Jim Kelly's oral cancer returns
The ordeal continues for Jim Kelly.
The Buffalo Bills Hall-of-Fame quarterback has been diagnosed with cancer again, nine months after having surgery to remove cancer from his mouth and jaw.
The recurrence was found this week, during a follow-up visit Kelly made to his doctors at the Erie County Medical Center.
“Unfortunately, it has been determined that his cancer has returned,” ECMC’s Dr. Thom Loree said in a statement released by the hospital. “Our team of head and neck cancer specialists is determining a course of treatment that will allow Mr. Kelly to battle this cancer successfully. Mr. Kelly has asked that you keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Kelly, 54, underwent surgery on June 7. Doctors had to remove part of Kelly’s upper jaw, part of the roof of his mouth and numerous teeth.
Just three weeks later, Kelly revealed he would not need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments as a follow-up to the surgery. He was back throwing passes with youngsters at his annual football camp in Orchard Park.
Kelly is expected to go to a hospital in New York City on Monday to seek further treatment. His wife, Jill, and oldest daughter, Erin, have spent the past week on a trip to Jerusalem with a group from Liberty University, a Christian school in Virginia where Erin Kelly is enrolled. They were en route back to Western New York on Friday.
“We are overwhelmed by the sincere love you have shown and continue to extend to our family; PrayersforJK,” Jill Kelly wrote to followers on her Twitter account.
Kelly was diagnosed last year with squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are thin cells found on the surface of the skin and the lining of body cavities, including the mouth. Nearly all head and neck cancers start in squamous cells.
His surgery was performed, in part, by Loree, clinical director for plastic and reconstructive surgery at ECMC’s Center for Oncology Care.
“You have challenges, and you have to confront them head on,” Kelly said upon being diagnosed. “This is just another one. I’ve been to the top many, many times and I’ve been to the bottom. It’s just one of those roller-coaster rides I’ve been on throughout my life, and it’s just another challenge for me. I know I’ll beat it. That’s the bottom line.”
Kelly was not a smoker or tobacco chewer. He said an exact cause of the cancer was uncertain.
“Luck of the draw,” he said last summer. “Bad luck. I don’t know what you want to call it.”
Kelly finished his 11-year career with the Bills in 1996. He maintains a busy schedule, which involves a fair amount of travel working for his Hunter’s Hope Foundation.
The charitable group is named after his son, Hunter, who was born with Krabbe disease, an inherited nervous system disorder. Hunter Kelly died in 2005.
Kelly travels the country raising money for his foundation and lobbying to pass legislation to increase the number of tests that each state conducts on newborn babies. Those screening tests can help identify diseases in infants, many of which are treatable if caught early.