MATTIE MIRACLE VIRTUAL WALK WAS AN $110,000 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

August 1, 2020

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on August 18, 2009. Mattie was home temporarily and was playing with his remote controlled boats in his kiddie pool. That pool was once a place Mattie would go into and play, but given how Mattie was feeling and the fact that his broviac catheter wasn't allowed to get wet, he no longer went in the water. So he sat in a chair, wore his Captain Mattie hat and played with his boats. Mattie loved boats and wanted to save his pennies to buy a real boat one day. That was his wish. It is hard to believe that Mattie died 22 days after this photo was taken. 




Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins
  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,603,204
  • number of people who died from the virus: 153,986

Thanks to Sunny, we have outings outside of our home on a daily basis. Given the intense heat, we like to walk Sunny at local parks. It assures us wide open green spaces, peacefulness, and an adventure for Sunny. Given Sunny's age and that he is recovering from knee surgery, we try not to push him. His mind is willing, but the body can't always keep up. Nonetheless, he gets water breaks along the way and time to take in his surroundings. 
Turkey Run Park is a beautiful place! There are trails to walk in the woods and then there is also this wonderful pavement! We like taking Sunny on both trails and pavement. It breaks up the walk. 
Through the trees, you are looking at the Potomac River. It is a wonderful escape from the city and living in constant lock down. 

July 31, 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday, July 31, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009, during Brandon's 19th birthday party in the clinic. Mattie and Brandon were diagnosed with cancer around the same time in 2008. Mattie and Brandon, despite their age difference of 12 years, got along splendidly. Mattie called Brandon his "best buddy." That day in clinic, Mattie, Brandon, and Jocelyn (another good friend and mentor to Mattie) celebrated! They played at the art table together and also enjoyed ice cream and cake. It is hard to believe that both Mattie and Jocelyn died from osteosarcoma. 

Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins.
  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,541,016
  • number of people who died from the virus: 152,922

In Washington, DC, and most areas of the country, we have been dealing with the lock downs associated with COVID-19 since March. That is five months, with still no end in sight. Funny when I think back to the 14 days of shut down originally promised to us in March, I thought that was bad. It sounded bad at the time, but thankfully most of us couldn't fathom this extending passed two weeks. I came across an article today entitled, There are no hours or days in Coronatime (https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-time-warp-what-day-is-it/). The title alone caught my attention, because it is true! It is hard to keep track of one day from the next! As each day looks just like the day before it. 

Time, according to Aristotle, is the measure of change. It depends on what is shifting, reshaping, and what remains the same. The article highlights when you are stuck at home day after day, “the brain likes novelty.” “It squirts dopamine every time there’s something novel that’s happening, and dopamine helps set the initiation of the timing of these events.” In this model, the brain clocks those novel experiences, stashes them away as memories, and then recounts them later to estimate the passage of time. No novelty, no dopamine—and then “perceptual systems don’t bother encoding stuff.” 

I agree with the author of this article..... "No one knows when this will be over, or what the world will look like on the other side. Our experience of time isn’t just different because we are fearful or bored, cooped up or overworked. It has changed because we don’t yet know what to measure it against."

Sunny on our daily afternoon walk!
Another deer sighting on Roosevelt Island!
This deer looks like Bambi, no?
As we were coming home, Peter saw something big perched on a window sill. I couldn't believe this was real, but indeed it was a Cooper's Hawk sitting up top having a meal! 

July 30, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. Mattie was in the outpatient clinic sitting at the art table. As you can see it was a busy place! That day, Mattie and his friend, Maya (the only same aged friend Mattie made in clinic), built a stage for a play out of boxes. They worked on it for a while and then proceeded to act out a play  about space aliens. You may not be able to feel the energy through the photo, but there were many children all around us and they were all engaged when the play unfolded. 


Quote of the day
  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,475,979
  • number of people who died from the virus: 151,570


We went for a walk today on Roosevelt Island. Check out what crossed our path! The deer are all over on the Island and because there is less people traffic due to COVID, we are really seeing nature come alive this summer. Needless to say, Sunny was VERY intrigued. 
I think deer are quite beautiful and the ones on the island are used to people. After all, we are visiting their home. The deer are frightened of Sunny and keep a close eye on him. 
A close up of the female deer. 
This is a young buck! Can you see his budding antlers?
Have you ever come close up to a spider web? This one was quite extraordinary. Mattie would have appreciated this. 

