Kelly, who played for the Bills from 1986-1996, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in 2013 and surgery initially removed all traces of the cancer. However, Jim’s disease returned only a short while later and his prognosis was initially negative. It was announced in September that he had once again been confirmed to be in remission.
Jim told the Miami Herald that he became aware of his staph infection after suffering pain in his jaw. The pain reportedly was present during his battles with SCC and had subsided once there was no evidence of disease, but recently returned. “I came down with MRSA,” Kelly said. “I was cleared in September of the cancer — I have another MRI in two weeks. The toughest part for me was I was almost ready to take out my feeding tube, I was feeling good and they said they need to do some biopsies. Those 12 biopsies put me back so far.”
Jim reportedly went through multiple rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation to treat his cancer and is now enduring an eight-week treatment regimen to combat the infection. The treatment is done intravenously three times a day. Kelly says that while the infection has been difficult, he’s not letting it bring him down. “”It’s a small setback, but you have to keep pushing on, keep fighting and just live every day because you never know what tomorrow holds,” Jim stated. “You got to keep a positive spirit. Anytime that you’re fighting something you have to keep pushing on and have good people around you, and I have.”
Jim Kelly credits his wife, Jill, for getting him through the toughest of times and supporting him through his various treatments. “My wife helps out. She’s a godsend,” Kelly claimed. “She went through all the things with my son for 8 [and a half] years, and now she has to take care of me. I’ve been very blessed.” Kelly’s son, Hunter, died of Krabbe disease in 2005, at the age of 8.
In addition to playing for the Bills, Jim also played for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Despite his illness, Kelly served as honorary captain for the team at a game in North Carolina on Saturday.
Jim Kelly was inducted into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame in 1992. Jim’s jersey number for Buffalo was retired along with him, and is currently the only number to be retired in Bills history.
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