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 24, 2020

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on October 20, 2007. Mattie was five years old and in kindergarten. That weekend his school had their Fall homecoming and Festival. So we took Mattie to the Fall Festival of events. It involved everything from face painting, moon bounces, to food. We met up with many of Mattie's kindergarten buddies that day. Mattie had a great time. What was remarkable about this was a month or two before this point, Mattie was sad and upset that he had to leave his preschool to attend elementary school. But after about a month at his new school, he loved it. He fit in, had a lovely group of friends and all the parents of these friends remain committed to Mattie's Foundation even today. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,547,198
  • number of people who died from the virus: 224,537

My mom sent me this cute video today of dogs dressed up for Halloween. If you are a dog fan, click on this photo below. It had me laughing. I have had many people over the years ask me if I was going to dress Sunny up for Halloween. Mainly because Sunny is so handsome! Peter is not a big fan of costumes and outfits on dogs, so therefore Sunny is spared! I had no idea that the whole idea of dressing your dog up for Halloween was a controversial topic. Until I Googled it! What isn't controversial these days? Seems to me that the decision to dress up your dog or not, should depend on the temperament of the dog. 

Sunny is part Australian Shepherd. Below are some cute Halloween photos of shepherds/maybe a collie or two! I don't think Sunny would like having any clothing on him, but I can picture him in each of these costumes. 

A Bee!
A cowboy!
Dr. Seuss!
The king!
Golf anyone?
An adorable ghost!
A butterfly!
The emperor!

We took Sunny on a 3 mile walk along the Potomac River today. Sunny LOVES walking in the woods. I can't tell you how many people we passed today who told us we have a beautiful dog. Several also wanted to know how Sunny handles the trails. As the trails are rocky and uneven! Sunny is a natural explorer and a pleasure to take on a woods walk. 
At times the trail is flat! But you always have to watch the ground to prevent tripping over tree roots, rocks, and other debris. 
It was like a spring day today! The water was peaceful and calm.
See this! We climbed through these rocks to get from one side to the other. Sunny had no problem! But he was patient as I figured out how to get across. 
See that white tail? This deer literally leaped in front of us on the trail. Sunny let out with a lot of barking and if he wasn't leashed, he'd be flying after that deer. 
Lots of climbing and walking! But Sunny gets plenty of water breaks. I think he matches the autumn leaves. 
Sunny loves riding in the car and he particularly loves staring out the window at the woods!
While Sunny is my side kick, Indie is Peter's. Peter was in the kitchen prepping ribs for tonight. Indie always remains close! I honestly think she is part dog. 
Indie found where we keep a spare feather toy of hers! Don't you know she dug it out and started playing with it. 
Indie with her blue feather! Indie is a "birder." She is far more intrigued by birds than let's say squirrels, mice, or things that scurry!

October 23, 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken on October 7, 2008. That day, students of mine from the University came by to drop off this large Halloween theme basket for Mattie. The basket was almost as large as Mattie. It was a very thoughtful and colorful gift. I found it very touching, but as you can see, Mattie had a different reaction. He was very sad and landed up crying. For the most part, I would say that Mattie did a great job balancing the complexities, pain, and emotional roller coaster of cancer. Yet there were times or incidents, that triggered reactions. This was one of those times. The basket reminded him that things were not normal. He was sick, living in a hospital, and would not be celebrating Halloween like his friends. 

Yet look at this photo! It was taken 10 minutes after the one above. Thank goodness for time and date stamps! Within the big Halloween basket were these adorable finger puppets. Mattie pulled them out and though his eyes were red from crying, he started to play and interact with me. I am sure I helped him in some way redirect and potentially find the positive in a sea of despair. But Mattie's journey always serves as an example to me. When I am down, I realize things can always be worse. Even in the worst of times, Mattie had the inner spirit to look for the positive. It was one of the many things Mattie taught me. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,472,847
  • number of people who died from the virus: 223,752

How often in the middle of the city do you see a praying mantis? For me the answer is RARELY! The last time I saw one near our home, Mattie was alive. Mattie LOVED bugs. All kinds. Another thing we differed greatly on! 

Mattie would have loved this sighting today. So much so, he'd probably ask if we could take this mantis home. Of course the answer would be NO! 
The mantis is named for its prominent front legs that fold together in a gesture suggesting devotion, the praying mantis comes off as serene and soulful. You might think of them as docile things, moving about slowly, nibbling on orchids ... but looks can deceive. The truth is, mantises are ambush predators with lightning-fast moves. 

One of the things I miss about Mattie, was his outlook on life. He seemed to have an innate understanding for the importance of slowing down and observing the world around you. Perhaps it is the beauty of being a child. In any case, with sightings like this today, if Mattie were alive, this would have inspired us to do some research into this creature to learn more about the mantis. Nothing like learning from nature and real life. 

