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 11, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. I took Mattie to California to visit my parents. On our adventures, we discovered that Mattie liked this one particular restaurant. He liked the food, but what he especially liked was their lion fountain. So every time we visited the restaurant we always requested a seat by the fountain. Finally one day, I had Mattie pose in front of the fountain so he could remember it when we returned home. Ironic it seems, since now, I use the picture to remember Mattie and his love of fountains.

Fact about Southampton: The city's name is sometimes abbreviated in writing as "So'ton" or "Soton," and a resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian.

Unlike my usual postings, which include a quote of the day, over the next two weeks I will include a fact about the place we are visiting each day. Peter and I were scheduled on a 6pm flight out of Dulles to London last night. While waiting at the gate to board the plane, we realized something was wrong because NO ONE was boarding. The plane had mechanical failure and therefore the flight was closed out. We waited four hours for another plane to arrive, and by 10pm, four hours later, we were on our way to London. The flight to London is close to 7 hours long, and when you include waiting at the airport beforehand and the five hour time difference ahead of Washington, DC, it is no wonder we are exhausted. I am more like a zombie actually, and can barely keep my eyes open to write tonight's blog. This is a picture Peter snapped during our descent into Heathrow airport.

My dad's colleague, John, who lives in London, met us at the airport and drove us two hours from London to Southampton, where we are staying. Traffic was bumper to bumper, but as long as I was safely on the ground I didn't care how long the drive took!

We had a lovely lunch near the River Test in Southampton with my parents and John. Southampton serves as the gateway to the countryside  and to a wide variety of historic sites, national landmarks and charm. The United Kingdom's premier passenger ship port, Southampton was home for many years to the great transatlantic liners of yesteryear. 

The hotel we are staying at for two nights is literally right by the port where cruise ships dock. Here you can see Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Sea. This is one huge ship! However, there are several others in port, and when their ship's horn sounds, it is so loud, it can frighten you instantaneously. I am signing off for today, because I am too tired to function! Thank you for checking in and for virtually going with us on our UK adventure.

August 10, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. It was a summer of innocence because the following summer Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. In typical Mattie fashion, he was playing with something that had parts and he had to build on his own. Mattie could easily follow toy building instructions, but he also did not need a guide or map to create. He just understood at an early age how things went together.

Fact of the day: The average number of passengers arriving and departing at London Heathrow Airport per day is 190,100.

My morning began early because my doctor was doing me a favorite by squeezing me in to see her colleague today. When I got to the office, the office staff was not expecting me and therefore we got into a debate about procedures. Mind you I knew exactly what my doctor wanted me to do, since I spoke with her last night. But I could see I wasn't making any headway with her staff. So I decided to comply with them and while complying, I emailed my physician while she was in surgery. Within minutes she responded and said she was leaving the operating room and would see me in five minutes. Within seconds after emailing her, her office staff seemed to miraculous understand what I was saying, and no longer questioned the directions I came into the office with. Amazing on so many levels. What I have learned from Mattie's illness is that you can't be shy or timid with the health care profession. Unfortunately the loudest and at times the most demanding one gets attention.

After I left my doctor's office, I got on the elevator to return to the hospital's lobby. As the elevator stopped on one of the lower floors, a woman got on with myself and another woman. This woman was beaming with excitement and shared her good news with us. She wanted us to know that the testing she did confirmed that she doesn't have cancer. I did not know this woman from Adam, but for that moment in time that did not matter. Because in that moment, all three of us in the elevator were human and we were clapping and sharing in her good news. I found myself smiling and tearing at the same time. In fact, I was profoundly struck by our interaction, and I told her she was given a great gift today and a second chance on life. She agreed with me, but she was visually shaken up from the emotions of waiting for these life altering results. A feeling I know all too well! When the elevator stopped at the lobby level, I could see she was absolutely disoriented from being on over load. She even had trouble getting off the elevator. So I helped her off and assisted her as she navigated back to the cancer institute at the hospital.

As I got into my car, did chores, and finished packing, I found myself reflecting on this woman I met today. Cancer has a way of uniting people, and I have found time and time again that it doesn't matter what your age, gender, race, ethnicity, social economic status, political preferences, and level of education are, when you talk about cancer or the potential diagnosis, a universal human reaction and emotion takes over. 

