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Smiling headshot of Ellen, Neck and Thyroid Cancer survivor

Meet Ellen and Matt

Thyroid Cancer Survivor and Husband & Caregiver

"Every day that I was at Moffitt I always came home enriched."

Golf. Shopping. Wine. Making people smile.

For Ellen, those were some of the things that brought joy to her life.

And then she received some news that would test her naturally positive outlook. She had metastatic squamous neck cancer, a disease in which squamous cell cancer spreads to lymph nodes in the neck. Ellen took it hard. Her husband Matt took it harder, because some 40 years earlier he had faced his own battle with cancer.

Ellen was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center, where a biopsy revealed more. “We were told it was stage 4 and I was in for a bit of an uphill battle,” she recalls. She would have chemotherapy and radiation, followed by neck dissection surgery. But there was more.

During the procedure, her surgeon, Dr. Otto, also discovered thyroid cancer. Ellen’s uphill battle suddenly got steeper. She would rely even more heavily on Matt—“my rock,” she says—for the support and unique perspective he could offer having survived his own cancer.

“It just drew us even closer,” she says. “There’s a reason why we met. I can’t imagine my life without him.”

Yet despite all her physical challenges as a result of the treatments and surgeries, Ellen found reasons to be thankful for each new day. She raves about her Moffitt team. “They’re not just your doctors, they’re your friends,” she says. “if you have to go through that journey, Moffitt’s where you need to be.”

Ellen was so thankful when Dr. Otto told her she was cancer-free, she dyed her hair purple—as a tribute to Dr. Otto, who was sporting a purple streak in her own hair. When asked to explain further, Ellen keeps it simple: “Because I can. I’m alive and I can.”

She believes that life is all about finding your own source of joy. “People find it in different ways,” she says. “I find it through life and smiling and being positive, and love.”