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BATAVIA – Legendary Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly met with reporters this morning to elaborate on this morning’s announcement he has cancer in his upper jaw.

“When you hear the word cancer, it scares the crap out of you,” Kelly said at Terry Hills Golf Course, where he’s hosting his annual charity golf tournament. “It not only scared me, but it scared my family.

“But it’s just another river to cross, another stumbling block.”

Kelly, 53, said he and his family are approaching his diagnosis and his surgery, scheduled this Friday, with the same mentality that garnered him the reputation for being among the toughest quarterbacks in NFL history.

“I’ve been to the top many, many times, and I’ve been to the bottom,” Kelly said, “and it’s one of those rollercoaster rides I’ve been on throughout my life, and it’s just another challenge for me.

“I know I’ll beat it.”

Kelly’s confidence is buoyed by the belief doctors found the cancer early enough. Kelly announced in a statement this morning that his cancer has not spread.

“When I talked to the surgeon and when they went over the CT scan, they knew I caught it early enough,” Kelly said. “But just like with anything, you have to wait a number of months after the surgery to make sure nothing comes back.

“So I’m very confident. My faith is there, and that’s probably more than anything what’s kept me going.”

Former Bills general manager Bill Polian added his support for Kelly: “The first thought is to say a prayer that everything works out OK. Secondly, he didn’t get a reputation as the toughest guy ever to play quarterback for no reason at all. So if anybody can overcome this, Jim can.”

Kelly said doctors have told him his prognosis for recovery is very good.

The cancer – squamous-cell carcinoma – is isolated to his upper jaw and has not spread to other parts of his body, Kelly said in a statement issued through the Bills media relations department.

Kelly played for the Bills from 1986 through 1996, helping lead the team to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s. Known as a strong-armed passer with a linebacker’s mentality; he threw for 35,467 yards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

mgaughan@buffnews.com