Newly married and ready for a vibrant life, Mike’s world was changed forever after being diagnosed with mesothelioma at the young age of 29

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos that most commonly impacts people age 65 or older. So when 29-year-old Mike Mattmuller was diagnosed with the disease in 2011, he was shocked.

He and his wife, Jessica, had barely celebrated one year of marriage, but they were determined to fight this devastating cancer together. Mike went on to survive mesothelioma for 9 years, allowing him to welcome their daughter Riley into the world and get involved in the fight for an asbestos-free future.

Read about Mike’s journey through treatment, survivorship, and advocacy.

Newlyweds Face a Shocking Diagnosis

Mike was working as a civil engineer in Maryland and looking forward to sharing a life with Jessica. When he began experiencing shortness of breath, he didn’t think much of it until his symptoms worsened and expanded to lower back pain.

Mike went to urgent care for a precautionary X-ray that ultimately revealed a serious disease: pleural mesothelioma.

“At first, we were in total shock and denial. Mike was 29 years old at the time… How could he possibly have this weird disease that affects older folk?”

- Jessica Mattmuller, wife of Mike Mattmuller

The diagnosis was jarring for the young couple, especially when followed by the poor prognosis (health outlook) that often comes with mesothelioma. However, they knew they would fight this cancer with tenacity and that Mike, a young patient in good health after years of playing sports, would have a chance to defy the odds.

Read other stories of survival like Mike’s in our Free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.

Mike’s Treatment Journey to Becoming Cancer-Free

Mike started mesothelioma treatment shortly after his diagnosis.

Did You Know?

An early diagnosis provides patients with the most positive outlook for mesothelioma, as the cancer has not spread far and is easier to treat.

Mike received four rounds of a combination of the chemotherapy drugs pemetrexed and cisplatin, a standard treatment for pleural mesothelioma. It slowed the cancer growth down so he could pursue other treatment options and continue fighting.

With Jessica at his side, Mike traveled from their home in Maryland to Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital to meet with esteemed mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker. After carefully exploring surgical options, Dr. Sugarbaker recommended an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

The extensive surgery removes:

  1. The affected lung
  2. The lining of the lung, known as the pleura
  3. A small piece of the diaphragm closest to the cancerous lung
  4. The lining of the heart, known as the pericardium

Despite the intensity of this surgery, Mike was considered a great candidate thanks to his young age and good health. Shortly after his surgery in May 2012, he was declared cancer-free.

Easing Financial Stress With a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Throughout the months of treatment, Jessica attributed her husband’s impressive recovery to their positive attitude and faith in a future together. However, as medical bills and travel costs piled up, they knew they had to take action and plan for their future.

The couple decided to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the manufacturers responsible for Mike’s exposure to asbestos.

“Our lawyers at Simmons Hanly Conroy helped us out when nobody else would. They care about you, they really do. The people who are working on your case are just as concerned about your well-being as they are about what’s going on with the case.”

- Quote from Mike Mattmuller, 9-year mesothelioma survivor

The compensation they received from their lawsuit allowed them to cover their medical bills and provide for their daughter’s future — something they realized was even more important as Mike continued to survive mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, our team of Patient Advocates can see if you’re eligible for financial assistance. Contact us now to get started.

Advocating for an Asbestos-Free Future

In 2016, Mike became a 4-year mesothelioma survivor and, more importantly, a new father. He and Jessica welcomed their first child — a beautiful daughter named Riley — something they never thought would be possible when Mike was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Like all loving parents, the Mattmullers’ top priority was keeping their child safe, happy, and healthy. They realized that asbestos, which threatened Mike’s life, could still harm Riley decades later because the carcinogen is still not banned in the United States.

“Why should I have to worry about my newborn baby girl getting mesothelioma? Asbestos needs to be banned immediately.”

- Quote from Mike Mattmuller, 9-year mesothelioma survivor

As a family, they became active volunteers with the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Their ultimate goal was to protect not only Riley but also millions of others who are put at risk of asbestos exposure every single day.

For several years, Mike urged Congress to take action to ban asbestos by telling his story. His dedication to the ADAO, asbestos advocacy, and others with mesothelioma earned him the Alan Reinstein Award at the 2017 International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference.

Leaving a Legacy of Support for Other Mesothelioma Warriors

Mike was a shining light of hope for the mesothelioma community until the final moments of his life. In April 2020, after bravely battling mesothelioma for 9 years, Mike ultimately passed away.

He had the spirit of a warrior and a passionate advocate, continually motivated by the love and support of his wife and daughter. Countless others were positively impacted by his story.

“Mike was such a warrior. He took precious time away from his family to get the message out that asbestos kills and new legislation was needed to save lives… I am in awe of him.”

- Quote from Dr. Raja Flores, pleural mesothelioma specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital

Mesothelioma Hope and the larger mesothelioma community will never forget his legacy.

How to Find Support After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming and emotionally devastating. However, as Mike and Jessica’s story reveals, fighting this cancer is possible with a community of support to help you stay positive.

We’ve seen firsthand the power of hope in carrying mesothelioma survivors through their treatment. For this reason, our team is dedicated to walking alongside you and your family as you take this journey.

Connect with our team of nurses and Patient Advocates today at (866) 608-8933 or read more stories of hope and survival in our Free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  1. The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. (2020, April 16). Remembering Mike Mattmuller, Courageous Mesothelioma Warrior, Dear Friend, and Powerful Voice for Asbestos Prevention and Policy. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from

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