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 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October 2005. I have posted a few photos this week of Mattie in this costume. I just love these photos and each one captured another aspect of Mattie and the fun he was having in his Halloween costume.  In this photo he was proudly showing off his cat tail. Mattie and I worked hard on designing that cat tail and I think we did a great job. 

Quote of the day: Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees with it.  Maimonides

Last night Peter and I went out to dinner with friends. Typically I don't bring up or put in writing my thoughts on anything politically related or controversial. Because it serves no purpose to me as a Foundation leader. However, last night's conversation that was started (not by me) revolved around physician assisted suicide. This is a topic with great controversy and we all have moral, ethical, and perhaps spiritual feelings wrapped around it. One of my dinner mates and I were NOT on the same page about the topic. Which of course is fine, because we can gain a lot be airing our differences of opinions. In some cases (depending upon the topic), I may even be open to taking such perspectives into account and potentially altering mine own stance (though it doesn't typically happen, because I am grounded in my own belief system, though I can appreciate what others say, I don't waver). One of the topics I do not waver on is physician assisted suicide. I do value the sanctity of life and do understand the nature of the Hippocratic oath. Yet despite these important values, I stand behind physician assisted suicide. 

I think my stance deeply troubled my dinner mate and she worked hard trying to change my opinion. She even took out her i-phone and was reading me passages and excerpts she was finding about the topic. I took it in, but that is where it ended. After seeing Mattie suffer a grueling death for five hours, I have gained an up close and personal understanding of death..... and death is NOT pretty. But I have more than just one death under my belt. I watched my grandmother's life be transformed by a massive stroke, I saw a close friend of mine debilitated beyond recognition from ALS, and I saw the parents of a friend of mine die. Of course in these circumstances, a disease killed all five  of these people. Their deaths were not assisted, but each case further strengthened my position on physician assisted suicide. If a person is deemed terminal with only six months to live, shouldn't people be allowed the control to determine how they die and in what manner? You may ask..... how do you know if someone is terminal? Don't doctors make mistakes? Yes perhaps, but in all the cases I mentioned above, it was VERY clear that the medical prognosis was poor and death was never in question, only when it would occur.  

Dealing with a disease and dying from that disease is not only an issue of pain and suffering, but there are real social, emotional, and psychological ramifications to this. Ramifications that impact the patient and the entire family. When you watch a family member die in a traumatic way because of great pain, not being able to breathe, and having no dignity, this has a lasting impact on those who remain behind. Assuming a patient is competent to make sound medical decisions, then I think the control needs to remain in the hands of a terminal patient. 

If this topic interests you, you can read further................................

A variety of terms have historically been used to describe when a terminally ill patient uses a lethal dose of medication for the purpose of ending his or her life (or having control over the timing of death). Prior to the passage of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 1996, the term most often used was “physician-assisted suicide” (PAS). Those who use this term feel that it is an accurate reflection of the relationship between doctor and patient and refer to the etymological roots of suicide as “auto-killing” or “self-killing.” The use of this term ties the role of the physician to one that aids the patient in killing him or herself. However, implicit in the understanding of the word suicide is the notion of a premature death that is being hastened out of despair, therefore when mental illness impairs judgment, intervention to stop a suicide is ethically warranted because the person seeking suicide has lost his ability to carefully weigh the benefits and burdens of continued life. Generally speaking, persons who are suicidal are treated as though their decision-making capacity is compromised and health care providers often intervene and provide life-sustaining treatments (including involuntary psychiatric treatment) over the objections of the patient. Therefore, some people, including several national professional organizations, object to the term suicide for the choice of a terminally ill patient to hasten death, because of the associations between suicide and mental illness. They argue that, unlike the patients with impaired judgment who request suicide, terminally ill patients who request medication under the Act have the capacity to make a rational, autonomous decision to end their lives.