Did you know.......
Spiders produce silk from their spinneret glands located at the tip of their abdomen. Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose – for example a trailed safety line, sticky silk for trapping prey or fine silk for wrapping it. Spiders use different gland types to produce different silks, and some spiders are capable of producing up to eight different silks during their lifetime. Most spiders have three pairs of spinnerets, each having its own function – there are also spiders with just one pair and others with as many as four pairs.

Webs allow a spider to catch prey without having to expend energy by running it down. Thus it is an efficient method of gathering food. However, constructing the web is in itself an energetically costly process because of the large amount of protein required, in the form of silk. In addition, after a time the silk will lose its stickiness and thus become inefficient at capturing prey. It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning. The silk proteins are thus recycled.

July 29, 2020

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. As you can see, our living room floor was BUSY! Car tracks, cars, Legos...... you name it, it was in our living room. That weekend, Peter and Mattie built the Lego Taj Mahal together. It truly was labor intensive, but a work of art. The Taj sat in our living room for ten years. At which point, I dismantled most of it, except for its center tower. That remains with us, as I feel it is a symbolic piece of our cancer journey together!


Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,398,898
  • number of people who died from the virus: 150,062



Peter and I have both commented since March that we are dreaming more! As research seems to indicate, we aren't necessarily dreaming more, but we are remembering our dreams more! Why? Our sleep cycles maybe off. Since many of us are working from home, we are sleeping later than usual. The brain normally moves through the REM (the last and deepest part of the sleep cycle) sleep cycle several times a night -- about once every hour and a half. So the longer you sleep, the more dreams you can have. Or we maybe tossing and turning and waking up frequently throughout the night. Thereby, coming into conscious from a dream, which enables us to remember our dream more vividly. 

It is reported that 87% of Americans have had unusual dreams since the pandemic began. I attached a link to an article below. As researchers are conducting a sleep survey and are asking for people to share their dreams. People are having nightmare about getting sick, about feeling helpless, getting attacked, and so forth. The fears we face in quarantine, are popping up at night in our dreams. Our brains are trying to face our anxieties that naturally arise under a crisis, and I would say being locked down for months, forced to socially distance, and wear a mask qualifies as a very big and indefinite crisis.  

The article goes on to discuss the different dreams that non-health care workers have compared to first responders. Noting that doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are more likely to have dreams about saving someone’s life, and not having any control over what’s happening. When reading this my reaction was, yes, I can understand this. Months and perhaps the first year or so after Mattie died, my dreams were more like the kind of nightmares a health care professional would have. I was reliving Mattie dying in my dreams, but dying in different ways (drowning, falling off a cliff, etc). Either case the end was the same.... Mattie was dead and I couldn't prevent it!

Anycase, if you are like us, and find yourself remembering your dreams since COVID began, you might find this article of interest. 

COVID and Sleep: Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made of This:

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200527/covid-and-sleep-sweet-dreams-arent-made-of-this

July 28, 2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 -- Mattie died 565 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on July 27, 2008. Only four days after Mattie's cancer diagnosis. I can still remember the feelings we had during that moment in time. It was before the news really sunk in and a plan was developed. Back then it felt like a switch turned on inside of us and we couldn't sleep, eat, or truly sit still. A total level of agitation, anxiety, and fear rolled into one. Yet we tried the best we could to keep Mattie engaged and doing the things he liked. Such as sandbox time on our deck!


Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,309,230
  • number of people who died from the virus: 148,298


Mattie Miracle is proud to announce that the Psychosocial Standards of Care officially have a published toolkit. The toolkit is comprised of the Matrix and Guidelines. 

This toolkit is necessary, because the Standards themselves are voluminous and though scientifically rigorous in their creation, it has been difficult for clinicians to implement them without evidence based guidance. This is where the toolkit comes in. Mattie Miracle has provided on going support for this work and we also paid for the toolkit's publication (specifically providing the public open access to the publication indefinitely). 

I welcome you to check out the publication and don't forget to look at the supporting information link at the bottom of the article to access the Matrix and Guidelines. 

https://www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pbc.28586

The Matrix, is an assessment tool treatment sites can use to score how well their program meets each of the 15 psychosocial standards of care. The score is provided on a five point Likert scale. The higher a score on the Matrix, the more comprehensive a program is at meeting a Standard of Care. 
The Guidelines are a companion tool to the Matrix. Guidelines provide specific guidance on “how to” improve the implementation of each Standard and the center's level/quality of care.






