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

August 29, 2020

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. Mattie always wanted to go camping, and he would have if cancer did not enter our lives. In fact, Mattie was enrolled in cub scouts in the Fall of 2008, and Peter was asked to be the den leader for Mattie's school. Unfortunately that Fall never happened. This photo was taken after we learned about Mattie's terminal diagnosis. Peter set up the big camping tent in our living room, we brought down aero mattress, and this was where Mattie and I slept for a few nights before returning to the hospital. What you can't see was Mattie's IV pole, pain pump and oxygen. But they were all in the tent with us. 

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

  • Number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,958,486
  • Number of people who died from the virus: 182,665

It is hard to believe that I will be leaving Los Angeles on Monday. Frankly I do not know how things function here at all when I am in Washington, DC. All I know is I am constantly doing tasks, chores, phone calls, paperwork, and caregiving. I try to get major chores done during the week, so on the weekends, my mom and I can walk the neighborhood while my dad's caregiver is here. 

So the highlight of today, was walking about four miles. If I lived here, and of course under different circumstances, I would be walking every day. The beauty of Southern California in the summer, is that every day is lovely. Full of sunshine and you never see a drop of rain. In comparison to life in Washington, DC, I am surrounded here by mature trees, grass, and flowers. 

I am taking my parents out to dinner tonight with friends of theirs, therefore, instead of going out to lunch, I made breakfast and lunch at home. In between, I made another grocery store run, and tried to fill prescriptions at CVS. Typical with CVS, I called yesterday to get my dad's prescriptions filled, but when I got there today, THEY WEREN'T filled! Needless to say I wasn't a happy camper and have to head back tomorrow AGAIN. Little to no regard to what customers are balancing. 

August 28, 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on August 8, 2009. Meet "Speedy Red." The name Mattie gave to his ride-on vehicle. Peter assembled this car and Mattie couldn't wait to try it out. Doesn't he look happy and proud! At that point I did not know if Mattie understood the mechanics of driving, so I squeezed into the passenger seat to make sure Mattie would be safe. However, Mattie took to driving like a duck to water. Our "little engineer," instinctively understood the difference between the gas pedal and brake, and he was a natural at steering. 

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

  • Number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,913,527
  • Number of people who died from the virus: 181,762

Just when I think I will have a slower day, forget it. From the moment I get up at 6:15am, until I go to bed, I am working on something. Every morning after breakfast, I do thirty to forty minutes of cognitive exercises with my dad. He hates it and finds it very taxing. That doesn't stop me from doing them however. Since Wednesday, my dad has been reporting intense exhaustion. One of his caregivers pointed this out to me and she did not feel comfortable exercising with him, if he felt this way. So literally we gave him a "holiday" from his in-home exercises on Wednesday. We also lightened up his routine on Thursday and Friday. Nonetheless he is still exhausted. 

So today, I discussed this with my dad's occupational therapist. I personally feel the LESS you do the more tired you feel. Having an exercise routine, actually perks one up, and I noticed after exercising my dad seems more alert. The occupational therapist agreed with me. Therefore we have to find a happy medium. My dad still has to exercise every day, but perhaps not do as many repetitions of each exercise. 

I think we now have irritable bowel syndrome issues under control. It is a fine balance to prevent both constipation and diarrhea. It has taken me a month to figure out his diet and how much fiber he needs daily. But wow, what a month of experimentation it has been. 

Today was laundering of bed linens! That alone is a task of grand proportion, when you consider my dad uses 16 pillows. You read that correctly! When my dad's occupational therapist came to visit it for the first time in July, he looked at my parent's bed and said, my dad is like "princess and the pea." So true! 

On top of that, we had a call with a new attorney today, to update wills and power of attorney. As my biggest fear is that my mom gets sick and my dad serves as her power of attorney. I feel like the law firm we chose specializes in elder law and understood that the intention for the changes is to find ways to best support my parents, their wishes, and their estate. 

What I am not describing however is the day to day angst and agitation that my dad experiences. To an outsider, it can appear that my dad is super self focused and selfish. As he wants his needs and demands fulfilled immediately. It takes great patience and understanding to know that this is his disease and he is no longer able to tell time and have insight into his behavior. 