So in honor of Mattie, I naturally googled the Praying Mantis. Here are some fun facts about our green, brown, black, and sometimes white friends (as they camouflage themselves to the environment that surrounds them):
  1. Praying mantises possess stereo vision, and thanks to the placement of their eyes, they also have a wide field of vision. Not only can mantises see in 3-D, but research has found their 3-D vision works differently from all previously known forms in nature. Aside from revealing more about mantises themselves, this could help scientists develop better vision in robots.
  2. Mantises are the only insects capable of turning their heads from side to side. Being able to turn its head without moving the rest of its body is a key advantage for a mantis when hunting, allowing for minimal movement as it sneaks up on prey.
  3. To the surprise of scientists filming them, mantises have been found to jump with extreme precision, contorting their body midair to land on a precarious and specific target. Check out this video....
  4. Praying mantises wait to ambush or patiently stalk their prey, but once they’re ready to strike, they do so with lightning speed, attacking with those big front legs so quickly it’s hard to see with the naked eye. In addition, they have spikes on their legs to skewer and pin the victims into place.
  5. Mantises like their food still moving, apparently. That can make them helpful in pest control, since they prey on some potentially destructive insects like beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers, but it's worth noting they aren't picky eaters. Check out this video:

October 22, 2020

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2008. Mattie was in the outpatient clinic of the hospital. Next to him was his haunted house. Mattie constructed it out of a cardboard box. The box remained in the clinic and each week, Mattie would work on it and add to it. As you can see there were ghosts attached to the house, but in Mattie's hand was a witch that he created with his art therapists. By the time this haunted house was done, it was an incredible piece of art. As the inside and the outside were equally spooky!

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,398,267
  • number of people who died from the virus: 222,940

What's with the teacups? Good question! It relates to my dream last night. They say people are dreaming more than ever due to COVID. I am not sure that is exactly true for me, other than I find I am actually remembering my dreams more often now. 

Last night, I was dreaming of tea cups. I mean a lot of tea cups. Apparently I was living in a house. One that I did not recognize. In fact, I did not recognize the surroundings at all. Yet in this unrecognizable house, I was hosting a tea party. I invited people. But who showed up were people from every avenue of my life. It was like a walk down memory lane from people I knew as a child to now as an adult. However, what was notable in my dream was more people showed up than I had planned and I was desperately searching the house for more cups to serve my guests. At one point, I went outside the house and asked Peter to help me look in cabinets and bins that sat in our driveway. I can recall opening cabinet after cabinet, bin after bin. Instead of finding junk or extraneous items in these storage places, ALL I found were cups. They were the only thing I had stored. To my amazement, I had a tea cup with every pattern and shape possible. It surprised me in my dream, as I had no idea where these cups came from. It was like winning the lottery, except I did not buy a ticket, nor was I winning money. My bounty was in cups. Not to mention friends who showed up. 

If I looked up dreams involving china or porcelain, what I discovered is this could mean that "positive changes are afoot." Well that is most welcomed considering the various stressors we are living under. In addition to the usual stressors, I think the daily routine and social isolation are getting to me. So in a way, if I find no meaning in all the cups (other than maybe I want to hold a tea party!), I definitely do with all the friends who showed up in my dream. It is a reminder that even when we feel the lowest, we really are never alone.

October 21, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2007. Mattie was five years old and given the month, we were at a Fall Festival. In a way, it was our family tradition on the Fall weekends. As you can see we were on a hay wagon ride, which had taken us out to a pumpkin patch. Mattie loved picking pumpkins off the vine, but I would say he LOVED everything pumpkin. From bread to pies! In fact, until I had Mattie, I must admit I wasn't a big pumpkin fan. But since Mattie loved it, I did a lot of baking with pumpkin and grew to love it too. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,312,109
  • number of people who died from the virus: 221,694

I would say Peter and I have been through our fair share of stressors and life adjustments. Naturally during COVID, everyone is frustrated, anxious, and at times depressed. I feel like I could do a "how to" manual, about how to survive the impossible. I am kidding of course, because anyone who knows me knows I am not a firm believer of these how to lists. As if everyone manages or experiences things the same way??? They don't!

But for us, we are dealing with COVID lock downs, Peter's job search, and concerns about the health of our parents. Seems to me any one of these things is stress provoking, but in totality, it feels overwhelming. Oh and I forgot to mention, that Peter is balancing being our neighbor's executor of his will. Which has its own complications as the executors appointed by our neighbor refused to do the role! So our neighbor's family appointed Peter. Not a simple request, as it has to go through the DC courts, which are moving in slow motion thanks to COVID. 