Peter and I are flying today to London's Heathrow airport. The last time we were in London was for our honeymoon in 1995. In 1995, we went on a land tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. We had a wonderful time visiting each of these beautiful countries. We met many lovely families on our tour and several we still keep in touch with today by letters and emails. So it is my hope that this adventure will be good for Peter and I, since this summer has been very challenging for me so far. The daunting part for me is the flight, and at this point I am not sure who I feel worse for.... me, or Peter who will be sitting next to me! On Saturday, I will be writing to you from Southampton, England. The port home of the Titanic.  

August 9, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2006. We went for a walk on Roosevelt Island after a storm, and as you can see a tree fell in the middle of the pathway. Mattie was eager to explore that tree and Peter picked him up and had him sit on it like a horse. Mattie's facial expression was one of caution and hesitation, and yet he did try to smile for the camera. But as his mom, I knew exactly what this particular look meant! 

Quote of the day: The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I started the day at zumba class, which is always a good start to the day. It gets me up, out, moving around, and talking with people. I am so happy I took a chance and contacted Jenny about her class last summer. My mom introduced me to zumba while we were on vacation, and when I returned to Washington, DC, I was determined to find an instructor. I love to dance, and Jenny being a trained dancer, infuses wonderful dance steps into her choreography. It is great exercise and good for the brain as well.

I spent most of the day doing chores. Though I haven't mentioned this before on the blog, Peter and I are flying to London tomorrow night. We are meeting my parents and going on a cruise of the British Isles which starts on Monday. So stay tuned for a detailed account of our adventures. I haven't been to Europe since 1998, and my enthusiasm for flying and especially flying over an ocean are minimal at best. Since Mattie got sick and then died my fear of flying has intensified. I despise the motion, turbulence, and being confined in a small space with hundreds of people.

Since we will be away for two weeks, I had a great deal of work to do this week to prep the blog for our journey. However, as the evening set in, I realized I better check in with my urologist. She is just one of many specialists in my life. In so many ways, this has been the summer of illness and seeing one physician after another. So tomorrow morning, I will be seeing my doctor before we leave. Not exactly the morning I thought I would be having, but I know it is better to travel with medication than not have it with me.   

August 8, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2006. If Mattie wasn't playing with Legos or trains, then his other favorite options were tinker toys and remote controlled cars, boats, and helicopters! As you can see in this photo, Mattie made a garage for his remote controlled car out of tinker toys. Mattie was very partial to his creations, and therefore, he wouldn't build them just to take them apart minutes later. No, in fact, many of Mattie's creations stayed assembled for days, until his next big project was underway and he needed our living space for creativity!

Quote of the day: Life is a classroom -- only those who are willing to be lifelong learners will move to the head of the class. ~ Zig Ziglar

I remember when I was living in Boston and going to graduate school, Peter introduced me to victory gardens. I have to admit I had no idea what a victory garden was back then, since I had never seen one growing up in New York and in California. Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil "morale booster" — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown.

Why am I telling you about victory gardens? Because today my friend Joy invited me to the garden she planted at her temple. The garden reminded me of the victory gardens I saw in Boston. Joy planted, cultivated, and nurtures this garden, which in this summer heat is a feat! All the vegetables she generates (which are a substantial amount!!!) are donated to a local food bank. So today, I felt like a lifelong learner in action!

I met Joy when our sons were in preschool together. It is fascinating what two years at Mattie's preschool accomplished for us.... it was a school where Mattie blossomed and had his happiest years, but it was also a school in which we created a lifelong community. A community who was instrumental to us when Mattie was healthy as well as when he had cancer. In fact, many of my wonderful friends were moms at this preschool, and are now strong supporters of Mattie Miracle. Joy, myself, and our boys spent two preschool summers together, the boys swam, ate, played, and shared ice creams together. While the boys got to know each other, so did Joy and I. I will always look upon those summers fondly, and we both laughed today over the mention of Dairy Queen. An ice cream store that both Mattie and I loved!