August 27, 2020

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on August 8, 2009. Mattie was surprised by a big RED ride-on vehicle. This was something Mattie always wanted. This vehicle needed to be assembled and Mattie supervised Peter the entire time on the deck. Mattie was very excited by this gift, but of course for Peter and me it was a very bittersweet reality, as it was the last gift we would be able to give Mattie. 

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

  • Number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,863,363
  • Number of people who died from the virus: 180,595

It was another full day in "paradise." When my alarm goes off at 6:15am, I am not sure if I am coming or going. I do know, I drag myself out of bed, so that I have enough time to get myself together before my dad's caregiver arrives. 

My dad agitates easily. We are trying to update his will and his power of attorney. Instead, of letting me take the lead on this, he wants to do it. All fine and dandy, accept he is not capable of doing this anymore. This realization causes great stress and anxiety. His stress can be hard to manage when you are a recipient of it. I took a 15 minute break today, and sat outside in the backyard, where I snapped this photo. When I filled the tea kettle this morning with milk instead of water, it signaled to me that I am very tired. 

My dad's physical therapist came over today. The goal of the session was to walk 20 minutes without stopping. The PT, myself, the caregiver, and my mom went walking with my dad. My dad got down our street and halfway back in 20 minutes. We take a wheelchair with us, which was needed to get him back home. My dad is making physical progress, but I have observed that he is exhausted. We have given him a break from in home exercises yesterday and today. He believes this will help, but I am not sure I agree. As I find the more stagnant he is, the more exhausted he becomes. For him exercising doesn't come naturally, and therefore attributes movement to expending enormous amounts of energy. His exhausting produces more agitation, snappiness, and at times hostility. All emotions that are hard to balance from hour to hour. 

This afternoon, I took my parents out to lunch. We went to a lovely restaurant 45 minutes from their home. So I spent a good amount of time driving on the LA freeways. If you haven't had the pleasure, then it is hard to describe the chaos of driving on their 6-7 lane highways! LA is the only place I have driven where people fly down the highways at 70 or 80 MPH, and then two seconds later slam on the breaks and come to a complete stop. It is constant speeding and breaking. If you aren't careful, it is easy to get in an accident. 

Since I leave Los Angeles on Monday, I wanted to go to the grocery store and stock up on items for my mom. I have yet to go to their grocery store and not find a line! I have gone weekdays and weekends. There are always lines. 
As you can see, I am trying to stock my parent's pantry with all sorts of items. I have done so much here this month, everything from intense caregiving to setting up on-line accounts, bill paying, dealing with doctors, caregivers, the home health agency, getting xrays, addressing their front gate issues, and trying to work out estate planning documents. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as my days are very very full and I have a feeling when I get back home and stop moving, I will see how tired I really am. 

August 26, 2020

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on August 8, 2009, two days after we learned about Mattie's terminal diagnosis. If you look at Mattie, you can see how emaciated his body was, and yet he was still able to smile. That day, Peter and I went to Target and purchased a big ride-on vehicle. This was something Mattie always wished for and it is ironic what things you will do and purchase when you know your child is dying. Mattie only enjoyed this ride-on vehicle for a few weeks, nonetheless, it was worth every penny. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,817,538
  • number of people who died from the virus: 179,596

Peter sent me this photo today! What is this? A pair of Mattie's old sandals. Peter found them in our neighbor's apartment. Our neighbor, JP, died in February. JP had a dog named JJ ("Just Jack"). JJ and Mattie were good buddies. When Mattie died, JJ would visit us daily and sit on our front step, waiting for Mattie to come out. One day, JJ went into our home and came out with a pair of Mattie's sandals. Apparently he took these sandals home with him and put them in his doggie crate. 

Peter is the executor of JP's will and is working hard at cleaning out his home and dealing with his estate. In the process of cleaning out, he found these sandals in JJ's crate. Now ten years later!! Amazing no? There are so many emotions for me in seeing these shoes!

Meanwhile, I spent a good portion of the day creating a file of my parent's wills, power of attorney, and medical health power of attorney. Unfortunately my parents created their wills several years ago when I was much much younger. Therefore, I am only considered a power of attorney for one parent, if the other dies. NOT practical now, as I need to have the authority to help both of my parents if and when it is needed. Peter and I have tried contacting the lawyer who created their original wills. We have called and emailed. Forget it! I think the practice must have gone out of business. So now I am trying to find a lawyer who can help me. 