With all these different stressors, I feel like they have triggered intense migraines. But I am not just dealing with your average migraine, I have a cluster headache. I have only had one other cluster headache in my life. They are awful, they last months, and are very debilitating. So far I am on week two of dealing with this pain, and I must admit it is exhausting, irritating, and makes it hard to focus on anything. My neurologist says the best treatment for this is steroids, but I refuse to take them. 

So what's the difference between a migraine and a cluster headache? Well an individual with chronic migraines might think they are experiencing cluster headaches, but the symptoms of the two are unique. In addition to headaches, people with migraines tend to feel nauseous, see auras, and be sensitive to light. Cluster headaches are more likely to cause sinus issues such as runny noses or watery eyes. They can also come on suddenly, while migraines tend to develop more slowly. Alongside the debilitating pain, several common signs and symptoms come with cluster headaches. The headache will generally affect only one side of the face, with pain targeted around that eye. The eye might also appear red or weepy, swell, or droop.

October 20, 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 -- Mattie died 577 weeks ago today. 

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. That weekend we took Mattie to a fall festival. One of the fun activities at the event was a corn maze. As you can see, Mattie was smiling from ear to ear in front of the corn. Happiness from successfully completing the maze! Mattie introduced me to so many new events and activities. It was wonderful to be able to experience these adventures through Mattie's eyes, commentary, and feelings. Something, now 11 years later, we still miss. As there is nothing like experiencing the world through a child's eyes. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,258,568
  • number of people who died from the virus: 220,806

In August of 2019, I went with my parents on a Canadian Cruise. One of our stops was to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Specifically to the Anne of Green Gables Museum. As you can see they had a girl with a red wig dressed up as Anne and she greeted guests and took photos with us. Unlike many of the people on tour, I had never read the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. But it was clear that Lucy was LOVED and she helped to put PEI on the map. I heard many women around me oohing and aahing over the books about Anne and the wonderful, heartwarming stories, her mature, yet full of imaginative personality. I absorbed what they were saying, but I couldn't quite appreciate it because I was truly unfamiliar with Anne of Green Gables. 

When my mom and I visited the Museum, there were many tourists from Japan visiting. Apparently Japan LOVES Anne. There is even a replica of Anne's house in Hokkaido, Japan. The love began just before the outbreak of the Second World War, when a Canadian missionary gave her student Hanako Muraoka a copy of the book, Anne of Green Gables. It continues to this day with an anime series, comics and several Japanese movies inspired by the story.

Why am I reliving my trip to the Museum, because I am now watching a Netflix series called Anne with an E. It is basically bringing Lucy Maud Montgomery's book to life. As I am watching this coming of age period drama, I am transported back to my visit to PEI. I just wish I read the book before visiting the Museum. But now I have much greater insight into why there is a cult following. In a way, Lucy Maud Montgomery was able to capture the complexities of adolescence, the challenges of being a woman, the importance of imagination, making the best out of a bad situation, and to appreciate the beauty around you. Both Peter and I are loving this series. In fact, I can't get through even one episode without a tear. The writing is beautiful, each episode is heartwarming, and the characters in this story have a way of weaving their way into your heart. 

Here is the story line...............
In 1896, elderly brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (who live together as they never married) decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out around their ancestral farm of Green Gables, on the outskirts of the Canadian town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When Matthew goes to pick the child up at the railway station, he finds 13-year-old Anne Shirley, an imaginative, bright, high-spirited, and talkative girl, instead (an orphan since her parents died when she was a few months old, Anne lived as a servant in various households before being placed in an orphanage).

While Matthew decides he would like for her to stay, Marilla does not trust Anne, given her status as an unknown orphan and the perceived uselessness of a young girl. Her distrust appears confirmed when Marilla cannot locate a brooch, thus leading her to believe that Anne is a thief. The Cuthberts send her away, thus "returning" her to the orphanage. While she does arrive back at the orphanage, she is terrified to enter, haunted by bullying she had endured there and returns to the train station. Meanwhile, Marilla discovers that the brooch had been misplaced rather than lost and that prejudice had led her to believe Anne was a thief. Matthew consequently finds Anne and convinces her to return to Green Gables, where she is officially made part of their family. However, Anne continues to face bullying from students in the Avonlea school and class based discrimination from Diana's parents and others in Avonlea. Anne once again returns to her survival mechanisms of imagination, intelligence and problem-solving abilities that eventually lead to her acceptance by the rest of the community.

October 19, 2020

Monday, October 19, 2020

Monday, October 19, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. That weekend we took Mattie for a day trip to Maryland, to ride on the Walkersville Southern Railroad. It is an experience as the railroad was built in 1872, you can ride vintage passenger cars from the 1920s, and you pass an 100-year-old lime kiln and picturesque Maryland farm country. It was a cool day and the rest of us sat inside the train cars. Not Peter and Mattie! They were out in the elements enjoying the views. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,202,679
  • number of people who died from the virus: 220,046

I had a phone call this afternoon from a friend and fellow mom, whose son is a five time survivor of childhood cancer. I met this special mom, when Mattie was in treatment. We have remained connected all these years and she is also very generous with Mattie Miracle. She called to tell me about the memoir book she is writing and was hoping I would write a submission for her to include in her book. 

