Milan’s personal story
My name is Milan Kesic and I am a stage III metastatic malignant melanoma survivor. I was diagnosed in June 2011 at the age of 39. In March 2011 I decided to go on a diet. My normal weight fluctuated between 192 and 195 pounds. At that point I had gotten all the way to 217 pounds, so I decided to do something about it. My friend Dr. Joe Hofferth has a protein-based diet called Pro Delite and I started on that. By the middle of May I had lost about 30 pounds and was feeling great. Actually I’ve never felt better. Then one night in May I was taking a shower and felt a large bump under my armpit. My wife and I immediately turned to the internet and there was nothing good to be found there, which really scared me.
The next morning I went to my family doctor and from there we started the testing. About a week later the tests came back with a diagnosis of malignant melanoma. “A local doctor told me that it was basically over and that he thought the tumor had spread.” I was confused and shaken up and didn’t really know what to do. I called my friend, Dr. Branko Prpa, who was a spine surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He assembled the best team of doctors in the country for me. I recall it was a Monday night around 9 p.m. when I found out what I had. Tuesday morning I was headed to Mayo Clinic with my friend Mike Stoj, who drove up there with me. I hope anyone reading this never experiences what I was going through, but I actually was in survival mode. My main priority was staying alive. I felt as if I didn’t have much time and the clock was ticking. I always said that if I die tomorrow, I’ve lived a great life, and God blessed me with everything. I’ve done more and seen more than some people in their 80s, but now it was different because I had a wife and two small children who depend on me. When I was single I had different priorities, and now my focus is on my family.
My wife was in tears the morning I left for the Mayo Clinic. I missed my daughter’s pre-school graduation while at Mayo, but my main goal was to survive and see another day. I got to Mayo and met my wonderful team of doctors. My first question to the doctors was, “What are my chances for survival?” You have to remember that I’m under the impression that my days are limited. They said that they haven’t done any tests on me yet, but looking at what I’ve done already that I had a 50/50 chance. I’ve been a gambler my whole life, but this was a coin flip that I wanted no part of. I asked if there was any chance that it could be 51/49 and they said no; then they said that if I had waited until September to see them that there would’ve been 0% chance for survival. I was in absolute shock and all I could manage to say was “wow.” The doctors explained what melanoma was and how dangerous it is. The next day I began testing and preparing for surgery. By the end of the week they were able to successfully remove an 8-inch by 6-inch tumor that was under my armpit, and by the grace of God only a few lymph nodes were affected but didn’t spread. My oncologist Dr. Svetomir Markovic came in and said that surgery was a success but there was still work that had to be done to prevent the tumor from returning. I just remember asking Dr. Markovic if I was going to live and he said that he believed so. That was the hardest and best week of my life. I then knew the feeling of what is was like to win the lottery! I started taking a medicine (injection) called Leukine and seeing Dr. Markovic every three months.
I realized there was more to life than the material things I was used to and liked...fancy cars, homes, watches, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I still like those things but they’re not important anymore. Helping people and giving back is my number one priority. I’m so grateful to Dr. Markovic and his team for helping me stay alive that I decided I was going to try and help other people do the same thing. I figured God spared me for a reason and I needed to accomplish more while here. We sponsored a 5k run (Miles for Melanoma), and all monies raised went directly to Dr. Markovic’s research team at Mayo Clinic to help find a cure for melanoma. Dr. Markovic is currently working on a cure for not just melanoma, but also all cancer in general.
The money raised enables him to significantly move forward and make this dream a reality. I have complete faith in this man and have no doubt that with our help and others he will indeed invent a cure in the near future.