I am so happy that Joy reached out to me to reconnect, because I enjoyed our breakfast together, and I most certainly loved her garden. Gardening is therapeutic for Joy as well, and I absolutely loved the peace and serenity of her space. Her garden has a beautiful pond near it with geese, birds chirping away, and even a resident grasshopper! Despite the heat, we chatted, picked vegetables, and tended to the garden. Taking me to her garden was a special, meaningful, and very personal gift. But the gift did not end there. After we collected vegetables, we then took full bags to the Manna Food Center. Manna is the main food bank in Montgomery County, Maryland, and nearly every county nonprofit organization relies on Manna to provide essential food to their clients. Not unlike the victory gardens during the wars, today's pickings were also a "morale booster" because it made you feel productive and satisfied to know what we gathered will help those in Maryland who need food.

You should know that Joy's garden is filled with the following (ALL PLANTED BY JOY!!!):
yellow summer squash
string beans
green peppers

Some of you maybe curious to know that in total we picked 28 pounds worth of vegetables from this garden today!!! I know this for certain because Manna weighted all the items! Below are some of the photos I snapped, and as Joy knows, I travel no where without my camera!!!

This is a photo of the vegetable garden from outside the fencing. The fencing does a great job at keeping out deer and other critters.

This is one of the banks of tomato plants. The fragrance from these plants were intoxicating!!!

Here was a zucchini just ready to be picked!

An eggplant cutie in the making!

We picked a whole bag full of tomatoes. This bag alone weighed 18 pounds!

The green bean plants in this garden were prolific producers. But you had to look carefully and thoroughly otherwise the beans were easy to miss on the vine!

We picked green peppers, zucchinis, cucumbers, and summer squash today!

When I returned home, fluttering around one of my petunia plants was our resident Pipevine Swallowtail. This butterfly visits us often and when he does I think of Mattie.

August 7, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 -- Mattie died 152 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2006. Creating and building with Legos was a daily occurrence in our household. Mattie had Lego bricks of all sizes, shapes, and colors, and typically he would build a structure, just so he would have a backdrop to play in, around, or with. He would create cities, train stations, boats, or houses for example, which after he created them he would then devise all sorts of imaginative play scenarios.

Quote of the day: Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~ Lao Tzu

I began my day with a light bulb miraculously exploding out of its ceiling socket, hitting me on the shoulder, and then crashing to the floor in a million pieces. I have to admit, that has never happened to me before, nor did I know what hit me initially, since it happened so fast. A bulb hitting me and shattering into pieces seemed symbolic of something, and therefore, I wasn't sure what the rest of the day had in store for me.

I headed to my zumba class today, and as usual had a good time. Jenny gets us moving, energized, and also creates a positive atmosphere in which members of the class chat with each other and get to know one another. After class, Jenny and I chatted for a while, and I enjoyed this opportunity to connect. I met Jenny in 2008, when Mattie entered kindergarten. Jenny's daughter and Mattie were in the same class together. I would have to admit that if Mattie were still alive, I most likely would not be attending an exercise class. Mostly because when Mattie was occupied in school that was prime time for me to get things accomplished work wise. Also, Mattie's school and my work community gave me many opportunities for social interactions. Since Mattie's death, my time and connections with others have changed. Therefore, in many ways, going to zumba provides much more than exercise for me, it provides structure to my day and it has given me the opportunity to meet people.

After class, I went to visit my friend Mary, who lives in an assisted living facility. We spent several hours together and I feel that tonight's quote captures the interaction we had with each other. Mary, her caregiver Shayla, and I chatted about all sorts of things, and I truly enjoy seeing Mary engaged and participating at times. Mary and I met each other while Mattie was battling cancer. We then spent a great deal of time together after Mattie died, and while her husband was dying. Our time together and our conversations with each other were filled with kindness and mutual respect. Through that kindness, I do believe as Tzu points out confidence, profoundness, and love were created. I feel certain of this based on the fact that Mary entrusted me today with her reflections on her life and her condition. Sometimes such reflections are hard to share with those we are related to, which is why I feel honored that Mary felt she could share this with me. Mary's simple statements made me pause, not brush them aside or placate her feelings, but instead listen to them and reflect on what she was saying. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is I told Mary that I admire her strength and courage because aging with a neurological disease is not easy especially when one has lucid moments and is aware of the profound changes and limitations on one's life.

