to venture passed our walls. 
I love watching Indie jump! She seems to be able to graciously jump from 8 feet tall walls with NO PROBLEM! 

October 3, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2002. Mattie was six months old and about to celebrate his first Halloween. Peter's mom sent Mattie this pumpkin placemat and the cute part about this was the mat was almost the size of Mattie. Mattie did not go trick or treating that first year because he was just too little, but Mattie gravitated to all things orange, to pumpkins and especially eating anything made with pumpkin. Prior to having Mattie I disliked the taste of pumpkin. However, Mattie changed all that and I now LOVE pumpkin goodies of any kind.

Quote of the day: My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet. ~ Edith Wharton

Mattie Miracle has begun making plans for our sixth annual candy drive. The past couple of days I have received emails from schools who wish to join the fun. Each year we add a few more candy collectors and sorters, which is amazing! My joke is..... if we only had a $1 that went with every piece of candy!!! What a fundraiser that would be!

Sunny and I walked 7 miles total today. In between walks, I let Indie outside on our deck. If you look closely you will see that she is ON TOP of the brick wall. At first I worried that she would run away. But she was great. As soon as I called her name, she complied and came to sit by the front door! 
I know it is hard to imagine, but Indie literally is like a tight rope walker. She went from the brick wall, to the top of our deck door. She walked on the top of the door like a professional in the circus! She loves checking out every plant, our fountains, and all the items I have out on the deck!

Today was so funny while walking Sunny! I can't tell you how many people stopped me to ask what type of dog Sunny is and of course whether they could pet him! At one point, a group of pre-teens approached me and told me that Sunny was so beautiful!! They began to pet him and one boy hugged him. Literally Sunny was surrounded and just sat there patiently!!! Some of the pre-teens spoke Spanish, and Sunny was taking it all in! I can still picture these children saying..... Hola Sunny!!! 

October 2, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and half old. In October, we used to like taking Mattie to Fall festivals. He would pick out pumpkins and we tried to encourage Mattie to go on the rides and hay slides. It took a year, but after Mattie's initial fears, he took to these adventures like a duck to water. At this one fall festival, they also had a petting zoo. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. Mattie naturally gravitated to animals. He had a healthy level of caution as he approached them, but truly wanted to learn how to pet and interact with them. Which he did!

Quote of the day: One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night. ~ Margaret Mead

I love Margaret Mead's quote! In our case, we now have two additional hearts beating in our home (as Peter now says!!!) who rely on us to come home and to be actively part of their lives. I know Mattie would have loved Indie and he would have been wildly crazy about Sunny!!! Sunny is an absolute love and I have yet to meet a person or animal that hasn't been enamored by him!

Indie is fully engaged with all of us. With Sunny too! She is very aware of the fact that he gets outdoor time. So this weekend she is DEMANDING it for herself. She is meowing and making all sorts of noises and standing at the door until you open it! 
As you can see she is VERY comfortable. They say tortoise shell cats are difficult because they have tortitude! Indie most definitely has attitude, but she is very affectionate, curious, and wants to be part of the family! Honestly I think she is part dog. 
We took Sunny to Roosevelt Island for the first time today. Mind you before heading to the Island, Sunny already had two other walks with Peter this morning. So together they walked about 6 miles even before going on the Island. We walked another 2.5 miles on the Island together. If you can't tell, Sunny is a walker and he doesn't walk slowly. I need my sneakers on to keep up with him! I can't imagine what he must have been like as a puppy!!!

Mattie loved Roosevelt Island. It was one of his favorite places to go! I can't tell you how many times Peter and I walked on this board walk with Mattie. Sunny was equally happy exploring today and I know Mattie and Sunny would have gotten along beautifully. 
A happy pooch!!!
Sunny checking out the birds in the water and in the trees!
While working at my desk today, I saw a monarch butterfly sighting. Funny that it was at our hummingbird feeder! Nonetheless, I accept all butterfly sightings and always pause and think of Mattie when I do.