Honestly my days are frenetic, as I am not just managing physical care, but I am managing people coming in and out, helping my mom pay bills (things she did not do when my dad was healthy), processing all insurance claims, and interfacing with all health care providers and agencies we are working with. 

My dad was always the one overseeing the day to day logistics at home, so this is a major learning curve for my mom, and my dad sees he isn't up to doing any of the financial accounting he used to do. He gets upset that my mom has taken over, but on the other hand he also has no desire to do it. He can't focus and he certainly can't remember the activities he does from one minute to the other. 

My dad debates me often on the decisions being made. Which sounds understandable, but as a supporter of his care, it can be wearing. Challenging, and exacerbating when I know his logic and reasoning is not what it was. My top concern is making sure they are safe and no one is taking advantage of them. 

August 25, 2020

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 -- Mattie died 569 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken on August 6, 2009. In a way, it was a companion photo to the one I posted last night. Last night, I posted a photo of Mattie sitting around the art table with his friend Jocelyn and her sisters. But we weren't in the photo! Where were we? We were in a separate room talking to Mattie's doctor. She shared with us Mattie's terminal diagnosis and how there was NOTHING more we medically could do for him. It was a very hard meeting, to say the least. When we came out of the meeting, you can see Mattie was studying us! He wanted to know where we were and what we were doing. Honestly you could make a comic strip out of this snapshot in time. However, there would be nothing funny about any of the captions. Kneeling in front of Mattie was Kathleen. Kathleen was an inpatient nurse of Mattie's, who he was close to. Kathleen literally came off the inpatient unit, to visit with Mattie in the outpatient clinic because the team understood the magnitude of the day for us. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,773,220
  • number of people who died from the virus: 178,347

This is the front of my parent's home. Keep in mind that I was NOT snapping this photo from the street. Instead it is a 500 foot walk from their front door (by the roses) to the street. It is the endless driveway. Once you walk to the end of their driveway, we then have to walk down our neighbor's driveway, since the house is on a flag lot. At the end of our neighbor's driveway is a gate to the street. It is a common gate that we share with the neighbor. So understand that we can press a button to open the gate from inside the house, but so can our neighbor. Sometimes we do it at the same time, not on purpose of course, but we are both trying to access the gate to allow visitors out. When this happens, chaos unfolds. Because she presses the gate open from her house, and I press it open from my parent's house at the same time. You may think that this would be more rare occurrence, but it has already happened to me twice this week. 

The neighbor presses the button to open the gate, while I am simultaneously pressing the button for the gate to open. But instead it triggers the gate to close. Since we have NO video camera on the driveway, I have no idea what is happening out there! I had it with this gate, especially when my dad's caregivers were going down the 500 foot driveway.... I pressed the button to let them out, but instead, they were trapped by the gate and I had to walk out to resolve the issue! Not practical on a good day, but really stressful when caring for someone inside the house. 

I am going to walk you down the 500 foot driveway. So basically I was taking this photo from the front door of the house.  I walk on the path to the driveway. But check out the length of this driveway!
This part is my parent's driveway. 
That driveway, leads to our neighbor's driveway. Which we need to walk down to get to the gate. I am telling you it is crazy, balancing this gate. I have no patience for it while also managing all the caregivers who stop by each day. 

Last night, our friend who is an electrician designed this kitchy exit key pass station. Literally visitors can now drive down the drive way. Open their car window, input a security code and the gate opens. Now visitors are in control! THANK GOD! 

Our neighbor on the flag lot knew we were going to work on this system and she agreed to it (as it benefits her and her visitors too). However, when she saw the plastic flowers the electrician's wife put on this pole, she called me. She requested that I remove all the flowers as she felt it did not fit with her landscaping. I worked about a 14 hour day yesterday, and having to go back out and cut wires to dismantle the flowers wasn't top on my list. But I did it. Needless to say our caregivers used this exit system today and it worked like a charm!
The electrician's wife is a baker. She knows I love her gingerbread cookies. So she baked me two boxes full. They perk up my day! Mattie would have loved this as he was really the one who introduced me to gingerbread. He loved it. 
Meanwhile, Sunny is keeping Peter busy! Peter was in the kitchen cooking Sunny ground meat, and Sunny was keeping an eye on the process. 