The term “physician aid-in-dying” (PAD) is used to describe the practice authorized under the Washington, Oregon and Vermont Death with Dignity Acts and is meant to reflect the requirement that eligible persons must be decisionally competent and have a limited life expectancy of about 6 months or less. In this context, the term is meant to reflect that physicians provide assistance to patients who are otherwise going to die, and who seek help to control the timing and circumstances of their death in the face of end-of-life suffering they deem intolerable.

What are the arguments in favor of physician aid-in-dying (PAD)?
Those who argue that PAD is ethically justifiable offer the following arguments:
  1. Respect for autonomy: Decisions about time and circumstances of death are personal. Competent people should have right to choose the timing and manner of death. 
  2. Justice: Justice requires that we "treat like cases alike." Competent, terminally ill patients have the legal right to refuse treatment that will prolong their deaths. For patients who are suffering but who are not dependent on life support, such as respirators or dialysis, refusing treatment will not suffice to hasten death. Thus, to treat these patients equitably, we should allow assisted death as it is their only option to hasten death.
  3. Compassion: Suffering means more than pain; there are other physical, existential, social and psychological burdens such as the loss of independence, loss of sense of self, and functional capacities that some patients feel jeopardize their dignity. It is not always possible to relieve suffering. Thus PAD may be a compassionate response to unremitting suffering.
  4. Individual liberty vs. state interest: Though society has strong interest in preserving life, that interest lessens when a person is terminally ill and has strong desire to end life. A complete prohibition against PAD excessively limits personal liberty. Therefore PAD should be allowed in certain cases.
  5. Honesty & transparency: Some acknowledge that assisted death already occurs, albeit in secret. The fact that PAD is illegal in most states prevents open discussion between patients and physicians and in public discourse. Legalization of PAD would promote open discussion and may promote better end-of-life care as patients and physicians could more directly address concerns and options.
What are the arguments against physician aid-in-dying (PAD)?
Those who argue that PAD is ethically impermissible often offer arguments such as these:
  1. Sanctity of life: Religious and secular traditions upholding the sanctity of human life have historically prohibited suicide or assistance in dying. PAD is morally wrong because it is viewed as diminishing the sanctity of life.
  2. Passive vs. Active distinction: There is an important difference between passively "letting die" and actively "killing." Treatment refusal or withholding treatment equates to letting die (passive) and is justifiable, whereas PAD equates to killing (active) and is not justifiable.
  3. Potential for abuse: Vulnerable populations, lacking access to quality care and support, may be pushed into assisted death. Furthermore, assisted death may become a cost-containment strategy. Burdened family members and health care providers may encourage loved ones to opt for assisted death and the protections in legislation can never catch all instances of such coercion or exploitation. To protect against these abuses, PAD should remain illegal.
  4. Professional integrity: Historical ethical traditions in medicine are strongly opposed to taking life. For instance, the Hippocratic oath states, "I will not administer poison to anyone where asked," and I will "be of benefit, or at least do no harm." Furthermore, some major professional groups such as the American Medical Association and the American Geriatrics Society oppose assisted death. The overall concern is that linking PAD to the practice of medicine could harm both the integrity and the public's image of the profession.
  5. Fallibility of the profession: The concern here is that physicians will make mistakes. For instance there may be uncertainty in diagnosis and prognosis. There may be errors in diagnosis and treatment of depression, or inadequate treatment of pain. Thus the State has an obligation to protect lives from these inevitable mistakes and to improve the quality of pain and symptom management at the end of life.

October 14, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2005. As I explained last night, Mattie NEVER celebrated Halloween in 2005, because he got sick with an ear infection that led to sepsis. However, prior to Halloween, Mattie and I made this adorable calico cat costume together. Mattie wanted the "M" cat tag! As you can see Mattie was surrounded by all the pumpkins he collected at fall festivals. He was a pumpkin fan. He loved the orange color and LOVED all pumpkin baked goods.  