Naturally I am very honored that she would consider me, and I am beyond impressed that she has the focus and the courage to put her family's story down in print. Having the desire to do this myself, I am well aware of the complexities of doing this. As it is an emotional task of grand proportion.

While talking to my friend, she mentioned that Peter and I are the perfect examples of "post-traumatic growth." I have to admit that this is not the first time I have been told this. I hear this from colleagues (who know what the term means) and our Foundation's researchers. Yet despite this being a psychological term, despite being a licensed mental health professional, and despite being an educator I do not like this term. It doesn't resonate with me at all. 

So what is post-traumatic growth (PTG)? It is a theory that explains transformation following trauma. It was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the mid-1990s, and holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward. In fact, many people who have survived trauma, have found positive change as well—a new appreciation for life, a newfound sense of personal strength and a new focus on helping others.

To evaluate whether and to what extent someone has achieved growth after a trauma, psychologists look for positive responses in five areas:

1: Appreciation of life

2: Relationships with others

3: New possibilities in life

4: Personal strength

5: Spiritual change

Do I think growth can happen after a trauma? YES! But I don't like the notion that one has to experience a trauma, that this trauma is necessary in order for a profound "psychological seismic" transformation to result in growth. I strongly believe that I always had an appreciation for life and helping others WAY BEFORE Mattie was diagnosed with cancer and then died. I just don't like associating growth with Mattie's death. It strikes me the wrong way, just like the crazy term "new normal." I neither asked for my "new" life, nor did I wish for this form of "growth." 

I can with confidence say that I would prefer the term post-traumatic meaning. That doesn't have such a happy go lucky positive spin to what I view as a catastrophe in my life. Through Mattie's cancer journey and death, I have had to find meaning to what happened to him and to us, and to use that knowledge to find a way forward to re-engage with the world. That doesn't mean I feel like I have grown, that I have made it through the trauma and found joy and happiness (two more words I dislike intensely) in my world. Because I am not sure I have or ever will. 

That said, I do know that Mattie's cancer journey showed me many things such as the amazing connections and community we have in our lives. A network of incredible friends who dropped everything during our 15 month journey to meet Mattie's every need. Not to mention our own. I am not sure I would have seen or felt this overwhelming beauty and spirit in people if I did not live through a crisis. Is this growth within me? Again, I would say no! Instead it is the meaning I gained from the trauma that remains inside me. It guides my relationships with people and it also guides the mission and objectives of Mattie's Foundation. 

Needless to say, as I write a passage for my friend's book, I will NOT be focusing on Post Traumatic Growth. A concept that I believe the psychological community  coined to help clinicians find purpose, direction, and hope within their therapy sessions with survivors of trauma. Instead, I will remain true to myself, my principles and feelings, and focus on MEANING. The meaning of this trauma and how it is my compass in my personal life and Foundation work.  

October 18, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2005. This was a typical scene within our living room. Mattie loved to paint with his feet. I have no idea why, but the tactile feeling it provided was right up his alley. Mattie created some wonderful prints of his feet and plenty of creative note cards. Despite the mess this created, Mattie had the where with all not to run around our home with painted feet. When he was done, he'd lift his arms up, which meant that he was ready to be carried to the sink to get cleaned up. The beauty of Mattie! He was born with a understanding and sensitivity beyond his years. 

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

  • number of people diagnosed with the virus: 8,140,728
  • number of people who died from the virus: 219,599

Last night we attended a gathering for our friends Mary and Mike who sold their home and are moving to Ohio. Despite the chilly temperatures outside, I think everyone was thrilled to be able to reconnect, converse, and share in the excitement of our friends' new chapter in their lives. Of course saying good-bye is never an easy thing to do. Perhaps I am jaded from moving around, but I know what geographical distance can do to relationships. But then again when you say good-bye to friends, it makes me pause and also realize how life is about constant change. Nothing stays the same. Yet there is something to be said to consistency. Some of us actually crave it and it helps provide balance to our lives. As you can see, Mary's move has brought up many issues for me. 

We took Sunny on a new trail today at Turkey Run park. It was a beautiful fall day, and Sunny loves new adventures. We walked about 2.5 miles with him, but we traversed an elevation of over 110 feet. So we had quite the climb to get down and back from the Potomac River. 

We met several people and dogs along the way. As the outdoors is the only place right now where any of feel at peace. 
We walked down an 110 foot elevation to get to this spot. It was very tranquil and I loved the clouds dotting the blue sky. 
Peter and Sunny! Sunny was all business, as he wanted to keep moving to continue the exploration.