Jim Kelly is a man in agonizing pain but he hasn’t lost his faith despite his recurring oral cancer, according to interviews aired this morning on “CBS This Morning” and an article in Sports Illustrated.
A tearful Thurman Thomas said Kelly told him: “34, you just don’t know how bad my head is feeling right now.”
“My response to him was: If I could take your head for a little while, I would switch it with mine.”
In the latest development, Jim Kelly’s brother, Dan, told The News’ sports reporter Tim Graham this evening that Kelly’s chemo and radiation therapies have been postponed a week because Kelly had a fever. The treatment program is now scheduled to begin next Monday and last for seven weeks.
Details about the cancer in the Sports Illustrated magazine shed new light on what Kelly is up against .
His cancer is comprised of “rather countless microscopic” tumors and has spread up his infraorbital nerve and “is dangerously close to the carotid artery in his head,” according to the Sports Illustrated story by Peter King, who interviewed Kelly in his room at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.
Kelly, King reported, was scheduled to have chemotherapy treatments today and Tuesday and radiation treatments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in hopes of stopping the cancer from multiplying.
“I guarantee the normal person wouldn’t have been able to take it,” Kelly told King of the pain. “Some days, I don’t know how I did. I complained about my headaches for months, and for a while I thought it was just part of the healing process from such a serious surgery. But obviously it was more than that. I’d look up to the Lord and say, ‘I give. Uncle. You got me.’
“But now, this is just another river to cross. Now we know what it is, and we’ll keep fighting. Whatever I did in life I never did alone. So we’ll fight. It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”
CBS reporter Jeff Glor, a Town of Tonawanda native, interviewed Jill Kelly and Thomas for the segment that aired this morning on CBS.
The Hall-of-Fame quarterback’s wife said the loss of their son Hunter in 2005 and the boy’s struggle with Krabbe disease is helping her husband in his time of need.
“The struggle with Hunter has changed that man. The struggle with Hunter is also helping him get through what he’s going through now, the compassion he has for people is being paid back to him a zillionfold right now,” Jill Kelly said. “We come along side each other and we feel it. Not just from the Western New York community. Here in this darkness, there is such light.”
The infraorbital nerve supplies the skin and mucous membranes of the middle portion of the face, according to the web site of the National Institutes of Health. The nerve is vulnerable to injury during surgical procedures of the middle face, and severe pain and loss of sense are noted in patients whose infraorbital nerve is damaged, the website states.
On Sunday night, Jim Kelly sent a message to the show expressing gratitude:
“I’m very humbled that so many people took the time out to not only send well wishes but most importantly their prayers. That’s what’s going to get me through this. I have so many great people to thank. On behalf of my family thank you so very much and don’t stop those prayers.”
Also interviewed for the segment was Erin Kelly, who said she hopes her dad’s example will inspire others.
“My wish is when people look at my dad, they see a guy who fought the good fight and did it with such joy and courage and bravery because that’s who he is, that’s his character. I pray that when people see us. They find hope and they find faith through what we’re going through.”
Dan Kelly, an older brother, said what amazes him most has been Jim’s enduring concern for others throughout his life.
“It’s never been about him, it’s always been about other people and what he can do for somebody else…. He is the definition of love. It’s very painful to watch him go through it and to sit there and not be able to do anything about it. All you can do is pray.”