August 24, 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on August 6, 2009. The day after we learned Mattie's cancer diagnosis was terminal (as his cancer spread throughout his body). While in clinic, Mattie sat at the art table with his good buddy Jocelyn (far right) and her two sisters. Jocelyn knew what had happened the day before and she and her sisters wanted to do everything possible to make Mattie's time in clinic that day positive. We met Jocelyn early on in Mattie's diagnosis. Jocelyn understood what it was like living with osteosarcoma and Mattie gravitated to Jocelyn because she had a way of being honest about the disease while also being funny and humorous at the same time. I know that doesn't seem possible, but Jocelyn, like Mattie was a special and memorable person. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,737,398
  • number of people who died from the virus: 177,179

Peter sent me this photo of frick and frack! Indie and Sunny are quite the pair. They fill up our home and I know when one of us isn't there, they do serve as wonderful companions. 
Every morning after breakfast, I sit with my dad and two brain exercises. He is getting the hang out of numbricks. He still needs coaching through it and help, but the concept of filling in the puzzle with numbers in sequential order from 1-81, is beginning to stick. 

After numbricks, I introduced a memory game. Today's was to read a sentence or two, retain the content, and then a minute or so later, try to answer a question pertaining to what he just read. This was greatly challenging, but I don't let him give up. We persist through it so that he sees he can do this with some concentration and focus. 
Right after brain games, Jon, my dad's physical therapist arrived. They worked together for about an hour. My dad went up and down our house stairs four times. After which, he walked the entire circumference of the house four times. He did this in ten minutes. Jon wants him to be able to walk twenty minutes everyday and to build up stamina. Walking around the house means going on concrete, grass, and even stepping stones. Walking on different surfaces is challenging. 

Jon even did balance exercises with my dad. Needless to say, he got a big workout! Once Jon left, my dad did his occupational therapy exercises. He has active mornings, which is why by noon he really is hungry and wants to eat. Which is excellent, since in June he had NO appetite at all. 

Before we headed to lunch, we ran chores. The first of which is we had to get a document notarized. I brought several pieces of the document with me, but when I got there, they wouldn't notarize my forms, because I did not bring every single page with me. So I had to get back in the car, and retrieve all the pages at home. I was livid. Then drove back to agency to try the process again. I thought it was particularly ironic that the notary never really looked at all the forms, and truly wanted to say.... really? You have me go back to get all the forms, and you don't even look at them. The fellow helping us actually gave us a hard time. As the document is in my dad's name. So he wanted to know where my dad was (he was in the car waiting for us)! I told him the form did not NEED TO BE SIGNED BY MY DAD! Instead the form was for his spouse... my mom. He said the forms did not say that! I was ready to crown him on the head. So I grabbed the forms and READ THEM TO HIM! I had little to no patience with him. 

I dealt with the notary after interfacing with my dad's podiatrist office. They called my dad this morning asking WHERE WAS HE? That he missed his appointment today! I literally got on the phone and gave it to this office. I know exactly what date and time the appointment was (this Wednesday at 11am), because I made it in June. So you can't put one over on me or bamboozle me. The receptionist said my dad had TWO appointments this week, Monday and Wednesday. I said, "why on earth would I make two appointments for the same week?" She had no answer. Then she did some digging and realized that the doctor was going to be in surgery on Wednesday, so his staff canceled our Wednesday appointment and changed it to today, but NEVER contacted us. I lost it! I asked her how were we supposed to know the appointment was rescheduled if the office did not call us!????

On top of that, I am balancing getting my parent's car repaired and working with an electrician to come up with a more user friendly system that manages the automatic gate from the street onto their property! Right now I waste more time opening and closing the gate for all visitors who come to us daily. However, we are on a flag lot. So the neighbor can control the gate too! Major problem. Case in point, this morning, I had pushed the button inside the house to open the gate. I walked 500 feet from my parent's front door to the gate where the street is, I had my hands full of garbage. When I got to the front gate, instead of finding it open, it was closed! I had just opened it!!! Why was it closed? Because our neighbor pressed the button at the same time. So I opened it and she closed it. Therefore, when I got to the gate, my hands were full and I couldn't open the gate. As there is no button near the gate to open it. This gate is my nemesis and it has to be fixed. 

I put in 12 hour days here and frankly do not know how things function when I am NOT here. It is a true worry, and going back to Washington, DC is no bargain either, as I find it much harder to manage things from 2,500 miles away. 