August 6, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2006. Mattie was four years old and he loved his orange tunnel. So much so that he was wearing it around our home. Even up the staircase. What I also noticed from this picture were Mattie's shoes. Mattie liked to have his shoes lined up on the staircase. It looked a bit like a shoe store at times, with each step featuring a different pair. Our staircase now looks quite barren in comparison, but I recall it took me over a year to remove any of Mattie's shoes off the staircase after he died.

Quote of the day: To be human is to be aware of the passage of time; no concept lies closer to the core of our consciousness. ~ Dan Falk

When my friend Charlie sent me today's quote, my immediate reaction to it was NO! I am certainly very human but since Mattie's death I no longer am aware or care about the passage of time. Before Mattie's death, I would have to admit that we lived in a very time sensitive household. If you doubt this statement, you just need to look at our first floor. We have quite a clock collection....  ALL sorts of clocks: cuckoo, mantle, banjo, and digital! At one time, all these clocks used to be running, and would make noises on the half hour and hour! Now all our clocks are stopped, except for the cuckoo clock. I received the cuckoo clock from one of my mentors in graduate school. Unfortunately months after he retired, he died of a sudden heart attack. But I keep the clock running in his memory. Certainly I am sensitive to Foundation deadlines, and Peter goes to work each day, but the passing of time doesn't have the same connotation, and I imagine that is because without Mattie's presence each day is one and the same.

If July is marked and clouded by the day Mattie was diagnosed (July 23), August has its own problems as well. On August 5, 2009, only SIX WEEKS off of chemotherapy, we learned that Mattie's cancer had spread throughout his body. In fact, I do not think doctors thought this was at all possible, but I knew something wasn't right because Mattie wasn't eating and had NO interest in food or water. Mattie was bright and strong willed, but never manipulative, and I knew if he couldn't and didn't want to eat, there was a reason. I will never forget how I learned about Mattie's terminal status. I took Mattie to the hospital that day for a sonogram to rule out what his issue could be. I knew immediately that the tech performing the sonogram saw something. I knew because he turned to me and Linda (Mattie's child life specialist) and asked us what Mattie originally came to the hospital for in 2008. I soon learned that day that Mattie needed a CT scan and within about two hours, one of Mattie's doctors called me to let me know the news. The news I already sensed from watching the sonogram tech. After I learned Mattie's case was terminal, within minutes I had to pull it together to take him to a physical therapy appointment with Anna. I managed to be composed to get him to the appointment, but then I told Anna that I needed air. She got it immediately. We worked together long enough for her to sense when something wasn't right, because under no circumstances did I ever leave a physical therapy session. I was always right in the mix doing the activities with Mattie and Anna.

I also recall between the sonogram and the CT scan, Mattie and I sat outside in the hospital rose garden. That garden was a haven for me, away from the smells and chaos of living in a PICU. That day, I believe Mattie and I braced for the worst, and he sensed that was coming. Which was why he wanted to get out of his wheelchair, sit on my lap, and hear the story about the day he was born. He sat in my lap, almost like a baby would sit in its mother's arms. Also keep in mind by that point Mattie was very fragile and basically skin and bones. Mattie loved hearing the story about his birth date, and particularly loved the way I recounted it. As August 5th, has come and gone, it maybe another day on the calendar for others, but for us, it was the day our world fell apart yet again.

August 5, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tonight's picture was taken in June of 2008. Peter took Mattie to Nationals Park to see a baseball game. I wasn't at this game, but one of Peter's colleagues from work snapped this wonderful picture! I related to how Mattie watched a baseball game, because he wasn't interested in the game itself. He was instead fascinated by watching the people in attendance, seeing all the signage, and walking around the park. Which is quite different from Peter! Yet despite being a baseball lover, Peter accepted Mattie's interest or lack thereof during all the games they attended together. What this said to me was Mattie always came first in Peter's eyes and I appreciated Peter's well balanced view of life and sports.

