Survivor Stories

Martin Keller, Stage IV

Hello.  My name is Marty Keller and I am a cancer survivor.  I am writing to let you know that there is hope.  Whether you have just recently entered the arena or have been battling for years, I truly believe that we are getting closer and closer to making melanoma a thing of the past.  I have been blessed with excellent doctors and by the grace of God feel as well today as I ever have in my life.  My journey started in August of 2011 when I visited my dermatologist and asked the doctor to remove two of my many moles.  A few days later I received the news we all dread- malignant melanoma- go see a specialist in Dallas.  The tumor was deep in my neck and close to my lymph nodes.  I had my first surgery 5 days later.  Six months later, a PET scan revealed a lung tumor on my left side.  I was told I had a 50/50 chance of surviving one year.  Boy, talk about taking the wind out of my sails.  I was a month shy of 50 years old and knew that my 28 year flying career was over.  I skipped the Anger, Bartering , and Denial stages and went straight to Depression.  I have 3 beautiful children and how were they going to survive without me?  I think it took me 4 months to crawl out of that mindset.  Over the next 3 years I have had 6 additional surgeries.  I have had my heel and my abdomen radiated.  Each consisted of 18 sessions.  I have spent two weeks in the ICU at Baylor Sammons while undergoing High-dose IL2 therapy.  I have had several epiphanies which have helped me deal with everything.  I had always believed in God but now we have a much closer relationship.  Once I realized that I was not in control of the situation (very difficult for a former fighter pilot) I handed it all over to God and made it his problem.  My “problem” was getting in shape for my next surgery (whenever that would be) and staying alive until He and the medical staff found a cure.  I worked out fairly relentlessly.  After each surgery I asked the docs what my restrictions were.  Did my best to follow their directions or at least my interpretation of their directions.  I decided along the way that I didn’t have cancer, it was God’s problem now.  I had also been very upset that my 14 year old son would not be raised by his father.  Then one day it hit me that he had a Father.  One who was much better than I could ever hope to be and who loved him more than I ever could.  That was another relief from my heavy load.  I have had two brain surgeries and at one point had 6 inoperable tumors.  I still get a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye when I try to talk about the day I found out that 18 whole brain radiation treatments had worked a miracle I had no hope of expecting.  I had been told that anyone with brain mets had a prognosis of 3-6 months.  Well, don’t believe it.  June of 2015 marks 33 months of survival with mets for me.  Last March it was determined, by DNA analysis that the targeted therapy drug Mekinist was a match for me.  It shrank the one tumor I had at that time and I have been NED (the glorious acronym- No Evidence of Disease) for about ten months now.  If God should take me any time soon I have accepted that.  I have decided that cancer is a Win/Win proposition for me.  If He calls me home then I have the Glory of Heaven to see.  If it His will that I remain in this world, then I get to spend more time with my family.  Either way, I win.  In the past year, I have Skydived with my daughter, I have completed the Hotter than Hell 100 mile bike ride, Swam/escaped from Alcatraz Island, and I enjoy every minute I have on this earth.  I encourage you to do the same.  I tell you these things not to boast but to give God and the medical staff all the Glory they have earned.  And I hope that my story gives you hope.  I recently read Romans 5:3 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint.” This brought it all home for me.  God Bless you.