Jim Kelly got some “great news” about his cancer treatment when he visited a New York City hospital Tuesday, but the former Buffalo Bills star won’t know all the answers until further tests are conducted.
That was the news that emerged Wednesday from a doctor at the hospital, from a pastor who communicated with Kelly and from Kelly’s wife, Jill.
“The great news is that upon physical examination, there is no evidence of the cancer,” said Dr. Peter D. Costantino, executive director of Lenox Hill Hospital’s New York Head and Neck Institute. “The treatments so far have completely eliminated Mr. Kelly’s pain, and his level of function has essentially returned to normal.”
Kelly will now “undergo a series of tests to determine if any further treatment will be necessary,” Costantino said. “Should treatment be required, it would likely consist of surgery followed by a form of highly focused radiation referred to as gamma knife therapy. It is possible that no further treatment will be required, and the testing over the next week will define this issue.”
While the news from Tuesday’s hospital tests is positive, it is definitely too soon to tell whether the Hall of Fame quarterback described by his friends as “Kelly Tough” has won his battle against oral cancer, hospital officials said.
A note of cautious optimism was sounded in a statement tweeted by Jill Kelly minutes before the hospital issued its comments late Wednesday afternoon.
“We have come away from our checkup visit in NYC encouraged and hopeful,” Jill Kelly wrote. “Preliminary scan results have necessitated the need for biopsies to be done in order to confirm what we hope to be true … that the cancer has been eradicated. We will not know the outcome until this procedure is completed. … We continue to PRAY.”
Kelly, 54, who lives in Orchard Park, traveled to the Manhattan hospital Tuesday to have some tests to check on the effectiveness of five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He completed those treatments in Buffalo three months ago, Lenox Hill Hospital officials said.
The former quarterback who set many team records and led the Bills to four unsuccessful appearances in the Super Bowl is battling oral cancer that spread to his maxillary sinus cavity and adjacent tissues.
Kelly has “no final answers yet” about the success of his treatment, said the Rev. Richard R. George, who holds the post of shepherding pastor at the Kelly family’s church, The Chapel at CrossPoint in Amherst.
George said he communicated by email with Kelly on Tuesday, after Kelly was examined at Lenox Hill. He said Kelly was in generally good spirits after the examination.
“The last we know is there is some encouraging news, but all the results are not in yet. They’ll be giving him some more results from biopsies, possibly next week,” George said. “It’s encouraging, but we don’t have any final answers yet.”
Kelly previously had cancer surgery in June 2013, when doctors at Erie County Medical Center removed parts of his jaw and the roof of his mouth. The 2013 surgery was pronounced a success, but cancer returned this year.
The struggles of Kelly and his deeply religious family have received wide publicity, both locally and nationally.
“They have had some tough moments, but their faith is unswerving. Jim’s faith is unswerving,” George said.
While Kelly is arguably the most famous person living in Western New York, many people in the region also suffer from cancer and also need prayers, George said.
“We have a lot of people at our own church who have needs. It’s very difficult to single out the needs of any one person,” the pastor said. “But the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Jim is important to us and he’s important to people in Western New York.”
George said he especially admires the Kellys because – despite Jim Kelly’s struggles with cancer – he and his wife have continued their efforts to seek improved medical screening for unborn children and to help families whose children who suffer from Krabbe disease. That disease killed Hunter Kelly, the couple’s 8-year-old son, in 2005.
Kelly, his wife, daughter Erin and other family members have repeatedly thanked people in the region for their prayers and other shows of support.
“One thing I noticed about Buffalo, N.Y., is that everybody comes together,” Kelly told current Bills players during a visit to their training camp in June. “There’s always somebody to pull you together, whether it’s on the football field or after a tough year or whether it was when I was in the hospital.”
While Kelly has repeatedly stated that he’s not afraid of death, he also has said he wants to recover and stay alive so he can walk his daughters down the aisle when they get married one day.
“We all want to live, yet the truth is, we’re all going to depart one day,” George said. “Jim is an amazing man.”