Quote of the day: The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.Charles de Gaulle

I forgot to post this photo on Thursday's blog. I guess I was still in shock from the Uber ride from Hell to the Capitol, that the photo escaped my mind. 

One of the congressional offices we visited was Rep. Mike McCaul, who is one of the pediatric cancer caucus chairs. 

In 2012, Mattie Miracle gave Rep. McCaul a plaque for his support of psychosocial care and for sponsoring our first ever childhood cancer psychosocial symposium on Capitol Hill. When we entered the office, four years later...... the plaque is STILL on the wall. Can you see it?

I had a full day with my licensure board meeting and in between I took Sunny for his second grooming with us. He looks very handsome and will be taking photographs tomorrow!

This evening, my friend Heidi came to visit us with her daughter, Isabel, who is home from college on a Fall break. That is a new one to me, because I never heard of a fall break before! Sunny took a liking to Isabel and when Sunny is very comfortable he lies on his back with his paws up in the air. It is a sight to see! 

I met Isabel when she was in middle school. She has done a lot of volunteer work for Mattie Miracle. It is hard to believe we have known her for five years and she is now in college. 

October 13, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2005. Mattie was three and a half years old. That year, Mattie and I made his Halloween costume together. Mattie wanted to be a calico cat, like Patches! So we cut out pieces of felt and hot glued them onto a black sweat suit. Mattie did not like anything rough or scratchy, so sweat suit material always was the base of a perfect Mattie costume. In this photo, we were leaving our home and headed to the George Washington University. My students had invited Mattie to a campus wide community Halloween party. Mattie was eager to go! Unfortunately that was where Halloween ended for Mattie that year. Mattie developed an ear infection and sepsis days later and was hospitalized over Halloween. Mattie was upset that he couldn't trick or treat with his costume. But luckily being sweat suit material, we could stretch it and Mattie wore it in 2006! 

Quote of the day: A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.  Steve Maraboli

Today, I went to support a friend who had an important meeting to attend. In the process of visiting with my friend, I met two of her other friends, who were also there for moral support. While waiting for my friend in her meeting, I got to talk and get to know her friends. For about 75 minutes we talked about all sorts of subjects, but then the topic of Mattie and Mattie Miracle came up. I explained to one of the people the challenges of losing a child. She asked how I have been able to go on? What helps? She assumed I was now divorced, but was happy to hear that Peter and I are still married and support each other. But it was her unexpected comment that she later said to me that I have carried throughout the day. 

Though Mattie's cancer battle and death were and are horrendous, I did get to experience the beauty of our support network. People who rose to the occasion for over a year, supporting our every need. I mean every need.... lunch, dinner, toys, gifts, you name it, they delivered on it EVERY DAY for 14 months. I explained to these two individuals today that so many of these Team Mattie supporters are now my best volunteers for the Foundation. They are still a part of our lives and I commented they are special people. It is rare for find such committed and compassionate people. Now here is what caught me by surprise. My friend's friend said..... somehow I think the reason they are so committed is because of you! You, being me! What she was saying is that she deems me the kind of person who is very kind, generous, and giving with others and therefore, the reason I receive this is because I always hold myself accountable to do this level of kindness for others. It was actually one of the nicest compliments I have received in a long time, and from someone who really doesn't know me. 

I think one of the most important things never to lose sight of in life, is that we live in a world with other people. Though we may be hurt, angry, and have had unexpected things happen to us, we can't shut others out. What I mean by that is when dealing with our own issues, we can become self absorbed and focused on ourselves. The needs of others can get filtered out and at times ignored. Yet what I have found is opening one's self up to listening, hearing others, and trying to help, results in making us stronger and in the end more likely to handle and manage our own crises. I will never underestimate the medicinal power of helping others. This process of doing and affecting the lives of others in a positive way are powerful change agents not only for others but for ourselves. 

