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Matt Emlen Tribute Fund


Type: Pleomorphic Rhabdomyosarcoma

Location: Left hamstring

Diagnosed: 2019

Matt Emlen was someone who people would meet, and immediately feel comfortable and happy to be talking with him. He knew so much about history, politics, and music; and he was always curious about people and the world.  He was not defined by his job but approached his career in resource conservation strategies with integrity and steadfastness. 

The most important aspect of Matt’s life was family and friends. 

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He grew up the youngest of three kids in Lake Oswego, Oregon, messing around in sailboats and going on adventures.

Matt married Elana and they had three wonderful daughters together. He was an incredible father.  It’s hard to capture in words the steady love and support he gave his family throughout his life. He never missed an opportunity to create fun!  Matt wrote songs, and invented games.  He even made power outages exciting by creating a complicated search through the dark house with flashlights to find written clues and rescue a hidden stuffed animal.

Matt had many dear friends from Lakeridge High School, Carleton College, and from his adult life in Portland. He was interested in all things Portland. He loved Bridge Pedal, played soccer, ran the Portland Marathon, bought a raft in order for the family to be in The Big Float, and became a Royal Rosarian marching in the Rose Festival parades.  He was a member of the board of Salmon Safe and led “Tot” services at Neveh Shalom.


Matt was so full of life that it was a shock when sarcoma hit. He had back pain and what he thought was a muscle knot in his leg. He was referred to a specialist in November 2018, who was convinced that it was just a herniated disc that was causing the pain. Over a ten-month period of care, the growing tumor was unexamined. Finally, in September, Matt went back to his primary care provider, who felt his leg and immediately referred him to the sarcoma team at OHSU. By then, he was in excruciating pain and had trouble walking. He had a chest CT and got the horrible news that he had pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma and that it had spread to his lungs. Dr. Kenny Gundle removed a very large tumor from his leg, and Dr. Chris Ryan started Matt on chemotherapy. It was too late, though, and Matt died on November 2 after just one round of chemo.


His family and friends have been big supporters of the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation, especially to raise awareness of sarcoma.  No one should face sarcoma alone - and, nobody should be diagnosed too late to have a chance to beat it. 

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