BUFFALO, NY-- Former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly announced publicly that he has cancer of the upper jaw.
TheHallof Fame quarterbackwas diagnosed with Squamous-cell carcinoma two weeks ago. Surgery is scheduled for June 7th at ECMC. Kelly says his prognosis is good.
Kelly said at a news conference at his annual golf charity that he "never thought I'd say the word cancer and be talking about me, but here I am."
Kelly said he had been experiencing pain in his upper jaw for several months, which a variety of medicines could not quell. He said it was his dentist who initially determined it was more than a tooth ache.
"I went through a number of antibiotics at the beginning thinking it was just an infection, and then when I did go to the oral surgeon they found a big cyst they cut that out, and then one thing lead to another," Kelly told reporters at Terry Hills Country Club in Batavia.
"It's just another challenge for me and I know I'll beat it, said Kelly, in displaying his trademark optimism.
However, he conceded when first diagnosed he was --as one might expect--- gravely concerned.
"When you hear the word cancer it automatically scares the crap out of you and I know it not only scared me but it scared my family," Kelly said.
Kelly says he won't know until after surgery if he will need chemotherapy or reconstructive surgery on his face/jaw.
"I hope not because I've talked to people that have been through it and it's not a pretty site," he said.
"My first thought is to say a prayer that everything works out okay," said former Bill GM Bill Polian, who was in Batavia to participate in the golf tournament.
Polian, the architect of the Bills four straight Super Bowl teams who were lead on the field by Kelly, surmised that the same toughness Kelly displayed as the field general of those teams, will come into play in his battle with cancer.
"He didn't get the reputation of the toughest guy ever to play quarterback for no reason, so if anybody can overcome this Jim can," Polian said.
That Kelly went public with his diagnosis on a day when he would be surrounded by his former teammates and closest friends was not lost on Chris Berman of ESPN, who has been close to Kelly for years.
"He doesn't want it our there today for sympathy," said Berman. "He wants it out there for support...even he can use a helping hand, and he's got a lot of them today."
"There's no question that all the mechanisms and all the relationships that our teams spawned are gonna be in full swing for Jim both here and across the country," remarked Steve Tasker, a pro bowl special teams star during the Bills glory years.
"Jimmy's as tough as they come," said Fred Smerlas, a former Bills pro bowler like Kelly, who is also a cancer survivor.
Smerlas recalled his feelings when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, for which he underwent surgery.
"When they told me about it, it was like getting hit in the back of the head with a bat. Generally when you have an injury you can go home and rehab it if you have a cold you can take medicine, but when you got cancer what can you do? You have to just go through the treatments, accept it, deal with it and stay as healthy as you can , so I understand what he's going through," Smerlas told WGRZ-TV.
Kelly, who has raised more than $5 million mostly through the Hunters Hope Foundation (named for his late son who had Krabbe's disease) is perhaps not surprisingly, already contemplating ways to turn his diagnosis into a positive, possibly by establishing a foundation to raise awareness, or money, to fight cancer.
"If what's happened to me can help others down the road or bring more awareness to certain types of cancer, then we'll do that," he said.
Kellyreleased this statement through the Buffalo Bills' organization Monday morning:
"This past couple of weeks has been difficult for me and because of the nature of social media I thought it would be best to share with everyone what has been going on with my health. I was recently diagnosed with Squamous-cell carcinoma (cancer) of the upper jaw bone. I have undergone tests which have shown that the cancer is isolated to my upper jaw and has not spread to other parts of my body. Surgery is scheduled for June 7th and doctors have told me that the prognosis for my recovery is very good.
With the excellent medical care that I will be receiving and the loving care of my wife Jill and my daughters Erin and Camryn and the support of my entire family and friends, I am extremely confident in my road to recovery. I plan to tackle this challenge head on, as we Kelly's always do, with toughness, perseverance and faith.
I want to thank everyone who has offered their prayers and would appreciate any prayers said for me and my family moving forward. May God continue to bless you and our family."
Jim's wife Jill tweeted out this message on Twitter:
Jill Kelly @HJKforever
Thank YOU SO MUCH for praying for JK! One day at a time. One prayer at a time. All in His timing.
Click on the video player above this story to watch our report from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dave Harrington. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2