October 12, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old, and as you can see he and Peter were experiencing the huge outdoor slides at a fall festival. The previous year, Mattie wanted NOTHING to do with these slides. But by the following year, he and Peter braved the experience. Mattie absolutely loved it and wanted to go down the slide multiple times while we were there! 

Quote of the day: We were forever one earthquake away from losing it all.  Alison Singh Gee

I totally relate to this quote tonight! Peter and I got into an Uber today to head to Capitol Hill. We have had very bad experiences with taxis, so we have now moved onto Uber. Peter takes Uber all over the USA. I personally do not like getting into any one else's car, unless I know them. So as crazy as this sounds, I would never Uber alone. That is my own issue with personal safety. The person who drove us to Capitol Hill today was UNSTABLE! I am quite sure he was high. Not on life, but on drugs. He was playing unbelievably offensive music at a VERY loud decibel (music about loving death, get the picture?). He was beating his hands on the steering wheel, and then if all of that wasn't bad enough, he was driving like a maniac! Truly reckless. I feel lucky to have gotten out of that car alive but he made me very anxious and edgy. I am so happy Peter could immediately report him electronically to Uber because this person shouldn't be driving ANYONE. Much less have a driver's license. 

Prior to my Hill visit, I drove to Alexandria, VA to meet with the outreach committee at Goodwin House. I wanted to personally thank them for their very generous contribution and to see if there would be ways we could continue to work together. Goodwin House is right next door to Mattie's preschool. This is a photo of the grounds of the preschool where I parked today. 

I remember Mattie learning to sled down the hill above, and of course Mattie meeting friends after school on the playground. 

This is the pathway I used to walk with Mattie every Monday while he was in preschool. Where the red truck is.... was Mattie's preschool, and from where I was standing to take the photo is Goodwin House. I would assist the teachers, as we took 12 kids across the roadway in sunshine and rain. 
This is the walkway up to Goodwin House. A familiar pathway I remember taking for a year. It is hard to believe that these preschoolers are now in high school, well all except for my preschooler. 

The march of costumes up to Goodwin House in October of 2006. 
The entrance way to Goodwin House today!

The entrance to Goodwin House in October of 2006. Mattie was the fellow dressed as a calico with cat ears  (left corner)! 

October 11, 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 -- Mattie died 369 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2004. Mattie was two and a half years old and this was his second year attending Fall Festivals. Mattie just loved them. The previous year (Mattie's first year going), Mattie was rather intimidated. He was overwhelmed by the number of people, the noises, and forget about the big slides on the hills. Mattie wanted nothing to do with these huge outdoor slides. But by the second year, and with coaxing from Peter, they went down them together. That was my first real glimpse at the adventuresome nature within Mattie. 

Quote of the day: The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.Audrey Hepburn

Tomorrow I am headed to Goodwin House to meet with their outreach committee. They are the residential community that just surprised us with a $5,000 contribution. I look forward to meeting this group, thanking them and encouraging them to join our events. After that meeting, we are then headed to Capitol Hill to meet with staffers about next steps regarding the psychosocial standards of care project. It will be a busy Wednesday. 

This is what is going on in our living room right now. Indie is sitting on a chair and staring at me!!!

This was what Indie was staring at! Sunny just LOVES attention and affection. But don't worry Indie gets her own time too! She is completely used to Sunny now and has no problem walking around him, hanging out near him and sniffing him! Way to go Indie!

October 10, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old and posing in front of his enormous play pen. This gated area practically took up both our dining and living rooms. But there were all sorts of interesting things to play with inside. My goal was to try to teach Mattie to play independently. But Mattie always found a way to include me or Peter.... he preferred it that way. 

Quote of the day: The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.  John Green

Mattie Miracle spoke with another large hospital today in the area about starting a snack cart there. One of our corporate sponsors has offered to fund another cart, so I am trying to make this happen. It was funny. When I spoke to the hospital they had great concerns about ALL the candy on the Georgetown cart. They thought the cart was meant for patients, and explained that they like to limit their patients' sugar intake. I then explained the psychosocial purpose of the cart, which is to help provide items to families caring for children with life threatening illnesses. I joked with them about the fact that the last thing a parent wants to see when up all night is a granola bar. You want sugar, in the form of candy! They then got the concept. It is a concept that few really think about since most organizations truly focus only on the patient. But there is a whole family system impacted by one diagnosis. So negotiations are underway. 

