Jim Kelly Fighting To Beat Cancer, Keep Bills In Buffalo

Nathan Francis

Jim Kelly has two battles on his hands.

While the NFL legend is fighting a recurrence of cancer, he is also working behind the scenes to ensure that the team he brought to four consecutive Super Bowls remains in Buffalo. The Bills are up for sale after the death of owner Ralph Wilson, and it has been rumored that some suitors are looking to move to the team across the country to Los Angeles.

Kelly has been one of the most active in keeping the team in Buffalo, and has been working for years to line up buyers.

"I didn't want to fight two battles at once, but I've got some good people behind me," Kelly said. "I'm not one to sit back."

Kelly said he has a fight on his hands to keep the team in Buffalo, and isn't backing down.

"I'm confident, but I'll tell you what, it's not going to be easy," he said. "When you start talking about $1 billion that's a different animal. You start talking about another three-quarters of a billion for a stadium, that's a different animal."

Kelly was diagnosed with jaw cancer last year, and underwent surgery in the summer to remove a portion of his jaw. He was declared cancer-free at the time, but in March doctors diagnosed him with a recurrence of cancer.

Kelly initially went to New York City for an aggressive round of chemotherapy treatment, but since has moved back to his home in Buffalo where he is receiving treatment at the Erie County Medical Center.

On Friday news emerged that Jim Kelly had a setback in his treatment, and had to be taken to ECMC to treat a case of dehydration.

"Unfortunately Jim got so dehydrated yesterday, he's back in the hospital," said Kelly's brother Dan. "They're getting him hydrated."

Jim Kelly still has eight more radiation treatments and one more round of chemotherapy, and after a few months will receive an update on how the treatment is going.

"They will review all of my exams and see where I'm at," Kelly said. "And keep my fingers crossed and say a lot of prayers that the cancer is gone."

Despite the difficult fight, Jim has taken strength from the memory of his son, Hunter, who was born with Krabbe's disease. Doctors told Jim and Jill Kelly that Hunter would likely not live past his first birthday, but Hunter instead fought and lived for eight years.

When doctors told Kelly recently that he would need a feeding tube inserted, Jim looked to Hunter's memory for inspiration.

"It was tough for me at the beginning when they told me that they're going to have to put it in, because you don't want to … it just seems like I'm falling apart," Kelly said in an interview with the Buffalo News.

"When I started thinking about it, it scared me," Kelly said. "Then I thought, my son had it. I always wanted to be like my son."

Jim Kelly has gotten a flood of support from the people of Western New York. Thousands have signed cards and sent thousands of messages of support to the family, and the term "PrayersForJK" has gone viral on Twitter.

"The people of Western New York, I cannot thank enough," Kelly said. "The letters I've received, and I try to read them all, and the cards, it's just overwhelming."

Jim Kelly said he has another giant source of strength --- his faith. Kelly embraced Christianity in 2007, and his wife often works as a motivational speaker visiting churches and local organizations.

"I'm serious, if it wasn't for my faith, and knowing that I'm not scared to die … if that day comes, I know one thing, and I told my wife this, I'll be there to see our son, Hunter," he said.

Jim Kelly said it has taken a lot of work to keep the Buffalo Bills in their home while also battling cancer, but has the help of his brother, Dan. Kelly has also called on fans to make their voices heard.

"The bottom line is, it's gotta stay the Buffalo Bills," Jim Kelly said.