Quote of the day: When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete everybody will respect you. ~ Lao Tzu

My dad sent me this quote, and as soon as I read it, I related it to grief. That probably comes as no surprise to my readers since grief has become one of the topics I now focus upon in Mattie's blog. I know I have expressed this before on the blog, but because it is such a significant issue, I think it is worth mentioning again. Grief somehow prevents you from being yourself at times, and therefore even the best of us find that we compare and compete with others around us who are also grieving. This may sound absolutely odd, inaccurate, or unhealthy, but unfortunately it is definitely the case. Sometimes the comparisons and competitions between grievers are outright and at other times they are much more subtle. At the root, I imagine the instinct to compete is purely human, but putting that aside, I do think some losses are so painful and difficult that we feel the need to emote and speak with conviction because it is vital that others around us know how important the loss is and how significant an impact it is having on our lives.  

I do see growth in myself with regard to Tzu's quote. Because in the recent past if confronted with what I deemed an insensitive or out of touch comment from a fellow griever, I would get upset, verbalize my feelings, and in essence highlight the comparisons. Now instead, I try to put these hurtful comments into context and not lash out at the person delivering them. Realizing that they are hurting too! With that said, I still do feel their hurt and I am quite aware of the insensitivities! I am talking theoretically and vaguely, so I will attempt to give you an example of what I am trying to convey.

It is not unusual after a significant loss occurs that loved ones feel lost, certainly everyday, but even more so on holidays, special events, and mile markers in one's life. The myth however is that the FIRST holiday or event is the HARDEST and that is gets easier subsequently. VERY, VERY WRONG!!! In fact, I suspect why each holiday and event gets harder for a griever is that over time people expect your life and YOU to return to normal. They expect you to snap out of it, and that joy and happiness will just set in and take over. As Peter jokes with me, he feels people want us to return to Disneyland. If it were only that simple. I am not sure reaching an emotional Disneyland will ever be possible, but finding some sort of equilibrium takes work and time. So onto the example......

Recently someone we are close to was reflecting with us about Christmas and how hard it will be for her and her family this year now that a significant relative in her family died. This person was instrumental to the family's holiday dynamics, and in essence he helped to create and bring to life a family tradition. A tradition that to some extent also dies with the person who created it. Loss has so many tangles and webs, it isn't just the loss itself that sends us spiraling down hill, but it is every aspect of life that is changed, altered, and missing. It leaves us fragile, numb, and directionless. The reflections, what she was saying, and her feelings were very understood by Peter and I. However, what impacted me was I felt as if she was talking to us as if we had no idea of what she was talking about. As if, every Christmas, holiday, and event are fine for us, and therefore we couldn't relate to the challenge that lies ahead for her. Instead of this being something that bonded us together, it further separated us apart. This whole scenario brought Tzu's quote to my mind, and in the past I would have verbalized my feelings, but now I keep them at bay. Because during certain times expressing how you are truly feeling serves no purpose especially in grief. I know how I feel, I accept that I am entitled to my feelings, and I have just about had it when I have to explain to people I perceive are close to me how I am feeling and doing. Or better yet why I am entitled to feel this way. After this interaction took place, I had no commentary on it, in fact I did not even bring it up. It was Peter who brought it to my attention and when he was telling me how he felt, it got me to see that my feelings were justified. He and I were feeling the same way. I am fortunate Peter was able to express how he felt, otherwise I may have thought I was alone in these feelings.

The sad part about grief is that the feelings are intense, emotions can be volatile and raw, and even those you once were close to, can seem miles apart from you emotionally. I assure you this is a great loss in and of itself. As Tzu implied, simply being yourself enables others to respect you. However, I find when I have to stifle how I am feeling or what I need to express to others, then I find ultimately I do not respect myself or am being authentic. Therefore, if I don't respect my own decisions, in the end no one will respect me either. So what is the lesson learned???? The lesson is grief is a journey and to survive the journey you need people who will allow you to be yourself, to express your feelings and needs, in a way that are honest and open, and doesn't set up the dynamic for comparisons and competition. When that is achieved, I find that I feel better about myself, I can be open to hearing and empathetizing with others about their losses, and as a result can unite with them as we manage through this unbearable journey.