Later today, I went onto Facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and truly try NOT to spend time on it. Besides inane information, there is also information that can depress you. Whether we are talking about social/political commentary or simply the hundreds of photos of families with children. Yet I logged onto Facebook and noticed that one of our friends in cancer posted this comment:

It seems clear to me that a wounded heart is equally capable of embracing or rejecting compassion, but a calloused one is inclined to deliberately resent it. The question I find myself asking is, how the hell did they get so far apart from one another if both started on the same path? Maybe there is no definitive answer.

I tried to answer this question, because I assumed he was asking it in the context of childhood cancer. How can one reject compassion? Actually I think it is rather easy given one's life experiences and circumstances. Many of us who lost a child can become hardened or even calloused. After all, life did not show our child compassion, so why should we return the favor. I have to admit that there are times I can cycle in and out of this stance. For the most part I always aim for compassion, but when anger and hostility set in (and they can with me), I will shut down and despite the compassionate responses I may hear, they get filtered out. The important thing however, is to be aware of these feelings and when you can't be, to be open to those you trust to hear their insights about your behavior. 

But beyond the context of childhood cancer, there are many reasons why we reject compassion because we may not have experienced it ourselves or the fear of failure. As tonight's quote points out, we may live in a labyrinth of suffering because we can't forgive, and the forgiveness I am referring to is of one's self. When things don't go as planned or when life takes you down a road you never thought you would have to face, failure can ensue. You can feel responsible for the outcomes you see and as such you turn that failure, anger, and bitterness internally. That can produce quite an effective wall, that is impenetrable to compassion and kindness. Also to receive compassion means that you are open to feelings and trust that letting someone in is the safe thing to do. However, unfortunately we sometimes learn the hard way that trusting others can lead to more pain and suffering, therefore we become closed off from human interactions for protection but at the same time become disconnected from the beauty that can also result. 

I am not sure I answered his dilemma, but as I told him I was sharing my insights from my own experiences. He is writing from the view point of trying to give compassion to others, and his efforts have been rejected. The question I have is..... if your compassionate acts are rejected or ignored, will this prevent you from offering such kindness to others? My answer is.... I HOPE NOT! 

October 9, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2003. Mattie was a year and a half old and in his early years, Mattie looked more like Peter. But as he moved into his toddler years and definitely in preschool, Mattie began to resemble me. Mattie was absolutely fascinated by the camera and you can see he was reaching for it as I was trying to snap a photo!

Quote of the day: Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.  Roger Caras

The weather turned on us this weekend, with rain, grayness, whipping wind, and cooler temperatures. Of course that doesn't stop Sunny! He is like the mailman.... out in the rain, snow, or sleet! 

I had Peter put on a squirrel video on TV. I wanted to see Sunny's reaction to it! From across our first floor, Sunny came rushing over to the TV to check out the sounds of nature. 

You can see that Sunny was glued to what he was seeing. It was absolutely adorable. Squirrels fascinate Sunny, and when he sees them on our walks, he gets very excited and wants to chase them up a tree. 
Sunny was confused by what he was seeing though. He knew the squirrels weren't real and yet couldn't grasp what he was seeing. But this frustrated Sunny. So he decided he wanted to go outside on our balcony to see if there were any squirrels to be found. 
This evening we went out to dinner and sure enough there was Mattie Moon! 
A close up of Mattie Moon! I wish Mattie were alive for many reasons. I would have loved to see Mattie interact with Sunny. Mattie would certainly love Sunny, and considering he always wanted a dog, I know these two would have been great pals.