Jim Kelly had this surgery on the books for a while when he visited his doctor and found out his cancer had returned. The Buffalo Bills legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback is in New York City today to have his latest surgery in his fight against cancer and recorded this message before leaving Western New York.
Just arrived in NYC. Surgery tomorrow morning. Although this is overwhelming, we are comforted and strengthen by your love, support, and prayers. God is good...whether we walk through the valley or celebrate on the mountain top. He never changes! He is always faithful! Thank you for praying! We love and appreciate you! Exodus 14:14
First diagnosed in 2013, Kelly’s oral cancer returned in 2014 to steal weight from his body as he was reduced to a liquid diet while the room of his mouth was affected during treatments. Years removed now, Kelly made the decision to partially reconstruct his upper jaw on the left half of his face where the cancer had been removed.
“The bottom line is I can’t rely on my medicine for the rest of my life,” Kelly told Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News in January. “And the quality of life was not there. Kelly Tough ... I can only be so tough. And then, after awhile, it was like Kelly Tough’s getting old. I’m a human like everybody else. You can say what you want, but the thing is, pain is pain... I don’t complain to anybody. But my family sees it every day and the thing is, (I know) the type of quality of life I want, and if there’s something out there that can help me, then I need to pursue it, I need to look into it.”
Then he had a biopsy for a growth on the right side of his jaw in January and the results said the cancer had returned. So now they are going to take out the cancer and reconstruct the entire upper jaw to give him long-term comfort from the pain he’s been experiencing.
“The extent of what we were originally planning to do is not significantly different now,” said Dr. Mark Urken, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at Mount Sinai who will perform the surgery said in January. “At this point, there’s a slightly different focus with ensuring that all of this cancer that’s present, which is not a large amount of disease, based on exam and based on the imaging studies that have done very recently. The expectation is that that won’t change the operation significantly. I feel very confident that we’re going to be able to get not only around this tumor very readily but also get Jim back on track here with, hopefully, a better quality of life moving forward.”
While we normally see pictures and video of friends, former Bills, and NFL legends entering Kelly’s room to keep up his spirits during his recovery, this time he has requested only family members in the room according to his former backup and current Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich. It’s not necessarily an ominous sign, as Kelly is having major facial surgery and wants to maintain his privacy.