August 23, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2008. Our neighbor dropped off Dandy Dog Dakota. A huge handmade stuffed animal for Mattie. Literally the dog was as tall as Mattie. Mattie got a kick out of this and posed on the couch to do a size comparison. The number of gifts and toys Mattie received over the course of his treatment was incredible. I am not kidding when I tell you that if I put everything together, we could have filled up a toy store. When Mattie died it was hard to know what to do with all the items we received. It took me five years to process through everything. But nothing was thrown out. Many of the gifts and toys were donated so other children could enjoy them. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 5,699,804
  • number of people who died from the virus: 176,765

Peter sent me this photo today! Sunny was on the National Mall looking directly at the Washington Monument. 
Just like every other morning here, I started at 6:15am. After breakfast this morning, I did several cognitive exercises with my dad. I try to do these with him first thing in the morning, when his brain is freshest and more receptive to this type of skill building. I notice his caregivers shy away from these exercises. Most likely because they are HARD. It involves being able to teach concepts and to be persistent and provide your student guidance to have a successful experience. 

Today's exercise involved looking at these five faces. With the goal of remembering and matching each face to the appropriate name. In order to do this, most of us naturally code in our head. Meaning for example, with Tamara on the upper left of this photo, we see her holding a telephone. So we might code her in our head as Tamara Telephone. 
This exercise proved challenging for my dad, but he did eventually get it. I am quite confident that the more he exercises his brain, the better he will be making connections and finding strategies to remember people and things around him. Of course I am a realist and understand that it takes discipline to do what I do each day with my dad.

He did his 4th Numbricks puzzle today and I could see he now understands the rules and the concept behind the number game. Today's puzzle went much faster than the first three.   
After cognitive exercises, my dad worked with his caregiver on all his physical and occupational therapy in-home exercises. I went out again with my mom and we walked about four miles together. In intense heat, but we needed the change of scenery and non-stop caregiving. Along our walk, I came across this wonderful zucchini plant!!! Beautiful yellow flowers, not to mention two zucchinis on the vine. 
Hibiscus are everywhere! My parents live in a beautiful neighborhood, surrounded by gloriously mature trees and plants. I can't tell you how many wonderful birds are all around us! Including green parrots. 
I snapped a photo of this orange tree, because I can't believe the owner of this house doesn't pluck these wonderful fruits!
The neighborhood is very close to NBC, Universal, and Warner Bros studios. This person has a prop box that once belonged to the Tonight Show in his driveway! It caught my attention because it says... Santa and the Moon. 
We went out to lunch today and my mom snapped this photo. Going out to lunch is not a nicety. For my dad's existence it is a necessity. I am aware of the fact that we could catch COVID, but life is about risks. COVID is a possibility, but starvation and death are a certainty if my dad doesn't eat. When I arrived in Los Angeles for my first visit after my dad's hospitalization (on June 9th), I found my dad was emaciated and refusing to eat ANYTHING at home. He had lost thirty pounds during lock down from COVID. On June 9th, I got my dad out of his recliner (which he hadn't moved from literally in a week... in the same clothes for a week, wouldn't take his shoes off, and never left the chair to toilet), changed all his clothes, and got him in the car. It was his first day in months leaving the house to go to a restaurant. On that day he ate! Since June 9th, he has therefore been going out to eat for lunch every day. It is his BIG meal of the day. I truly believe that better and consistent nutrition are helping him to regain strength, and therefore comply with the challenges his physical and occupational therapists give him. 

My dad has always been an exacting person, but now with dementia, he becomes insistent. He has no insight on how confusing it is to be the recipient of his demands. As I remind him I am not an octopus! I only have two hands. When we go out to eat, I have three ziplocs in my purse. One has individual jams, another has chocolate chip cookies, and the third has packets of sugar. My dad loves eating bread, but we have cut him off of ALL dairy. So though he likes butter, it doesn't like him. Therefore, I bring the jams as he uses them in lieu of butter. As for the sugar, now with COVID, wait staff don't always bring out sugar. My dad gets upset and impatient, so now I cut that reaction off at the pass and travel with my own sugar. Similarly he used to love having ice cream after a meal. But we have linked his dairy consumption to his irritable bowel syndrome problems. Since he loves chocolate chip cookies and most restaurants don't serve that for dessert, out comes my ziploc of cookies. I feel like Mary Poppins.