Matt’s Story

Matt Ellefson - SURVIVEiT Founder and CEO

Matt Ellefson – SURVIVEiT Founder and CEO

Cancer finds us wherever we are in our lives. Cancer found Matt in the midst of a successful career and among a large, happy family. In the fall of 2009, Matt developed a cough that he couldn’t shake. He didn’t look sick. He didn’t feel sick. So he went on with his life without giving it much thought. Then one morning in December, Matt began coughing up blood. Within hours, Matt and his wife, Melissa, were told that he had late stage lung cancer. They were told that without treatment, he would have eight months to live. With treatment, he faced a five-year survival rate of less than five percent.

“…A lot of fear sets in. It’s the fear of people you’ve seen suffer and lose their life to this disease. Also the fear of the unknown. I wanted to know everything I could about my disease.”

Matt and Melissa immediately reached out to their family, and the work to find a promising treatment strategy began. After an exhaustive and frustrating search, they found a clinical trial for his form of cancer in Houston, Texas. Matt spent five months living with family members in Houston while undergoing extremely aggressive treatments. Melissa divided her time between Houston and Sioux Falls, where their five children remained. Over the course of those five months, they faced not only Matt’s cancer, but multiple life-threatening illnesses and side-effects related to the treatment itself.

“…the worst part of my cancer journey was the wait. Not the pain from the cancer and treatment, but the wait from the time of diagnosis to when I began treatments. Many other survivors I talk to share the same experience.”

The experimental treatment in Houston was successful, and in 2010 Matt’s cancer went into remission. Since then, he has had six recurrences, all of which have also been treated successfully.

Today, Matt is effectively controlling his cancer with his strong faith, a genomic-based treatment strategy, and living a healthy lifestyle. Matt lives an active life that includes running and cycling, yoga, speaking engagements, and exploring the world with his family. He serves as a spiritual mentor and national cancer advocate through his work with Celebrate Community Church, WIN Consortium, LUNGevity Foundation, Imerman Angels, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, PhRMA, and LIVESTRONG. He has been featured on SiriusXM Doctor’s Radio, the cover of BizNOW magazine, CURE magazine, and numerous PSA print, radio, and television broadcasts.

Since his diagnosis, Matt has found strength in his faith and his family. He has also found his mission with SURVIVEiT®.

Matt has a dream of a world free from the fear of cancer. Through his relationship with God, Matt committed to using what he’s learned from his life journey, as well as his 28-year career in engineering and business development, to develop a series of tools to help anyone affected by cancer. In July of 2013, Matt founded SURVIVEiT®, the world’s first and only non-profit cancer care rating resource. Developed by survivors for patients, SURVIVEiT® provides a web-based platform for anyone affected by cancer to find the very best options in cancer treatment, strengthen their faith, research their disease, rate and share their care experiences, and support each other every step of the way.

SURVIVEiT® was born out of the fear and frustration that Matt and his family experienced while they searched for a solution. They learned that cancer doesn’t slow down for us to find the best treatment options. It doesn’t wait for us to find our spiritual centers. Cancer finds us wherever we are in our lives.

With SURVIVEiT®, we can meet cancer with a plan. We can be ready. We can be fearless.

13 Comments on “Matt’s Story

  1. Hello Matt, I was diagnosed with stage 3 non small cell lung cancer in Mar14′ and have completed the 1st stage of radiation and chemo as of Jun 10. I was told I would have to wait 3 months to find out any results, which for me was unacceptable. We move the up and thang God there has been a 60% reduction of that mass, but they found another mass near my left clavicle. I’m in a 10 day aggressive radiation treatment for it. Like you , I have an phenominal support group around me. I’m encouraged by you sharing your journey and will no doubt be back to read your entire site. God bless and keep your eyes on Jesus!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and learnings. We head to MA General tomorrow to meet with Dr Shaw. If we only knew two yrs ago what we know today, meaning if we knew what questions to ask, we might not be in the position we are now. May God Bless you

    • Unfortunately you’re not alone Eileen which is why so many survivors have come together to develop SURVIVEiT. Our prayers are with you and your mother. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime for any reason. We live to help our brothers and sisters in need.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and courages battle with lung cancer. My husband has been recently diagnosed with NSCLC Adenocarcinoma stage IV. He is a nonsmoker so was rather tough to understand how this could be. An extensive stain done on 1 of the biopsy’s proved he also is ALK positive and is currently prescribed Xalkori and is working well for him. Tumors and lymph nodes are shrinking and side effects are minimal. Keep up the fight!!

    • Thanks Signe! Xalkori is a great drug…I’ve been under treatment with it for 46 months. Please let me know if I can help you or your husband in any way!

  4. Dear Matt,

    a month ago I was diagnosed with lung cancer metastasis stage IV.
    I am now on AFITANIB medication. I am a mother of 40 years old never smoked in my life! it was too much information to take in one month. they say I have around a year! I will fight it for my loved ones! I already did a week of radiation.
    I found you on twitter,
    you gave me so much hope!


    • Nohad,

      Thanks for your comment! I know what it’s like to face this disease and have been living with stage IV cancer for over 6 years. I’d be happy to help you in anyway you need it. Please feel free to visit us on Facebook or join our Facebook group page at SURVIVEiT Lung. You will also find useful information at
      Live fearless!

  5. Thank you Matt for being there for my friend, Sonny. Fear of the unknown is the worst. You help ease that pain for many…

  6. Pingback: Healthcare Sector Patient Stories | Phamax Market Access Solutions

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