Roughly one year ago, on April 14, 2020, the mesothelioma and asbestos-disease prevention community experienced an enormous and tragic loss when the well-known and deeply admired father, husband, son and courageous mesothelioma warrior Mike Mattmuller passed away at just 38 years old.
During this year’s Global Asbestos Awareness Week (GAAW), we wish to take a day to honor the memory of Mike Mattmuller. He may no longer be with us, but he will never be forgotten.
Mike was never just a client at Simmons Hanly Conroy. Like many of the mesothelioma survivors we work with, Mike became family — and his family also became our family.
Diagnosed in 2011 with pleural mesothelioma at the young age of 29, Mike’s diagnosis was unusual. Due to the 10 to 50 year latency period between asbestos exposure and the first symptoms of disease, a majority of those diagnosed with mesothelioma tend to be older, often in their 50s, 60s and beyond.
For many newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients, their prognosis ranges from 6 to 18 months. Mike battled mesothelioma for nine years, enduring surgery after surgery and dozens of rounds of chemotherapy.
Even with the surgical removal of Mike’s left lung, pericardium and half of his diaphragm, Mike continued to battle his way to the front lines of the asbestos-disease prevention movement, becoming an outspoken patient who personified grit, perseverance and hope for so many in the mesothelioma community
In summer of 2016, when Mike and his wife Jess welcomed their daughter Riley Jean into the world, they knew they had to do whatever it took to protect her. Since that day, Mike and Jess redoubled their efforts to tirelessly fight for an asbestos ban to help prevent others from being affected by asbestos-related diseases. Riley has always been their pride and motivation.
“Why should I have to worry about my newborn baby girl getting mesothelioma?” Mike once asked. “[Asbestos] needs to be banned immediately.”
Over his 9-year battle with mesothelioma, Mike presented multiple times before U.S. Congressional members and their staffers, helping to spearhead legislative efforts toward an asbestos ban alongside the president and CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) Linda Reinstein.
About his fight, Mike said,
“I’m here, I’m alive, I’m still walking around. I have a two-year-old daughter who I get to cherish every moment with. So, it’s been absolutely amazing. It’s been hard, my god it’s been hard, but it’s been worth every minute.”
In addition to volunteering for ADAO and testifying on Capitol Hill, Mike also participated in our firm’s Miles for Meso 5K Races, helping to show support, raise awareness and fund education. He and Jess participated in the virtual race for many years and he attended as an ADAO Team Captain in 2018 for the race’s 10th Anniversary.
Mike is survived by his loving parents, his wonderful wife, Jessica, and his incredible daughter Riley. Mike is also survived by the thousands of men and women in the mesothelioma and asbestos-disease prevention community who have seen his spirit, positive energy and tireless work as a beacon of hope and an example to follow.
Mike never once doubted what he would do when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma: Fight like hell — and not just for himself, but for Riley.
He was a force — an agent of change — and through his spirit he turned something horrible into a lasting legacy for countless others. His loving family stood with him every step of the way. That is the powerful legacy Mike leaves behind. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers remain with Riley and Jess now and forever, and they do with all those who have needlessly suffered from the devastation of mesothelioma.
At Simmons Hanly Conroy, we continue to look forward to a future when no one else will have to know the pain caused by this preventable disease. There is no doubt in our minds that that day is now closer than it has ever been – due largely to the bravery of Mike and Jess who shared their fight with the entire asbestos-disease prevention community.
We hope you will take a moment to watch the following video to learn Mike’s story. May it inspire you to work as tirelessly and selflessly as Mike did.