Jim Kelly has encountered another setback in his cancer fight.
Five days after Kelly learned surgery wasn’t a current option to treat the cancer spreading inside his head, Monday’s scheduled start for chemotherapy was postponed a week.
Doctors decided to delay Kelly’s treatments because the legendary Buffalo Bills quarterback had a fever and needed an antibiotic.
“He’s had a couple setbacks,” his brother, Dan Kelly, told The Buffalo News on Monday night. “It’s always this or that. We have to make sure Jim doesn’t get sick leading into this.”
Dan Kelly said his brother is now “locked and loaded” for treatments to begin next Monday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Dan Kelly added the accelerated regimen of intense radiation and chemotherapy will last seven weeks.
“They have his pain pretty much under control,” Dan Kelly said, “and that’s been hurting all of us, just seeing him in so much pain. They have some of the best pain-management doctors here I’ve ever seen. Jim is comfortable now, and that’s the most important thing.”
Over the weekend, Jim Kelly and his family pulled back the curtain to reveal what he’s up against.
The Kellys allowed Sports Illustrated writer Peter King into his hospital room and opened up about the cancer diagnosis for a Monday morning column on the magazine’s website.
CBS reporter Jeff Glor, a Town of Tonawanda native, interviewed wife Jill Kelly, Dan Kelly, daughter Erin Kelly and Hall of Fame teammate Thurman Thomas for a segment that aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.”
The Sports Illustrated story provided the most detail yet of Jim Kelly’s diagnosis.
Jim Kelly’s cancer comprises “rather countless microscopic” tumors, has spread up his infraorbital nerve and “is dangerously close to the carotid artery in his head,” King wrote.
The infraorbital nerve runs from the upper lip to the eyelid and supplies sensation to the skin and mucous membranes of the middle portion of the face.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states the infraorbital nerve is “vulnerable to injury during surgical procedures of the middle face,” and that “severe pain and loss of sense are noted in patients when the infraorbital nerve is damaged.”
Kelly traveled from Buffalo to Lenox Hill Hospital for surgery, but Jill Kelly announced on her Facebook page last week the original plan was canceled because “the cancer is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate.”
Jim Kelly was scheduled to have chemotherapy treatments Monday and today and radiation treatments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in hopes to stopping the cancer from spreading.
“Jim said, ‘34, you just don’t know how bad my head is feeling right now,’ ” Thomas told Glor. “And my response to him was, ‘If I can take your head for a little bit, for a little while, I would switch it with mine.’ ”
“This is just another river to cross,” Jim Kelly told King. “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.”
Jim Kelly had a Hall of Fame career, but his off-field life has been dominated by wicked ordeals. He survived a plane crash while on an Alaska hunting trip in 2000. He has plates and screws in his back and neck.
His only son, Hunter, died in 2005 from complications of Krabbe disease. Hunter was 8 years old.
“I think the struggle with Hunter has changed that man. He’s changed,” Jill Kelly told Glor. “I think the struggle with Hunter is also helping him to get through what he’s going through now. The compassion that he has for people is being paid back to him a bazillionfold right now.”
Dan Kelly, when asked what else he felt compelled to share about Jim on Monday night, emphasized the gratitude for all of the messages and kind words their family has received.
“Jim’s just so humbled by the outpouring of support from everybody throughout the world,” Dan Kelly said.
“He doesn’t understand it, but he appreciates all the prayers because it’s going to take a combination of prayers and medicine to get him through this.
“It’s not going to be a simple battle.”