Just like the development of the Standards (2012-2015), which was a three year process, the creation of the toolkit was a four year endeavor (2016-2020). Truly this type of historic evidence based research is a labor of love and we are so grateful to the core research team for their tireless efforts, commitment, and passion to see the Standards in action. The Matrix and Guidelines will enable this to be possible. Now: 

  1. treatment programs will have an easier time assessing whether their psychosocial services are in line with the Standards of Care, 
  2. the Matrix and Guidelines will help clinicians' improve the quality of psychosocial care provided to children and families, and 
  3. ultimately these tools will enable quality Standards of Care implementation research. 

July 27, 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020

Monday, July 27, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on July 29, 2008. Mattie had undergone a bone biopsy earlier in the week and it was time for his big bandage to come off. Mattie did not like the sensation of tape being removed from his skin. In many ways, the motion to remove a bandaged triggered volatile reactions. Mattie did not want me near his arm or the bandage and so you can see him gingerly trying to remove it himself. Over time, as Mattie became more fragile and also more exhausted from chemotherapy, we took over and managed weekly bandage changing and cleaning of his broviac (the catheter in his chest that connected to a major blood vessel in the heart). Every aspect of cancer care required the impossible and the extraordinary from all three of us.  


Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins
  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,276,856
  • number of people who died from the virus: 147,303

I received a newsletter from the Evermore Foundation today. I know the founder, as she is a bereaved mom, whose daughter died at the same hospital as Mattie. We actually served on a hospital grand round presentation together after our children died. Like me, she created a non-profit. Her non-profit is dedicated to making the world a more livable place for bereaved people and families. Where all families and professionals have access to care, programs, tools and resources to cope and adapt to loss.

The newsletter came with this link. The link took me to a document entitled, Bereavement Facts and Figures. I encourage you to check it out, because it is noteworthy! The facts that caught my attention were:

  1. The prevalence and incidence of bereavement is high due to the “multiplier effect,” meaning for every one death multiple individuals are impacted.
  2. Family survivors are now themselves at risk of poor physical health outcomes, premature death, and other adverse consequences that can alter the life course.
  3. Parents who lose a child at any age are at risk of premature death as early as age 40, with mothers dying from unnatural causes in the first three years and natural causes 10-18 years later. 
  4. Bereaved parents are more likely to suffer cardiac events, immune dysfunction, depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, less purpose in life, more health complications, marital disruption, psychiatric hospitalization, cancer incidence, and premature death as early as age 40.
  5. Parents who lose a child before age 40 are at greater risk of developing dementia when compared non-bereaved parents.

Shedding light on the bereaved and the long term consequences of grief is not only necessary but crucial to the health and well-being of our society. Grief is one of those things that truly isn't discussed or adequately addressed and supported in our world. Yet the loss of a loved one has psychological and health consequences for those left behind. Grief isn't just an issue the first year after a death, instead I have learned from personal experience that it is a lifelong journey.



"Speaking Grief" Full Length Documentary Trailer (3 minutes):


July 26, 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. On my birthday! Mattie, with the help of Peter's parents, created this wonderful 3-D lighthouse birthday card for me. He presented it to me and you can see he was beaming with pride. I am so glad we snapped photos of that moment in time and of Mattie's lighthouse. Mattie knew I loved lighthouses and I shared that enthusiasm with him over the years. You can also see the state of our living room while Mattie was in treatment. There were toys and things everywhere!





Quote of the day: Today's coronavirus update from Johns Hopkins

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 4,212,057
  • number of people who died from the virus: 146,732


I came across an article today (posted below) about the use of Google Map technology (started in 2007) to help patients with dementia remember.  I had no idea "BikeAround" is used at hospitals already in the USA and other countries. BikeAround pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View to take dementia patients on a virtual ride down memory lane. As the article mentions, "Patients input a street address of a place that means something to them - a childhood home for instance - and then use the pedals and handlebars to “bike around” their old neighborhoods."

The article talks about how our memories are tied to locations! Think about this for yourself! When we remember moments in time, we typically associate them with the location we were in! I know this is true for me. When I think about 9/11, I remember being in my living room. If I think about when Mattie was diagnosed with cancer, I recall being in a waiting room at Virginia Hospital Center. My memories are contextualized by the places I was in, or my surroundings. Which makes sense why this researcher decided to evoke memories by virtually transporting older adults to a place. 

BikeAround takes the mental stimulation from virtually placing patients in a location they recognize, and combines it with the physical stimulation from pedaling and steering a stationary bicycle. Scientists think this pairing produces dopamine in the brain and has the potential to affect memory management in a profound way.

Needless to say, I found the concept fascinating as memory issues are on the forefront of mind these days. Check out the article and four minute video below!

Meet the researcher using Google Maps to help dementia patients:

https://about.google/stories/bike-around/