Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly was not able to attend the charity reception for his 28th annual celebrity golf tournament Sunday night because he was recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments that just ended last week.
Kelly’s brother said the Hall of Fame quarterback, battling cancer at Erie County Medical Center, nevertheless was determined to see the fund-raising event be as successful as its predecessors.
“Jim had me come over to the hospital today to review some things with him,” said Dan Kelly. “One of the things Jim said is the show must go on.
“It really is tough for him because he always wants to be involved in everything, very seriously involved. He’s not a passive participant. He’s very active in everything he does. It is really tough for him not to be here tonight.”
Jim Kelly is battling cancer that spread into his maxillary sinus cavity and adjacent tissues. He has been receiving treatments to combat microscopic tumors that spread up the infraorbital nerve in his head and are close to the carotid artery. Doctors have said Kelly now must wait six to eight weeks before magnetic resonance imaging tests can be conducted to fully determine the effectiveness of the treatments.
“He’s finished his chemo, he’s finished his radiation, and that’s great,” Dan Kelly said. “Now he can start to recover. It’ll take about six to eight weeks of cooling down … before they can go in and do MRIs, and we’re hoping and praying that the cancer is gone.
“The nerve pain he was experiencing is gone, so that’s really encouraging.”
However, he must get stronger before he can go home.
“We’re hoping in the next week or so he’ll be able to go home, but he’s got to be able to simulate what it would be like at home at ECMC for several days,” Dan Kelly said. “We don’t need him to go home and then be admitted right back in the hospital, so they’re being very cautious in how they treat him.”
Kelly’s celebrity golf tournament has raised more than $5 million since its inception. The proceeds go to the Kelly for Kids Foundation and the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. The money has been distributed to more than 100 Western New York organizations.
Many of the Bills’ all-time greats were in attendance, including Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Marv Levy, Bill Polian, Joe DeLamielleure, Fred Smerlas, Steve Tasker, Phil Hansen and Booker Edgerson.
“Jim has great support not only from his family, but his extended family, which is me and all the guys he played with,” Reed said. “The guy has been going through a lot. We’re there for him. As long as I’m breathing, I’m not going to ever not be there for him.”
“My whole focus is to tell people to pray and send their best wishes,” Polian said.
Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Anthony Munoz and John Randle were among the many other NFL stars in attendance. Marino was among those who visited Kelly at the hospital Sunday.
“There was a lot of guys who wanted to go over, but Jim also needs his rest,” Dan Kelly said. “If he doesn’t get his rest, he’s not going to get healthy.
“He had several visitors. He was trying to catch a quick catnap between visitors. Not easy to do. … We do know everyone is sending their thoughts and prayers.”
Hundreds attended the celebrity auction. Some of the items up for bid included a hunting trip to Texas with both Jim Kelly and Marino, tickets to the Super Bowl, a trip to the Bills’ game in Oakland this season, a Hall-of-Fame trip and gift package, and a framed autographed photo of Kelly, Marino, John Elway and Peyton Manning, along with four individual footballs signed by the QB greats.